► Full road test of new Ford Vignale
► We review 2.0 TDCi saloon
► Vignale replaces Titanium X
Everything sounds exotic in Italian, even the word for seepage no doubt. That’s why Ford has rummaged around in its brands locker and blown the dust off Vignale for its new Mondeo luxury trim level. Back in the ’70s when Ford acquired Ghia, it also inherited the name of Alfredo Vignale, a coachbuilder who’d created bespoke Ferraris and Alfas. After a couple of false dawns on concept cars, Vignale is finally out of hibernation.
It replaces the flagship Titanium X Sport in the Mondeo range. You’ll spot a Vignale by the lashings of chrome grafted onto the saloon or estate body: nameplate, side accents, grille edging, boot strip. And the lustrous metallic finish, with extra lacquer: the unique launch colour is nocciola (yes, hazelnut). There’s a hexagon motif in the grille, which also makes an appearance on the leather seats. Chrome? Leather? Brown? Saloon? Ford has resurrected the Rover.
Does the new Ford Mondeo Vignale feel premium?
You might think the standard Mondeo an unpromising start for a luxury car: in places, its materials are as inviting as a sandpaper-lined bathtub. Thankfully the Quasimodo plastic dashboard is entirely masked by leather from Bentley’s supplier, and anchored with precise, consistent stitching. The regular car’s embracing seats are swathed in the same cow hide, and the hexagon pattern is a lovely flourish: these comfortable perches are the Vignale’s standout feature.
But details, details, Ford! The leather noticeably ends a couple of inches above the seat base, making way for shabby felt, the gloss insert in the door armrest offers a variety of panel gaps and ridges, and the supposedly posher floor mats make a carpet tile feel shagpile. Plus the carryover plastic inserts around the door release feel tinny and the two-tone effect gives the appearance that quality control failed on colour-matching duties.
How the Vignale drives
Despite all that, the Mondeo chassis is a solid base on which to engineer a seriously refined car. Thickened glass, extra insulation and Active Noise Cancellation is standard, and given smooth tarmac the Vignale is quieter than a monastery. Microphones detect engine noise levels, and transmit a nullifying counter-frequency through the upgraded speakers. Ford claims the Vignale is 2dB quieter than the Mondeo.
The 178bhp diesel has a whirr of combustion and turbo whistle as you accelerate from low revs, however, before serving up a strong, sustained kick all the way to the redline; 0-62mph takes 9.3sec. The Powershift dual-clutch ‘box is generally smooth, but can be hesitant on downshifts. The Vignale is available with 2.0-litre engines, be it 237bhp petrol, a 207bhp diesel, or the slothful, must-avoid hybrid.
Comfort over handling
The Vignale set-up is comfort-biased, with the body riding serenely, accompanied by impressive mechanical refinement. The steering is a bit lifeless off the dead-ahead, but fab through fast bends, and the chassis, fitted with optional all-wheel drive, feeds back grip levels like a rally ace calling pace notes.
Ford predicts around 10% of 18,000 annual Mondeo buyers will plump for a Vignale. They won’t be seduced by FordStores’ Vignale ‘lounges’: effectively a screened-off sofa with all the serenity of drawing the curtains around your hospital bed, though the touchscreen table – think massive Surface tablet for speccing cars – is neat. Customers can get a ‘relationship manager’ to arrange servicing collection and delivery.
Vignale feels like a defensive move, and Ford doesn’t expect a stampede of Audi buyers. The execution will have to be much sharper with the forthcoming S-Max and Kuga Vignales. The Mondeo feels more Aldi than Audi.