They may be meant for the rugged outdoors, but the new Ford Territory wagon and Ranger ute have been caught on camera while undergoing arguably the toughest and most important test of all: sitting in Sydney traffic.
The convoy of half a dozen lightly camouflaged vehicles -- which included Ford Falcons equipped with the maker's new LPG system, a diesel Territory, and a pair of Ranger/Mazda BT50 utes -- was seen winding its way south on the packed Pacific Highway heading for the Harbour Bridge.
All four models are due in showrooms over the next 12 months.
As luck would have it -- no, this is not a car company leak -- the Carsales Network found itself driving alongside the convoy of cars, which were wired with test equipment and covered in grime after what looked like a long trip away.
The Ranger and Mazda utes were still camouflaged even though both vehicles were unveiled in all their glory at last month's Sydney motor show. The Falcons wore no disguise, but the LPG stickers on the number plates and the diagnostics equipment inside clearly indicated that they weren't taxis -- or cop cars.
But our first close-up look of the new Territory revealed a lot about what we can expect when the facelifted model arrives in showrooms early next year.
Although the Territory will be significantly overhauled, it is not an all-new body. Only three panels have changed: the bonnet and front fenders.
The headlights are new (similar in shape to the FG Falcon's) and so is the front bumper.
But, as with the also imminent Holden Captiva facelift, the tail-lights and rear bar on the 2011 Territory remain unchanged.
The Territory's lower side mouldings in the doors have a new wedge to them, to bring them closer in appearance to the accent along the doors of the latest Falcon.
Under the Territory's checkered bonnet is a 2.7-litre diesel V6 originally used by Jaguar and Land Rover. We couldn't hear the clackity-clack of a diesel engine tapping away, but that was because the traffic was so loud, not necessarily because the new engine is so quiet.
The interior of the Territory also gets a major overhaul (and FG-Falcon-like appearance) and features such as integrated Bluetooth (finally!).
For Ford dealers, the new Territory can't come soon enough. Buoyed by promotional pricing deals, sales of Territory so far this year are up by 12 per cent compared with the first 10 months of 2009 -- but it is ranked fourth in the medium SUV class behind the Toyota Prado, Toyota Kluger and Holden Captiva and selling at half the rate it did when it was released in 2004.
The Ranger and Mazda utes struck a menacing figure in the traffic. According to car company tape measures, their dimensions are similar to a Toyota HiLux, but on the road and in the real world, they seemed to tower over the other vehicles. Their stance and wide wheel track made them appear to be a class bigger than the HiLux.
The 2011 Territory is likely to arrive in showrooms in March 2011 while the Ford and Mazda utes are due mid-year.
Although the Ford and Mazda utes will be made in Thailand, they were initially designed and developed in Australia, and prototypes of both vehicles have been tested in harsh conditions around the world, from freezing to sweltering.
Thanks to: Car Point