First drive: behind the wheel of the 2019 Ford Endura
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The Ford Endura joined the New Zealand blue oval line-up earlier this year, and punters didn't need to be Sherlock Homes to spot the elephant in the corner of the room — this was an old car.
It debuted in this form in 2014 over in America, with 'Edge' badging stuck to the boot-lid. But, despite being a teenager in 'car years', we still found reason to rather like the Endura when we drove it back in July — how well it drove and how it looked being two of its big attributes.
Now, there's a new one. Well, sort of.
We were invited last week to cross the ditch to a wet and wild Melbourne to drive the new Ford Focus and new Canadian-built Ford Endura, ahead of their 2019 arrival.
Four Endura models are set to hit New Zealand. The front-wheel drive Trend kicks off the range with a price-tag of $53,490. An all-wheel drive Trend is available for another $3000 on top. Then there's the sport-orientated ST-Line and luxury-orientated Titanium, priced at $64,490 and $69,990 respectively (and both AWD). All use the same engine and transmission; a 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo diesel hooked up to an 8-speed automatic.
Click here to read the full road test of the 2018 Ford Endura
The thoroughly American Endura seems a curious fit next to the plush-cut-rugged Everest and the more family orientated Escape. Ford on both sides of the Tasman have padded its position in the line-up by touting it as a replacement for the much loved Aussie-made Territory, but the truth is that it's something rather different entirely.
Remove the son-of-Territory complex, and it's actually quite hard to find direct competitors for the (we think quite handsome looking) Endura.
Its five-seat, 2WD or AWD layout would indicate potentially a match with the Subaru Legacy line-up. But, its slightly oddball styling and focus on luxury cruising would on another hand make it an alternative to the likes of the cheaper Toyota CH-R and Hyundai Kona or much pricier BMW X4 and Mercedes-Benz GLC.
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Three models were present at the launch; the 2WD Trend, ST-Line, and Titanium. We drove the latter pairing from Healesville to Yarra Station, and then back to Melbourne Airport — taking the scenic route to each destination along the way.
Driving the Titanium first, it became apparent very early on that much of what we liked before is back again. Driving along Aussie backroads it's a vehicle that feels in its element. Despite its large 20-inch wheels its suspension is supple and forgiving, while the turbodiesel engine does most of its business with minimal fuss and noise.
This is no shock, of course. Americans have always done suspension tune well in comfort applications. And that experience is complemented by the amount of space inside. Ford boast that the Endura features class leading shoulder room (stemming from its beefy 2.2-metre girth), while those in the second row of seats also get ample head and legroom (the later thanks to a 2849mm wheelbase).
A glance at the equipment helps further the Endura's comfort credentials. Titanium models come fitted with a 12-speaker Bang & Olufsen sound system, heated second-row seats, and dual screens in the backs of the front headrests for rear passengers. A rotary gear shift dial, 8-inch touch screen (fitted with SYNC 3), and Active Noise Cancellation are among the toys standard in all models.
That noise cancellation business operates like that you sometimes see in high-end headphones. An inverted version of exterior sound frequencies is played inside to cancel out the sound from the Endura's engine, road, and wind noise.
Safety tech is comprehensive, as you'd expect. Pre-collision assist with pedestrian detection, adaptive cruise control, lane keep assist, rear-view camera, rear parking sensors, and traffic sign recognition (a godsend on Victoria's roads ...) are standard in all models. Blind spot monitoring, sadly, is exclusive to the Titanium.
Ride quality takes a slight hit when you step out of the Titanium and into the more athletically tuned ST-Line. It's firmer, but on the flip-side it also offers more front-end feedback when being driven with gusto.
Don't get the ST-Line mixed up with the fully blown Edge ST model that's set to appear in other markets. In places like America, it's set to be the spiritual replacement to the Focus and Fiesta ST. New Zealand, I think luckily, is set to retain both of those nameplates. For the moment, anyway.
The engine, if not a scintillating unit off the line, is at least a refined and relaxed cruiser. It develops 140kW of power and 400kW of torque, with a claimed combined fuel economy of 6.7L/100km and a braked towing capacity of 2000kg.
Those are all sound numbers in isolation, and in practice it's a competent character. Start-up is relatively quiet — relatively free of the grovelling ratatat that some other diesel vehicles greet their owners with. Performance is unremarkable, but is perfectly adequate for such a large vehicle.
It would've been nice to see the 235kW turbocharged V6 that Ford slots into the American Edge make the journey to Australia and New Zealand (the Edge ST's 250kW unit would've been tastier still). But even if it came, it probably wouldn't have been a volume seller.
If there's a downside to the Endura, it's the cabin design. More than anywhere else in the vehicle, this is where the platform shows its age. Materials are sound — as are equipment levels — but it was hard to ignore that it looked a generation older than the interior of the Focus we'd driven the day prior.
Part of me wonders whether the Endura would be a more tantalising proposition if it had a third row of seats. Certainly those wanting it to fit their Territory replacement dreams would be in a happier place. Given that it's such a fresh name to our shores, potentially Ford's market analyst boffins will tailor the range over the coming years to suit.
Much like the Falcon, the Territory is gone. In its place is this; a comfortable, friendly face from the US that offers a different spin on the SUV experience. And maybe that's enough.