Ford Endura ST-Line: Exploring new Territory
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Ford was arguably the biggest loser when three carmakers closed their Australian manufacturing plants last year.
Holden lost its locally developed Commodore, and Toyota lost its Australasian-targeted Camry; but these were easily replaced by new-generation large cars from Europe and North America respectively.
Ford hasn’t been able to achieve the same model line-up continuity in the expanding medium SUV segment, having lost the popular Aussie-developed and made Territory more than a year ago.
Given medium SUVs are now far more popular than large “Cammodore” sedans, Territory’s loss has been felt more keenly in this market than the exit of a couple of waning-to-showroom-wallflower-status Aussie four-doors. That Territory could capture 1350 sales each month at times, gives some idea of the hole it leaves in Ford NZ’s sales.
For the dealer network, a new medium-SUV wearing the hallowed Blue Oval brand could not come soon enough. Now it’s here in the form of the new $73,990 Endura ST-Line, which fills the Territory-sized gap between the Ranger-based Everest and the compact Escape. As stop-gap measures go, this is a good one. The Canadian-made ST-Line has been on sale in North America for two years now, but it arrives here looking fresh and fit for purpose.
Given the Territory was an ageing SUV, albeit one doing it gracefully, Ford now suddenly has a medium SUV that could be considered leading-edge. Certainly, the design and the equipment of the Endura backs that impression up.
As a range-leading model, ST-Line has just about all it needs to go to the top of the five-seat SUV class. Its features include a power tailgate, adaptive LED headlights, rain-sensing wipers, a full safety equipment inventory and a dual-zone climate control.
There’s also a cabin noise cancelling synthesiser, a Sony 12-speaker audio system (with old-school CD slot), and Ford’s latest SYNC 3 connectivity which projects cellphone displays onto the 8” high-res touch screen via Apple Carplay and Android Auto software.
About the only missing feature offered by some rival mid-SUVs at this price point is a heads-up display.
The Endura also lives up to the name it wears in global markets other than those linked by the Tasman Sea – Edge – by looking sharp on its 20” wheels.
Some will compare the exterior design of the Ford to the current Hyundai Santa Fe — and the two SUVs from opposite sides of the Pacific do appear to have shared the same concept car parentage. However, the Ford enjoys an interior space advantage by being designed to fit five people inside a body that could easily accommodate seven.
There’s therefore plenty of room in the rear bench for North American-sized bods, and the luggage bay is positively cavernous.
The Territory was a great SUV to drive through a rugged New Zealand landscape, but it was hampered in its appeal by its prodigious thirst for petrol and electronic architecture that couldn’t keep pace with new equipment trends.
Now the ST-Line retains similarly excellent driving dynamics to the defunct Falcon-based SUV, but marries them to a frugal twin-turbo 2.0 litre diesel engine capable of producing 154kW of power and 450Nm of driving force.
Fuel use (5.9litres/100km in city/highway driving simulations) lowers by almost 50 per cent when compared to Territory’s 4 litre petrol six. However, a new gearbox like the 10-speed auto announced for top 2019 Territory/Ranger models wouldn’t go amiss. For the only time you feel the current Endura’s powertrain lacks anything, is when the six-speed dithers a little when a quicker downshift or two would provide better access to overtaking acceleration.
Otherwise, this adaptive all-wheel-drive driveline is a bit of a powerhouse in diesel terms, and performance is up there with other 2.0 bi-turbos.
Driving the Endura over unsealed roads engendered plenty of respect for the way the instantaneous re-distribution of engine force to the wheels with the most purchase on the loose road surface enhanced the cornering stability of the Ford.
Attempts to unsettle the Endura through open-sighted turns (no possibility of encountering other road users) proved unsuccessful.
All the Ford would do was leave two evenly spaced tracks of tyre roost through the corner, with no deviation from the desired trajectory as dictated by the angle of the steering wheel. Yet the stability control was still held in reserve.
Last time a Ford did something similar on a metal road with me at the wheel, it was a Territory. This new Canuck Ford is a more than fitting replacement for the versatile Aussie.
I can’t wait to see how the Endura line-up will mature when further models become available early next year.