Monday 23 April 2018

Cars: This Mondeo wants to make you feel 'special'

Vignale marks new Ford departure

High comfort levels: Ford Mondeo
High comfort levels: Ford Mondeo
Eddie Cunningham

Eddie Cunningham

We can all get a bit uppity at times. I think here in Ireland especially, there is an extraordinary ability to swiftly put us in our place.

I'm as bad as any on that score and am prepared to admit it. But that's not why I have my doubts about this initiative by Ford which is trying to turn a mainstream Mondeo (and others such as the S-MAX this summer) into a plush, 'executive/luxury' motor that signals its status by being called the Vignale.

Not alone that, but these cars, which are specced to the gills and cost lots more than your everyday Mondeo ('ordinary' Mondeo starts at €27,645; Vignale from €43,900), will only be sold through a chosen few dealers.

That is to 'enhance' the 'special' buying experience associated with making this car and everything to do with it feel 'exclusive'.

Several words starting with the letter 'b' spring to mind but I've been wrong many a time before so let's not rush to judgment on this. I've been driving the Mondeo Vignale (it's called after an Italian coach builder) for the best part of two weeks. I'll be blunt. I didn't notice anything revolutionary but I could not miss the high comfort levels and spread of equipment. The hand-stitched leather seats, SYNC2 with 8ins touchscreen, active noise control (thicker glass), and 10-way electric seats certainly bestowed an element of luxury and upmarket feel - but nothing extraordinary.

The basic Mondeo is a big, roomy, car that handles well so they certainly have a solid base on which to build.

Maybe it was the time of year and my driving was more muted than usual, but I noticed no appreciable increase in dynamics. With integral link rear suspension, it probably has the best-driving chassis in this large-family car segment - so it's an engaging drive anyway. They also claim better sound insulation from road, wind and engine noise.

I take their word for it that each model is hand-finished by craftspeople as part of a process that includes 'high-tech production techniques and 100 additional quality checks'.

That is why for me to concentrate on the 'motoring' side, if you like, would be to miss a significant point in this whole Vignale concept.

It is put together so you feel you are being treated like royalty (you'd want to be considering the price); that owning this car is more than... well, owning a car.

For example, your Vignale is collected free for servicing and maintenance. For life; not a few years. Even if it is an old and grey Vignale pottering about after being driven by five owners, you will still get the 'treatment'. And you get your own 'personal relationship' manager.

It is a major commitment and shows just how serious they are about it. Ford say it is on the basis of demand, across Europe and elsewhere, for luxury treatment in the fleet segment.

I drove my Vignale Nocciola quite a bit over the weeks, loaded to the gills sometimes, other times on my own. The 6spd automatic gearbox was excellent and I was well cocooned in my cabin regardless of weather or road conditions. The saloon's boot is large and the aperture was big enough to manage most larger items.

And the 2-litre diesel on test is a match for anything out there. Indeed its 210PS gives it a power/zip edge over quite a few.

But the question of course is: if you are going to spend €50,000 on a new car will you overlook the so-called premium names - Audi A4, BMW 3-series, Lexus IS and Mercedes C-Class?

Will the uppity part of our make-up not demand a recognised snob symbol out front and on the boot lid? I suspect some of those posh cars would struggle to come up with such a level of equipment at the Vignale price (I know it is crazy but €50,000 doesn't get you that much these days).

Yet I have my doubts about the whole Vignale concept, as you have probably gathered.

But let's see where this is in three years' time. Let's not be uppity about this - yet.

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