Tested: Ford Mondeo Vignale HEV Estate – Built Tough By Mechanics

Who doesn’t enjoy a good long drive?

Many passengers, that’s for sure, but for the dedicated motorist there are few greater pleasures than a ‘mission’ drive in a car that defines its role as an inter-continental cruiser.

That’s why I really did enjoy the 730-mile single day drive from London to TU-Automotive Europe 2019 in Munich in the premium opulence of the Ford Mondeo Vignale HEV estate, or station wagon for our US friends. Of course, the drive, and the car for that matter, benefited hugely from the superb roads you find on the European mainland whether it be the highspeed smooth toll highways of France or the even higher speed unrestricted autobahns of Germany but more on that later.

While the drive down to the conference was full of expectation, the drive back was more contemplative thanks to observations I heard revealing that automakers are still facing some internal conflict about their future role in approaching a perceived transformation from hardware builders to mobility solution providers. One comment in particular, aptly from a Ford infotainment media expert, that the industry is still facing the threat of being held back by old-school mechanical-influenced caution in adopting new innovations quickly enough to keep pace with infotainment development.

As I wafted along in serene quiet, not troubling the Android Auto or Apple CarPlay potential of the Vignale’s infotainment system and with the sat-nav muted because I knew the route so well its role was only to spot unforeseen traffic issues, I started mulling over the challenge. Is it always best to take on every new innovation immediately it is available, as the digital world does, and then debug things at a later date as part of the technology’s development process?

Well, Ford has spent nearly 120 years building a global reputation for robust reliability in every aspect of its vehicles’ technology. It has spent many hundreds of millions of dollars over the years honing and refining its technology to the point where it can offer the mass market a premium product of excellence epitomized in the Mondeo Vignale.

This is a mass market product transformed into a luxury focused executive cruiser that will offer as many of the creature comforts that would be expected from the industry’s top brands. It boasts a lusty naturally-aspirated 2.0-liter gasoline engine augmented by an electric hybrid system that, together, boast a combined power output of 184bhp plus 127ft-lbs of torque. That punch enables a claimed 62mph sprint from standstill in 9.2 seconds on the way to a top speed of 116mph. Yet, thanks to the powertrain’s electrification, the car claims a combined fuel economy on the WLTP rating of 46.3mpg (38.55mpg US) and CO2 emissions of 113g/km.

Did it achieve this fuel economy on the 1,500 mile round trip? No but then it did achieve its urban rated figure, which remains the standard arbiter or real-world fuel consumption in most vehicles, of more than 39mpg and, as such, quite acceptable for a vehicle of this size. That said, I can envisage a figure near its claimed combined consumption, perversely, in a mix of driving featuring more low speed urban work thanks to the electric motor sharing more of the load.

Talking of loads, one of the biggest downsides to electrifying the Mondeo’s powertrain is that a fair chunk of its luggage carrying capacity is sacrificed to the needs of the electric motor and battery pack located under the rear of the vehicle’s floor. However, the Vignale does boast a wealth of features as standard, as befits a vehicle with a starting price of £32,850 ($42,302), including energy saving LED lights front and rear backing up the halogen projector headlights, automatic high/low beam, auto rain sensing wipers, superbly comfortable and supporting premium leather seats with variable heating in the front, keyless entry, a suite of ADAS including lane keeping, Ford’s DAB audio with navigation and SYNC 3 with 8-inch color touchscreen.

It also comes with fancy 18-inch wheels… However, as with many modern-day ‘blinged up’ touches those wheels seem to hint that the car’s dynamic-orientated suspension setup was designed more for the Euro-funded smooth pavement of the Continent rather than the austerity-wracked, dilapidated infrastructure of the UK. On home roads, it crashes over the ruts and potholes in a quite alarming way so I would recommend ordering the car with wheel an inch or two smaller so there’s more rubber to help the ride.

Beyond that, what I did notice most on the high-speed tolls and autobahns was that the gasoline engine was beefy enough to seldom seem strained when maintaining its cruise control set speed on even the steeper ramps of the Continent’s undulating roads. Yet, above all, the biggest impression made on me in the quiet of the cabin was not the potential array of infotainment features on offer that might have interested a potential passenger but the sheer ease and effortlessness of the car’s progress. A mechanical, rather than digital, impression that for some of us, admittedly older motorists, still allows us to sit back and wonder in awe that the automotive engineer has reached this level of excellence.

So, while the masters of the digital generation may, in time, take on the dominant role in our industry, I do hope they understand all of their achievements will owe a very large debt to the ‘grease monkeys’ who made they success possible.

— Paul Myles is a seasoned automotive journalist based in London. Follow him on Twitter @Paulmyles_

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