Just how far off-road can one go with an AWD Ford Territory ?

by Paul

Sign at Borefield Road

Sign at Borefield Road

I'm not ashamed to admit that I am a novice when it comes to tackling the Outback roads (between Port Augusta / Alice Springs and Uluru), but I am a responsible novice !

I will be as prepared as I can be - water, spares, extra fuel, a second spare tyre - the list goes on (as per your great blog) - everything I need (and can afford), within reason.

And I need to disclose that I am not mechanically-minded (apart from the usual tyre & battery changes).

But if I had to divert off the sealed road (without altering tyre pressure, etc.) for a few km or so ... to see this and that / to camp overnight / to get a better view, etc., just how do I identify my and the vehicle's limitations, the potential risks and minimise the chances of being stuck, etc. - in an AWD Ford Territory ?

Obviously, if the terrain 'looks like 4x4 terrain' - that is best avoided.

So, what 'looks like AWD terrain' as opposed to '4x4 terrain' ?

If I undertook this trip in January, would your advice be any different were I to undertake the trip in July / August?


Rita's Reply

Hi Paul,

My compliments for being a responsible Outback novice, but don't worry too much.

Most detours off the Stuart Highway are suitable for an AWD, even for 2WD vehicles in dry conditions. When the roads are wet conditions turn to 4WD terrain quickly. So you hardly can draw a line and say this is AWD and this is 4WD terrain.

Technically, I don't even know the difference between an all-wheel drive and a four-wheel drive. We hardly needed to use the 4WD mode on the tracks and routes I describe here in the Outback guide. But it was the higher ground clearance that was handy at creek crossings and in rocky terrain, like in the Flinders Ranges.

The good thing is you can rely on the signs (like the one pictured above) that tell you about restrictions. You will find them at the entrance of major side roads and tracks.

An unsealed road has barely the same surface from the beginning to the end. It changes from rocky, stony, sandy to corrugated. But you can manage the challenge if you drive slowly, and expect the changes. The more you drive on unsealed roads the better you get to know your car, how it reacts, and you learn how to handle it.

Talk with other travellers, seek advice and you'll be fine. Read this report from another reader who just returned from the first Outback trip.

As for the time to go, January would be too hot for me. It is not the time I would suggest for a first Outback trip. There a certainly less travellers around, so you have to wait longer if you get in trouble and need help.


Comments for Just how far off-road can one go with an AWD Ford Territory ?

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Dec 25, 2014
by: Graeme

do any of the Ford Territory have high and low range

Nov 22, 2012
by: Anonymous

You should be using 4 wd high on dirt roads

Apr 30, 2011
by: denise goldie

That is great Tony I am wondering whether to use my forester to do Marree to William Creek or our old nissan navara

Please don't publish email addresses, you might end up with too much spam. You can subscribe to get a notification when someone adds a comment. Thanks, Rita

Apr 28, 2011
Thanks Tony for your interesting observations
by: Paul

Quite honestly, the AWD Ford Territory was purchased for its exquisite 'drive', affordability and versatility.

I have friends both here in SA and in VIC who marvel at the robust versatility and performance of their Subaru F's, so it is reassuring to note that a smaller AWD vehicle has made journeys of the type I wish to consider, with relative ease.

As you infer, Tony, it has got more to do with the driver.

I obtained Vic Widman's "Travelling the Outback" book from the library the other day, and was enthralled at its content. While it seemed to be skewed towards the 4x4 enthusiast, there was enough in it to make me think that outback travelling dreams can, and do, come true.

Apr 28, 2011
by: Rita

Thanks Tony, your thoughts are appreciated, as always :).


Apr 27, 2011
Taking a Ford AWD Territory Off-Road
by: Tony B

I've never driven a Ford Territory, my vehicle of choice is a Subaru Forester. Having said that, I think the Territory would be quite similar in many respects. Ground-clearance is your main limitation if you're considering crawling over particularly rough bits. Aside from that, you should be fine. I've taken the Subaru all the way down the Oodnadatta Track, down the Borefield Road, through the Painted Desert and so on. It's more to do with the driver than the vehicle....I've even pulled a Rangie out of the mud. It was stuck there only because the Rangie driver thought he could drive straight through. How embarrassing! So, if you take it easy, don't get too ambitious, drive sensibly and keep your eyes open for sticky bits, you'll be fine.

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