REVIEW DATE: 09 May 2008
Although the big money for Ford comes in the base specification Mondeo models, the company likes to show what it can do when the purse strings aren't drawn so tight. The range-topping Titanium X Sport model is quite some display as Andy Enright reports.
Solely available with the punchiest petrol and diesel engines in the Mondeo line up, the Titanium X Sport isn't cheap but will tempt those who are quite impervious to the allure of premium German badges. The 175bhp diesel engine and the 218bhp petrol unit certainly have the drop on anything equivalently priced from the BMW or Audi.
Agreed, the Ford Mondeo Titanium X Sport doesn't have the snappiest name. In fact it's about as elegant as a frog in a sock but get past the explosion of badging and what lies beneath is well worth your consideration. Any current generation Ford Mondeo is an impressive piece of engineering. The cheaper cars are, if anything, more admirable in terms of what they get done within their strict budgetary remits but it's liberating to find out what Ford could do when the bean-counters are temporarily distracted or otherwise seized up over their copy of Excel.
The result is a car that asks some very searching questions about your motivation for buying a vehicle in this class. It'll force you to consider whether you're buying a car or buying a badge. Some will avoid the issue. Ford is banking on a proportion of these potential customers deciding that the Mondeo Titanium X Sport is a lot of quality metal for the money compared to the usual compact executive car crop.
The 2.5T engine produces 218bhp and can punch the hefty Mondeo through the 0-60mph sprint in 7.3 seconds. That's sufficiently rapid to retain the interest of all but the most power-crazed photocopier salesman. Top speed is 152mph. An arguably even more impressive engine is the 2.2-litre TDCi diesel that Ford has shoehorned beneath the Mondeo's bonnet. This generates 174bhp which means a sprint to 60mph in just 8.1 seconds and a top speed of 139mph.
The Mondeo always feels a quality product. The slick steering, the weighting of the pedals and gearchange and the excellent damping are reminiscent of Lexus rather than Ford. Minus points would include rather poor visibility due to the chunky pillars and some terrible reflections in the rear window caused by the air conditioning vents in the four-door car. Prod the 'Power button' and you're then treated to a masterclass in vehicle dynamics. Once you learn to trust the front end, handling is excellent with a very clever ESP stability control system.
"A car that asks some very searching questions about your motivation for buying a vehicle in this class."
Take a seat inside the car and you'll notice high quality surfaces, materials and finishes. As with the outside, dynamic lines and styling curves are again evident, plus the low profile instrument panel provides very generous cabin space for front seat occupants. The dashboard is clear and the major controls for the electronics systems largely intuitive. Both estate and five-door models are offered in Titanium X Sport guise.
The design team has also paid great attention to interior detailing, and examples of this include new generation infotainment systems, plus the next generation of Ford's Human Machine Interface (HMI). This easy to use system features the same steering-wheel toggle switches seen on new Galaxy and S-MAX, but introduces the availability of a large central LCD screen with full colour graphics situated between the main analogue instruments in front of the driver.
Rear seat headroom and legroom have also come in for scrutiny by the Mondeo development team and these have been maximized for occupant comfort and safety. I'm 6'4" and I was easily able to fit comfortably in the back seat behind a front seat virtually all the way back on its runner. The Galaxy and S-MAX tie-in isn't coincidental as the Mondeo runs on the same chassis as these models and is built in the same factory. Ford is confident it can handle capacity issues and cites a flexible manufacturing process that can rapidly switch from model to model to meet demand.
Prices for the 2.2-litre TDCi 175 diesel engine and the 2.5T petrol-engined versions of the Mondeo Titanium X Sport are identical (starting at £25,355), so take your pick as to which you prefer in terms of power delivery and ongoing costs. Equipment levels are also identical, with both cars getting 18-inch alloy wheels, sports suspension, twin chromed exhaust tail pipes and body coloured side skirts to differentiate them from lesser Mondeo models. Inside you'll find leather and alcantara seats trimmed with red stitching, a leather-finished steering wheel and gear shift lever and piano black trim replacing the aluminium inlays. This is as well as a Sony six-disc in-dash CD stereo, voice control, rain sensing wipers, automatic bi-xenon headlights, front and rear parking sensors and dual zone climate control.
All of which will lead you to then wonder whether this represents better value than an Audi A4 2.0 TFSI S Line or a BMW 320i M Sport, two cars that are also rather well equipped and which both have a different and discrete appeal. The Ford scores in being bigger and better equipped although not having standard fit satellite navigation seems a bit mean at this price.
Cost of ownership for the Mondeo Titanium X Sport comes in two sizes, medium and large. Choose the diesel version and you're greeted with fairly modest running costs for a vehicle of this size and performance. It'll return an average of 45.6mpg with carbon dioxide emissions of 165g/km. Opt instead for the 2.5T model and you'll need to set a little more money aside. Fuel economy is officially measured at just over 30mpg and Ford claim that you can expect 40mpg on a motorway run but we found both marks difficult to achieve - possibly because the car nags you to let it off the leash at any and every opportunity. CO2 emissions of 222g/km will also be problematic for company car market and that more than anything will restrict its appeal in fleet circles.
These costs are also reflected in residual values for the two models. The diesel car will retain a healthier proportion of its original sale price but in general terms, Mondeos look to be standing up very well with initial estimates around ten percentage points better than the outgoing car. Compared to cars like the Mazda6, the Peugeot 407 and the Renault Laguna, these are extremely strong indeed. Only the Honda Accord really gets close in terms of mainstream brands. Up against the premium brands, however, the Mondeo Titanium X Sport will struggle.
Taken in isolation, there's a lot to like about Ford's Mondeo Titanium X Sport, especially in 2.2-litre TDCi 175 diesel guise. It's big, it's well equipped, it handles well and it feels strongly built. The diesel car also makes some impressive economy figures and the 2.5T petrol is quicker still. It's quite an achievement. The trouble comes when casting the net for rivals. As far as mainstream vehicles go, this is about as good as it gets.
This car's inherent problem is its price tag. It puts it into direct comparison with some very good cars from BMW and Audi and while the Ford may offer more power, more toys and more space, the premium brands counter that with beefy residuals that make them cheaper to run in the longer term. UK buyers have cottoned onto this fact and as good as this Mondeo is, you're really got to want one to overlook the German brands.
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