During the recently concluded Geneva Motor Show the US automaker presented the extension of its Vignale range which added four new models to the roster – but all things considered, the first and foremost embodiment of the upscale line-up is the Mondeo derivation.
It’s easy to understand why – the Vignale line is now comprising the Mondeo sedan, Mondeo Wagon and recently added Mondeo five-door, which has been showcased during the Swiss event (the Edge, S-Max and Kuga Vignale Concept were also present). And since all three body styles of the Mondeo range have been treated to the Vignale derivation it’s clear where the bulk of sales are expected to come from. A small accolade is in order now, before we dive deep into the review of the Mondeo HEV (hybrid electric vehicle), as to explain what’s the idea behind the Vignale treatment.
Ford – and other mass-market automakers such as Renault with its Initiale Paris – have decided that premium automakers should get a taste of their own medicine: the latter in recent years have gone down the price range in order to snatch more clients from the regular brands – just look at the crop of Mercedes, Audi and now even BMW models with compact front wheel drive platforms. So, the mass-market carmakers have invented their own niche – upscale subbrands such as Citroen’s DS – which has now been considered successful enough to become an independent entity called DS Automobiles. Seeing how the “boomerang” goes both ways, Ford and others decided to also tempt the customers with ranges that offer the premium experience. As such, for example, Ford’s Vignale not only includes models with upscale treatments but also an entire experience – from the moment you buy them to the full ownership course. It’s not our place to discuss these services, but it’s interesting to have a Ford with a concierge service, right?
Back to the Mondeo Vignale from our review, the model is also special because it’s the HEV version – which under the Mondeo name appeared since the middle of 2014 in Germany, but has been selling in the US as a 2013 model year under the Fusion Hybrid nameplate for longer. We all remember the long wait Europeans had to endure before receiving the latest generation Mondeo or the issue with the EPA ratings in America where many greener models (including the Fusion Hybrid) had to be slightly downgraded due to an internal error. In the Mondeo Vignale guise all is forgotten and the general feel – more detailed explanations to follow – is that a Vignale HEV is a very close depiction of the American way of motoring.
Design, Interior and Gadgets
We have already reviewed the Mondeo on more than one occasion – with gasoline or diesel powertrains and in FWD and AWD guises, so the midsize model is now well known. But this time around we’re treated to the classic sedan body-style in the Vignale guise. Design wise, the US feeling is present in abundance – the styling tweaks are subtle and restrained, but easy to spot. The front comes with a different bumper and mesh-insert style grille while all around the car the chrome inserts are in abundance. These chrome inserts are one of the explanations why the general feeling is of an American car treatment – we’re not really used to such abundance on European vehicles even when talking about real premium models (Ford has accentuated on numerous occasions the Vignale doesn’t go after premium cars and should be treated as an upscale line). The black body color only adds to the feeling, alongside the classic sedan body style – take the five door and ask any US motorist and he’ll say he never heard of such a contraption on midsize cars. As a side note, the sedan body best fits the Vignale treatment but we’re still of the opinion the five-door is way more practical and a great alternative if the buyer doesn’t want the family-oriented wagon.
While the Vignale treatment is obvious when looking at the Mondeo from the outside, the midsize car remains easily distinguishable and I believe the main target for the vehicle will be business managers that seek a comfortable and upscale ride without actually breaking the bank with a premium car (which incurs higher costs, from acquisition to lifetime usage). The black Vignale could easily be seen hauling top level executives that want to remain conspicuous but still like to showcase their level of paycheck against other company employees. The Vignale Mondeo HEV will be even more targeted towards this kind of buyers – shows how the manager and the company can be eco-conscious. That’s because the HEV is pricier than the “entry-level” Vignale models with the 2.0 liter gasoline and diesel engines (prices dependant of the market, they can also be on par with the diesel option) but not enough for the financial department to jump up when the executives decide to select it as company cars.
Going inside the cabin the Vignale treatment is not as obvious anymore, as the general layout and much of the elements are the same. The Vignale differs in terms of attention to details – for example the sides of the center stack are covered with soft, stitched leather, or the passenger front airbag gets its own “plate” treatment to eschew any possibility of contrasting fabrication. Actually, aside from the instrument cluster we’ll be back to momentarily, the biggest change inside the cabin is represented by the adoption of the different leather upholstery. It’s available in two different nuances and the driver and front passenger most importantly get multi-contour seats. These are among the best I’ve tried in this price range (we have to remember the Vignale is not that pricey – the 2.0 EcoBoost in Titanium guise goes for close to 30,000 euros and the equivalent engine on the Vignale is a little over 7,000 euros more), with heating and ventilation and a massage function that uses the many different layers of calibrations available separate if you need them adjusted. The seating arrangement thus can span the full sporty body-hug treatment or can deliver a relaxed, long ride comfortable setting.
Since the Mondeo is not exactly new, we already know the layout – which is simple and straightforward: center stack with certain climate and audio controls and touchscreen display for the infotainment system and the intricate settings available. It’s the Sync 2 version that has started to appear on all models of the range, including the facelifted Focus and it’s a careful step forward from the first version. One of the main differences from the regular Mondeo or Vignale is the instrument cluster, in the HEV it only boasts one classic dial for the speedometer, flanked by two large configurable displays. These can showcase any info you may need – but most importantly feature the only visual cues that you’re driving a hybrid. Some of the computer’s screens showcase when you’re driving electric, in hybrid or classic mode. Other than that, nothing to highlight you’re driving a hybrid – not even a button to select a full EV mode (more on that later on).
Space in the Mondeo Vignale is the same as in any regular Mondeo, with four adults able to partake in a long journey or even five persons fitting in if needed in comfortable conditions. The only downside to the hybrid arrangement is that Ford hasn’t managed to hide the battery pack – for example the recently tested Yaris HSD has them under the rear bench. The batteries are located in the trunk and protrude in an irregular way – meaning you’ll have to consider rather carefully the arrangement inside the cargo compartment. The sedan also doesn’t offer the best access to the storage area, which is why we’re tipping haulers to the five-door Vignale coming soon after its Geneva introduction. As far as gadgets are concerned, the Vignale has them all – from smartphone integration to adaptive cruise control, lane keeping and the full set of safety and assistance systems, including collision mitigation warnings (of course some of these are on the optional list).
Engine, Transmission and Handling
The Mondeo HEV has the powertrain coming directly from the American Fusion Hybrid which is actually in its second generation – using a combination of 2.0-liter Atkinson-cycle inline-four (2.5 liter but less efficient on the first gen model), an electric motor and an electronically controlled continuously variable transmission sending the power to the front wheels. The European rating is of 187 hp and there’s a secret – Ford actually uses two electric motors – one acting as a generator harnessing the electricity from braking and the other is used solely as a drive motor.
The HEV is a good alternative to the EcoBoost models, while not just as sweet to drive, but will fall behind the 2.0 TDCi with the comparable 180 hp mainly because of the added heft and the slow CVT. The latter is actually responsible for the main disadvantages of the HEV – it’s rather slow to respond to quick throttle inputs and the interior noise – even with all the Vignale NVH (noise, vibration, harshness) improvements – will be interrupted by the high pitch of the engine revving up. The hybrid powertrain should be treated to a different gearbox if possible – it’s really slow and uncomfortable when you need full acceleration – which is in contrast with the incredible audio comfort displayed by the Vignale when in electric mode.
In contrast, as we said, the hybrid operation is seamless and needs no input from the driver. Entirely automatic, the car’s electronic brains decide when to act in hybrid or electric mode. The only thing the driver can do to influence the setup is to modulate the throttle inputs – even at high speeds, up to 85 mph (135 km/h), if there’s enough juice in the Lithium-Ion battery pack you can drive in complete, electric silence. Of course the best results for the hybrid powertrain will be achieved in the city at lower speeds but it’s interesting to see the internal combustion engine turned off at highway speeds. The battery pack, while bulging and protruding inside the trunk, will be depleted quickly when driving electric, so we’re still feeling the electric revolution is a few years from now.
While the CVT is a “pain” when talking about driving comfort and performance, the automatic operation of the hybrid powertrain is fitting of the Vignale moniker – the start/stop procedure of the regular engine is seamless and almost imperceptible. By the way, the HEV again loses ground to the TDCi offering when taking the Mondeo as the all-rounder it has proved on numerous occasions to be. While the electric motor compensates some of the torque loss, a diesel will be always better for B roads overtakes and the highway fuel consumption is miles behind the diesel. We treated the Mondeo Vignale HEV to a full setup of city, B road and highway driving and the average fuel consumption has been of around 6,8 liters / 100 km (the official average is of 4,2 liters). In the city it will be way better, especially if the driver likes to play around with the powertrain and will strive to keep it as much as possible in the electric zone.
Ride and handling characteristics are pervious to the hybrid setup: the battery pack adds heft over the rear axle for a better distribution but the Mondeo HEV Vignale is not going to break any records if you try to race it. That slow CVT comes into effect once more and the Mondeo is anyways rather beefy, tipping the scales at 1579 kgs. The steering inputs are good but the car will not give feedback to the driver – another American-like characteristic – and anyways the Vignale is not going to be treated like a hot hatch even if the owner selects the 2.0 EcoBoost with 240 hp. That being said, the Vignale line can even be equipped with an adaptive suspension so comfort is very much top notch – very close to what the premium representatives have on offer in the class.
Pro: Mondeo Vignale delivers on its upscale promise with an interesting American-styled flavor. The treatment includes very low interior noise and a silent chassis – while the interior has great front seats with multi-contour, massage, heating and cooling functions. HEV powertrain seamlessly transitions from one state to the other without any driver input.
Against: The CVT ruins the Vignale experience when you need the car to accelerate – it’s slow to respond and will have the engine “scream” out while revving up. The cabin feels less different than the regular Mondeos than when seeing it from the outside.
Starting price – Ford Mondeo Vignale 2.0 TDCI M6 – 36,600 EUR
Tested version – Ford Mondeo Vignale HEV – 37,400 EUR
Engine: 2.0L four cylinder, gasoline, start/stop (1999 cc) + Electric motor alternative current, Electric motor generator
Power: petrol 140 HP (103 kW) at 6000 rpm + 120 HP (88 kW) for a combined total of 186 HP (137 kW)
Torque: 173 Nm at 4,000 rpm + 240 Nm
Transmission: CVT, continuously variable mechanism
Dimensions: length – 4,867 mm, width – 1,852mm, height – 1,501 mm, wheelbase – 2,852 mm
Fuel Tank Capacity: 53 L
Battery pack capacity: 1,4 kWh – Li Ion
Trunk Capacity: 383 liters
Weight: 1579 kg
0 – 100 km/h: 9,2 s
Top Speed: 187 km/h
Fuel consumption: urban – 2,8L/100 km, highway – 5L/100 km, average – 4,2L/100 km
Rating: 4.3 / 5