By Mike Torpey on 2016-07-02 - Driving Force news editor and responsible for organising our daily output. He was staff motoring editor of the Liverpool Echo for 20 years.
Ford Mondeo Vignale
JUST how big an automotive snob are you. That's the question.
One visitor gazed longingly at the gleaming 18-inch alloys and asked me how much the Aston Martin in the driveway was worth.
A day later a relation posed the same question with regard to the Bentley.
Except that the car being referred to on each occasion was a Ford Mondeo.
That's right a Mondeo, that one-time motorway munching staple of the company rep, but now sporting a suit of clothes that smacks more of Savile Row than Southwaite or Stafford services.
It's all down to a new super posh trim grade that shares the same name as a styling house Ford bought back in the 1970s.
It's called Vignale and while the original operation - responsible for some cool Alfas and Ferraris - was based in Italy, the hub for the new Vignale operation is in Valencia, Spain.
More importantly it has propelled Ford into the executive car Premier League.
Buy a Vignale model and the buyer enters a world of privilege and cossetting previously unavailable to the Ford buyer.
A Vignale model, in company with the new Mustang, can only be purchased from a showroom called a FordStore, and that's more like an experience centre than your standard dealership, complete with lifesize screens and plush upholstery.
Much like the inside of the Mondeo Vignale with its leather-clad luxury, laser-cut for high precision with hexagonal quilting and tuxedo stitching on the seats and soft-touch elements that extend to the instrument panel, centre console, armrest, and door top-rolls.
Oh, and rather like you will find in a car costing twice the price the seats are perforated for extra ventilation and can also be specified with a massaging function.
The car's exterior design is both assertive and distinguished, with its high gloss grille and shiny brightwork and passengers can enjoy a near silent ride thanks to an ingenious Active Noise Cancellation set-up.
Using three cabin microphones the system is able to monitor engine noise in the interior and audio technology directs opposing sound waves through the sound system to cancel out engine noise.
Smart stuff from a car that has a starting price of £29,395 for the Mondeo Vignale 2.0 TDCI diesel manual model.
Opt for the tested saloon variant with all-wheel drive and PowerShift dual-clutch automatic transmission and the tab rises by £3,000.
The Mondeo has long been a dynamically high class car to drive and the Vignale is no different.
Performance is strong, cruising smooth and an average 47mpg achievable, even if that's below the official 53.3 figure.
And it comes with the likes of active cruise control, sat nav, Bluetooth, voice control, rear view camera, parking sensors, lane departure warnings, anti-collision braking and a traffic sign recognition system.
So it looks the business, comes kitted to the hilt and anyone buying one is guaranteed personal service from a relationship manager, home collection for servicing, 24-hour on-call service and bespoke merchandise for the duration of the ownership.
That's all for appreciably less than you would pay for a high spec model from one of the premium German brands.
Ford Mondeo Vignale 2.0 TDCI
Mechanical: 180PS, 1,997cc 4-cyl diesel engine driving four wheels via six-speed auto transmission
Max Speed: 140mph
0-62mph: 9.3 seconds
Combined MPG: 53.3
Insurance Group: 27
C02 emissions: 138g/km
Bik rating: 27%
Warranty: 3yrs/60,000 miles
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