Let me say at the outset that the Ford Mondeo Vignale is a fine car and one which would happily find a home in many Irish driveways, simply based on its’ looks, performance, the level of luxury on board and the servicing package which comes as standard with each and every car — and that’s for the lifetime of the vehicle, not simply for a defined period.
That said, though, I am a little confused by the Vignale on a number of levels.
Fine and dandy as it is in so many ways, it appears to be a car which Ford wishes to see kicking down the door of the premium car segment with little regard for the niceties of polite society or, for that matter, the hard earned plaudits of the existing contenders in this market from such as Mercedes, Jaguar, Audi, Lexus and BMW.
It may be that what Ford has on offer here — bespoke dealers and customer relations, as well as free collection for servicing and maintenance, and your own personal relationship manager — will tickle people enough to make them want to taste the Vignale experience.
And it may also be that the inherent qualities of the car itself will attract buyers on merit, but I don’t know that it is going to take customers away from the established brands in this sector.
In fairness to the Blue Oval, it is trying to create something new here with the Vignale — an appellation which springs from the old Italian carrozzeria (coachbuilder) of the same name.
The Ghia and Vignale companies were owned by De Tomaso, but sold to Ford back in the ‘70’s and the Ghia name was used for many a long year to put an upper-class stamp on regular models.
The Vignale name was discontinued up until now, despite its’ rich historic connections with such as Fiat, Lancia, Ferrari and Maserati.
In its’ wisdom though, Ford has decided to use the Vignale name to create an upscale exclusive sub-brand and the first car to get the treatment is the Mondeo; others, we are told will follow in due course with the S-Max MPV apparently the next up.
Now this is a brave move by Ford, but the wisdom of it remains to be adjudicated upon. Time will tell, as it always does with such matters.
For now though, what I can tell you is that the Mondeo Vignale is a thing very far removed from the bog standard Mondeo. The price alone should tell you as much because the difference between the entry level car and the entry level Vignale is a massive €16,255.
Although the running gear of the Vignale differs little from the standard Mondeo — which is no bad thing given the quality of the regular Ford — pretty much everything else about the thing has been luxuriated well above and beyond even the Titanium model which is otherwise the range-topper.
Swathes of hand-stitched leather — and not the regular stuff you can get in the Titanium model, but from the hide of a much better bred type of cow — as well as thickened glass and greater all round insulation, make the Vignale a distinct step up in terms of passenger comfort and for those who like to brag about such things, the hand finish and additional quality checks will ensure you can bore the boys at the golf club bar for many a long hour.
While all this will allow you to swish along in great comfort and near silence, I was still surprised to see that so much stuff like sat nav, the blind spot information system and even a full sized spare tyre are additional extras; you’d have thought they’d go the extra mile with what is supposedly such a special car.
Indeed, you’d also have thought that items like the inflatable rear seat belts — of which Ford made such a fuss at the original launch of the Mondeo as being another great safety step forward — is a €200 option.
That seemed a bit mean to me, particularly when the manufacturer is making such a song and dance about the exclusivity on offer here.
Ok, so you do get a thicker and higher gloss paintwork job and things like the Ford SYNC 2 infotainment system as well as a battery of safety kit and bespoke alloys, but if Ford was serious about persuading people to exit their existing premium brand cars, they’d have thrown a few more things at the car as standard to give potential punters the warm feeling that they were getting a great deal more than any competitors had to offer.
The car we drove was the Vignale estate fitted with the new 210 bhp rated bi-turbo version of the familiar 2.0 TDCi and there was little we could fault about any aspect of its’ performance or economy. It also boasted quite a pleasing aural tone and displayed an impressive turn of foot as well with notable mid-range punch.
In all probability, though, the lower rated 180 bhp engine will be the main seller here in Ireland.
I did like this car a lot and was hugely impressed by the level of detail and the general demeanour of the Vignale, but the bottom line is that I remain unconvinced Ford is going to get people to swap their three-pointed star or propeller badges for a blue oval, especially when the money being asked is not considerably less than they would be asked for their preferred premium brand.
Indeed it struck me that Skoda’s L&K models, which have gone down the same route as the Vignale, offer the same sort of luxury for less dosh.
Selling the Vignale is going to be a big ask for sales staff — sorry, personal relationship managers — to persuade people they would be better off ditching their Audi/Merc/Beemer/Jag or whatever, for a tarted-up Mondeo, no matter how smart it is.
A very big ask, in fact.
The Cost: from €43,900-€50,440 as tested.
The Engine: a new bi-turbo version of the familiar 2.0 TDCi engine which is impressive but probably won’t be the big seller in the Vignale range.
The Specification: Ford has ramped things up massively here for the new premium Vignale sub-brand.
The Overall Verdict: luxury motoring — but will they sell any?
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