Ford Endura 2019 first drive review
If you expected the new Endura might be a replacement for the old Territory, you'd be sorely disappointed.
Built in Australia with a great loping ride, a huge amount of room to seat seven kiddies (or six if someone’s driving), a boot that could hold a BBQ and surprisingly capable at towing, the Territory was a great large car that topped Ford’s SUV range. And it did so even before Australian’s went bananas for high riding wagons.
So its departure and subsequent unfound replacement has been glaring, with Ford offering only the rugged ladder-frame four-wheel-drive Everest above the mid-size Escape SUV, leaving a hole for something bigger but softer. Models filling this lucrative segment include the Mazda CX-9, Holden Acadia, Hyundai Santa Fe and Kia Sorrento – and they’re all seven-seaters.
The Endura is instead a five-seat large SUV with not many niche contenders. But does that put it into a broader market on its front foot or its back?
What is it?
To see a new model arrive in this size with just five-seats bucks convention. The nearest contender is the Jeep Grand Cherokee but that’s a capable off-roader with everything from diesel to petrol V8 engines and a 3500kg towing capacity (in diesel).
Ford tells us the Endura is a ‘lifestyle SUV’ (aren’t they all now?) and the ST-Line is going to be its best shot at winning on appeal as it has plenty of trinkets and looks the goods.
Though it’s a large SUV with two rows not three and just the one diesel engine available, its towing ability looks good – not just because of the 2000kg limit that’s on par in the segment (the Territory was rated to 2700kg) but because it has a 200kg tow ball down weight that’s above most options.
With plenty of good safety technology and an impressive interior space for teenage kids, it’s perfectly fit for a family that’s had enough of playing school bus.
Now in its second-generation, Australia receives the freshest facelift available with just one driveline: a 2.0-litre turbocharged diesel motor mated to a torque converter eight-speed automatic transmission and either front- or all-wheel-drive. The model is imported from Ford’s North American Ontario, Canada assembly line but the engine is completely unique to Australia - a diesel motor that’s a modified version of an oiler from the Transit range and should prove reliable.
We miss out on the more energetic ST variant that produces 250kW and 515Nm from a 2.7-litre EcoBoost petrol engine and that might have made something really compelling, but otherwise, the fitment of the interior dash and console parts was very good, and everything appears well put together.
How much does it cost?
The Endura is offered in three variants that mimic the new Focus lineup. It starts with the Trend, priced from $44,990 plus on-road costs, the ST-Line at $53,990 and the Titanium from $67,990. Those prices are for two-wheel-drive models; all-wheel-drive adds $4000 to each.
Further options include prestige paint ($600), enhanced park assist ($1000), factory-fit tow bar ($1000), panoramic sunroof ($2500), rear DVD entertainment system ($1600) and a B&O 12-speaker sound system with 180-degree front split-view camera ($1000).
All grades come with safety technology including AEB with pedestrian detection, forward collision warning, adaptive cruise control, traffic sign recognition, post-collision braking that slows the vehicle after an impact to prevent another, evasive steering assist and lane keeping assist.
The Trend’s equipment list includes 18-inch alloys, keyless entry, automatic wipers, LED automatic cornering headlights, silver roof rails, parking sensors, dual exhaust tips, fabric trim interior with electric adjustable front seats, 10-inch driver’s display in the dash, 8.0-inch infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity, push-button ignition, dual-zone climate control and active noise cancelling.
The ST-Line gets sports tuned suspension, black front grille insert with matching body kit, black roof rails, 20-inch alloys, black suede seat inserts on leather trim and an electric opening tailgate.
Finally, the top-spec Titanium adds adaptive bi-LED headlights, unique 20-inch alloy wheels, panoramic sunroof, electric steering wheel adjustment and the enhanced active driver assist pack that adds twin rear DVD screens, B&O sound system and perforated leather trim interior - prestige paint is also included.
Service intervals are every 12 months or 15,000km, whichever comes first. The Endura is covered by a five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty and the Ford Service Benefits program includes a loan car when required, auto club membership with roadside assist and four-year capped-price servicing at $299 per visit for the first four years/60,000km.
What's the interior like?
As far as moving people and things in comfort the Endura is good at both. The wheelbase measures 2840mm long and with only a second-row installed the leg and knee room is generous.
The noise cancelling technology is constantly working to lower road noise but there’s still some roar coming in off the 245mm wide rubber, though wind noise is not noticeable.
Ford is pushing the line that the Endura is a good tow car too, and its 2000kg braked towing capacity and 200kg down ball weight is competitive, but we didn’t get to test it with a load – something that might begin to stress the relatively small diesel engine.
The ST-Line gets a partial black suede trim with leather accents on bolstering that’s comfortable and supportive. The quality of the leather isn’t particularly soft, and the higher Titanium model doesn’t ooze quality from its seat trim either, but both were good for comfort over a few hours drive.
The interior is presented neatly if a little plain, with basic buttons in all models sitting in a sparse console that’s a little bit ho-hum compared to the newest rivals. But the dash quality is good, and the trim felt very solid.
Endura lists a 10-inch digital dash on its standard equipment list and it’s a variation on mixing both analogue and digital parts to create an information-rich screen that works well enough but isn’t the sort of high-res, dash-filling virtual cockpit found in something like a Skoda.
With keyless entry as standard from the Trend up, unlocking the car with hands full is simple and the Titanium gets an electronic-opening tailgate. Push-button ignition is also on the equipment list for all models and with wide doors and 172mm ground clearance stepping into the cabin feels natural.
The balance in sacrifice for the omission of a third row is a huge boot that measures 602L large from the floor to the top of the seats, and 800-litres when measured all the way to the roof. It’s massive and tops the Grand Cherokee that measures to the roof at 782L despite the Endura being almost 400mm shorter at 4475mm long. The seats split-fold 60:40 to open up an even larger 1847L cargo area.
What's it like to drive?
Australian Endura models get a market-unique 2.0-litre turbocharged diesel four-cylinder engine which produces 140kW at 3500rpm and 400Nm at 2000-3000rpm. There is no petrol engine available and no larger diesel, making it the smallest diesel engine in its class. Power goes through a traditional torque converter eight-speed automatic transmission to either the front or all wheels.
It’s a reasonably quiet diesel engine on idle, clucking away outside but not intrusive inside. Matched to short gear ratios between first and third, pickup from a standing start feels urgent enough up to around 50km/h, however, things begin to slow after that. It huffs for breath over 60km/h and is much less energetic, negotiating taller gears with power and torque that just isn’t effective at higher speed.
The benefit of the smaller engine, despite an average two tonne mass across all models, is that the Endura claims an official government combined fuel consumption of 6.7L/100km for both front and all-wheel drivetrains.
Most large SUVs don’t purport to be very dynamic and the Endura mostly belongs in that group, but the ST-Line with sharper sports-tuned suspension and appearance would suggest it might offer something different. However, it doesn’t eventuate on the road, with an occasionally brittle response on bigger bumps through large 20-inch alloy wheels and stiffened suspension that can feel fidgety to steer. Countering that, the electronic steering system has been calibrated to match and is accurate and quick, with a good feeling of weight.
The Trend which rides on smaller diameter alloys with a larger tyre sidewall - and having a normal suspension tune - was the calmest ride on test.
On smoother surfaces, the ST-Line’s ride is more compliant, and it travels over smaller imperfections with less fuss though the Endura feels heavy over the nose, particularly cornering when it was keen to understeer suddenly and torque steer often. Though it was wet during our launch drive, it seemed to happen often and even at slower speeds. All-wheel-drive models felt better at reigning in the front with the system braking the slipping wheel to keep things tidy.
Though the Endura name was lifted from a retired engine range, the exclusive diesel motor in Australian models isn’t the talking point. Struggling for grunt on the highway it needs a corridor of room ahead to work up speed to overtake and loses its breath from about 60km/h and higher, but it sits at a leisurely 1400-1500rpm when racking up the kays which help contribute to good fuel efficiency. And it feels zippier at low speeds to around 50km/h that is useful in urban environments.
Though touting good tow capacity, we couldn’t test towing ability at launch.
What's the first impression?
The Endura is no replacement for the Territory, and that puts it in a hard spot. If it was a similar spec model to the old Australian SUV – relatively big towing capacity, diesel, petrol and even petrol turbo engines with seven-seat capacity and a good locally-tuned ride – it could have been a late arrival to the large SUV segment that was standing on a good front foot. But without stunning in one area, except perhaps for some in the subjective looks department, the Endura has a big job ahead to edge into new territory.
2018 Ford Endura Price and Specifications
Price: from $44,990 (plus on-roads)
Engine: 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo diesel
Power: 140kW at 3500rpm
Torque: 400Nm at 2000-3000rpm
Transmission: Eight-speed automatic, FWD/AWD
Fuel use: 6.7L/100km
Alex Rae is Drive’s Melbourne based reporter with over 10 years’ experience in the automotive industry as a photographer and journalist. Having studied both engineering and the arts, Alex understands what makes things tick while appreciating that sometimes it’s all about form over matter…