Territory impressions in the outback
Well I've recently come back from a 6 week holiday in outback Australia in the Territory Ghia and can only provide extremely happy impressions.
The trip included the Flinders Ranges, Oodnadatta Track, Strzelecki Track, Chambers Pillar, West Macs, Uluru, Kakadu, Gregory National Park, Purnululu (Bungles) and the Tanami Track. A pretty varied and tough selection for those that are familiar with the area.
It was roughly an 18,000 k trip and my topline summary of the Territory is that it is the best car I've ever had - period. I cant imagine a better car right now to do that job with the same comfort, safety and speed.
The T performed faultlessly and did not have trouble getting ANYWHERE and for those that have driven the 55k (2.5 hour) trip into the Bungles that is saying something.
The T's steering, ride, stability and handling on rough dirt tracks is just outstanding and easily exceeds every other SUV/4WD I've ever had. It is incredibly comfortable and capable and is unsurpassed by anything on the blacktop.
I often found myself chuckling after a while passing Toyota after Toyota (Prado/Cruiser/Hilux/Troopies) and then Nissan after Nissan (Patrol/X-Trail) loaded to the gunwhales with bullbars, uplifted suspensions and water tanks all over the place to get to places that the T just ate up as a standard unit. Ya gotta wonder why we get sucked in by the 4WD mags preaching that a car has to have Xmm ground clearance, modified suspension, bullbars, and all the consumerist crap that is available before you ever dare to "get out there". Once you do a trip like this in a T you realise the agenda the 4WD mags is definitely one of self interest rather than helping readers.
I admit I was a bit worried about the tyres and how they would go in some places - the Goodyear Fortera's have soft sidewalls and pretty much blacktop type tread patterns but my concerns were unfounded, they performed excellently. I only holed one tyre driving through the Breakaways at Coober Pedy (of all places) and that only happened because I was a little careless and took a corner too quickly which helped a sharp stone slice the sidewall. Otherwise the tyres were great - quiet on the road and good grip and strength on the dirt. In the end the basic rules of looking after tyres off road was enough - drop the pressures slightly from on road and just generally drive a little slower than the car is capable of on any particular section of road and you will minimise punctures and slashings. You don't need to fork out $2000 on replacing the tyres with something A/T to get a T out there.
Fuel economy was good --- at 15K on the odo the car seemed to hit a sweetspot in terms of engine run-in I guess because the economy improved from about 14 l/100k's previous to that point to 12l/100k's after that. I was very happy with that. Fuel cost per litre, up the centre varied a bit but was in fact much better than I'd expected. Major places like the Alice and Darwin were about $1.10 (same as Metro) and the more remote places varied up to about $1.40. Rabbit Flat on the Tanami though was easily the most expensive but hey, you don't have much choice out there do you? :-)
As I said the things I liked about the T was the steering, ride, stability and handling but really the car was faultless. There was not one thing that performed poorly - not one!
Sure, there will be some people that will still want greater ground clearance for the car (being led by the media reports I guess). If you wanted to do the Simpson or maybe Palm Valley, I doubt the T would make it without the greater clearance but almost everywhere else that I can think of that the average family will reasonably want to go --- the T will eat it all up easily.
As I said, you'll have a huge grin on your face as you match/beat the Cruisers and Prado's of this world getting to some of these places and they all come up to you and say how good the T looks and are very interested in how it goes ....
What would I like to see changed on the T?
Not much, but I can see a role for a 'bit' more ground clearance on the T but ONLY if you didn't hurt the current ride/handling experience by much. For 95% of people who would take their T 'somewhere', it has more than enough ability as standard. A bigger tank than 75 litres would be handy.
Other than that --- the car is outstanding. Well done the ppl at Ford.
I got my Ghia with the no cost cloth option rather than the standard leather and I'm very happy I did. This particular trim is relatively dark compared to the light TX trim and is very supportive and is a good choice to combat outback dirt and grime. Something potential buyers may like to consider that when buying.
For anybody at all considering a T in the near future all I can say is -- DO IT. It's a great car. If it doesn't win Ford's second 'Car of the Year' in 3 years then whatever beats it must be some car.