THERE is something almost noble, enigmatic even, about great achievers who retire in their prime.
Think Michael Jordan, who left the NBA after three consecutive championships, swimming sensation Ian Thorpe or boxer Rocky Marciano.
What about footballer Eric Cantona, who lost his passion for the game even though his talent still dazzled; movie star Shirley Temple, who quit the big screen at 21; or Alain Prost who retired as F1 World Champion in 1993?
Now, the Ford Territory may not have won world championships, Olympic medals or an Oscar, but in the past decade, especially, it has won the hearts of more than 155,000 buyers who have been converted by the SUV's space, versatility and performance.
This final edition, based on the updated Falcon, offers more and costs less in a fitting swansong that could see it missed long after the final curtain is called.
With more than 30 storage options (including one for a tissue box), seven seats and generous head and leg room in the first two rows, the Territory remains a great example of practicality and flexibility.
Updates to the interior are too subtle to notice except for the new SYNC 2 system with 8-inch colour touch screen that takes pride of place in the central dash.
It is simple to operate, split into four quadrants - phone, entertainment, climate and navigation - which takes you without fuss to the area you wish to change either by tapping the screen or by using the system's expanded voice command control ability.
Unsurprisingly, the surrounds are dated with average-quality fittings and fixtures and more than a sprinkling of cheap hard plastics.
Seats are wide across the shoulders and supportive, only half electrically adjustable though, and while the third row is convenient, it is not as roomy as some competitors.
Luggage space - 1153 litres with the last row folded - is more than useful, certainly large enough to swallow most of our camping gear, and the split tailgate is handy when loading smaller items.
On the road
Performance continues to be the Territory's strength, with the large SUV assured and fleet of foot, offering up a comfortable drive for all the family to enjoy.
The 2.7-litre V6 turbo diesel is the same engine that was developed by Land Rover in 2004 and has been doing duty in this range since 2011, but still manages to impress in all areas except, perhaps, fuel consumption.
The ride quality, thanks to the great work done by Ford's local team, is exceptional, especially for an SUV of this size, and there is hardly a wobble, even on some of the more poorly mannered roads way off the beaten track.
There is power when you need it, poise when you least expect it, and a reassuring sense of calm achievement.
The Territory tracks beautifully through corners, and although there is some body roll, it does little to deter from the comfortable drive experience.
The steering is light enough to enhance manoeuvrability in tight urban confines but direct enough to offer reasonable feedback to the driver, and an 11.4 metre turning circle is a nice bonus.
There is some lag from standstill, and the brakes take a little getting used to, but even in its swansong, the Territory is hard to fault.
What do you get?
Despite the drop in price, the Territory has five-star safety, reverse camera, front and rear sensors, wi-fi hotspot, digital radio and emergency assistance as standard across the range.
Our top-of-the-range Titanium also featured 18-inch alloys, rain-sensing wipers, stainless steel scuff steps and side steps, fog lamps, leather seats, roof-mounted DVD player, sat nav, dual-zone climate control, leather-wrapped steering, privacy glass, seven-speaker audio and seven seats.
Fuel consumption is a slight blip for the Territory. While nine litres per 100km may seem reasonable for such a large SUV, it is less impressive when measured against the return of its main rivals.
The Territory may have been instrumental in the seven-seater revolution, but the segment is now bursting with worthy competitors like the Hyundai Santa Fe Highlander (from $53,240), Jeep Grand Cherokee CRD Laredo (from $53,000) and Kia Sorento Platinum CRDi (from $55,990). The Nissan Pathfinder and Toyota Kluger have seven seats but no diesel option.
The Territory has always been favoured by families that need the extra room and those looking for some adventure off the bitumen. The fact that it can tow 2700kg is also a lure.
Ford's advanced in-car connectivity system in this new Territory is a great addition and complements the car's practical nature.
Space in the third row is tight (which is not uncommon) if you are using it as a full-time seven-seater, but it would be better if the third row could be split 50:50 if you only needed six. Curtain airbags that stretched to the third row would also be comforting.
Changes to the exterior of the Territory are signalled by a streamlined central grille with contrasting horizontal bars, revised fog-light cluster, a no-nonsense lower skid plate and new five-spoke rims.
It certainly is not going to sway those who think this SUV is somewhat on the conservative side.
The Territory has been such a staple for the past decade that it is difficult to believe it will be retired in October next year. If this is the final chapter it is certainly an arresting one, and despite its blandish interior, the Territory's on-road performance makes it the hero of this story.
What matters most
What we liked: Ride, performance and handling, gutsy engine, excellent storage options, new infotainment system.
What we'd like to see: Stylish interior, better warranty, better fuel consumption.
Warranty and servicing: 3-year/ 100,000km warranty and 7-year/135,000km capped-price servicing.
Model: Ford Territory Titanium TDCi AWD.
Details: Five-door seven-seat all-wheel drive large SUV.
Engines: 2.7-litre V6 turbo-diesel generating maximum power of 140kW @ 4000rpm and peak torque of 440Nm @ 1900rpm.
Transmissions: Six-speed automatic.
Consumption: 9.0 litres/100km (combined).
CO2 emissions: 236g/km.
Bottom line (before on-roads): From $56,740.
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