WHEN a giant moves it may not be often but everyone takes notice.
Ford held onto the Vignale coach-building name for 42 years before applying it to a hand-finished Mondeo which appeared in 2016 and now its picking up momentum and will be appearing on more bespoke cars.
Ford acquired the Vignale name along with Ghia in the early 1970s and while it quickly introduced the latter, it parked the former until 2015 and it was developed for the latest medium-to-large car range for the following year.
Now sceptics may think this would not work, but in fairness Ford has done a good job with its "coachbuilt" Mondeo. It is brimming with the latest technology and high quality fittings and finish normally seen in far more expensive executive cars.
There are eight models in the range of saloon and estate styles including a hybrid derivative with two and four wheel drive, petrol or two diesel engines, manual and two types of automatic transmission.
You would expect a sophisticated info-tainment system, cutting edge driving aids and luxurious leather and bright trim, but sound-cancelling technology including acoustic glass is a surprise. Best of all, it works very well and brings higher refinement to the Mondeo.
But Ford has cut corners and to keep down the list price it makes you pay more for things like privacy glass, heated steering wheel, active park assist and city stop, which may be expected on an executive car, but which you may not want in any case.
However you do get a lot for your money nevertheless including 18-inch alloys and skinny spare tyre, parking sensors and reversing camera, lane assistance and fully powered driver's seat, eight-inch touchscreen as the face of the advanced info-tainment system, premium leather seats and wrapped nacelle.
The 2.0 turbo-diesel was not the most powerful for its size but it had a wide spread of delivery with reasonable acceleration, utterly composed motorway cruising ability and it returned over 40mpg without trying.
This car came with the six-speed sequential automatic which produced very smooth changes up or down and was quiet and easy to use with a sporting setting as well as normal mode. The four-wheel-drive system is completely automatic too and needs no driver input.
I liked the steering and brakes feedback, the secondary controls were sensibly laid out although the column stalks and gearbox paddles were hidden by the wide wheelspokes but they all operated with a reassuring firmness.
A large central console carried the upper screen and lower push-buttons for heating and ventilation to back up what was on the screen in a sort of belt-and-bracers approach, which I liked as it meant you're not distracted too much when driving and using them.
The climate control was straightforward and worked well throughout the car, with powered windows but no sunroof.
Oddments provision was very good infront and back and there were plenty of power points to run ancillaries.
Access was easy with keyless entry, the doors opened wide and the apertures were big and you could easily fit a childseat if necessary. Room in the back was particularly generous both for legs and shoulders, and the front seats had a good adjustment range as well as providing good location and they were all luxuriously leather trimmed.
The big boot held a lot behind a low sill and its capacity could be raised when the seatbacks were dropped, so it's a really good family car or business carry-all.
When laden you notice a drop off in the performance as it's a big car for the diesel engine anyway but otherwise it covers ground easily and economically, with predictable and safe handling, excellent grip and a generally smooth ride even if you hear how hard the suspension is working.
Other mechanical and wind noises are very low, or sound that way thanks to the layered side windows.
Visibility is generally good with very bright wide beam and long range headlights, big wipers and deep windows. The rear pillar is a big chunk of metal and does create a blindspot when pulling out or reversing and you need to exercise care but otherwise its easy to manoeuvre and helped by the park assist system if you want to use it.
The Vignale has only just been introduced and it's going to be difficult to say how it will hold on to its higher value in the years ahead compared to more familiar executive models, but the exec grade Ford Mondeo is, without doubt, good value in this sector.