“I’d almost go so far as to say the Mondeo XR5 drives as well as a 3 Series.”
Model Tested: 2008 Ford MA Mondeo XR5
Model Range: $29,990 to $41,990
RRP (as tested): $41,990 ($42,790 incl. Bluetooth & Metallic Paint)
Options:Metallic Paint $350, Sunroof $1,900, Bluetooth $450
Roomy, Looks great, Drives even better, Handles beautifully
Engine lacks a little punch, Rearward vision issues
-by Matt Brogan
You know it’s a funny thing that here in Australia we have an almost blood fought rivalry between our much beloved Holdens and Fords. It seems you grow up shoe horned in to either camp, raised strictly a red lion loyalist or blue oval aficionado in much the same way many ordinary people are raised under one religion or another.
I myself was the former, a Holden boy through and through, and never thought in my early years that I’d hear myself say what I’m about to say. But as a motoring journo, your degree of perspective soon grows, and therefore it’s with deliberate diction that I announce the following: this Ford is a damn fine car.
The Mondeo has been a bit of a hit and miss affair in the past (take the old HE model for example) and to a degree it’s a shame we’re not quicker to adopt Ford’s European offerings for in many ways they encompass everything Australian buyers have come to expect from a car.
For starters it’s a good sized car, not too big, not too small and it drives as well or better than many of the more expensive same sized rivals. In fact, I’d go so far as to say the Belgian built Mondeo XR5 drives as well as a BMW 3 Series, but more on that later.
Let’s start where we all expect, key fob in hand, mentally evaluating the mass of sculptured Panther Black metal before you, trying to surmise what it is exactly that’s drawing you to appreciate this sleek, stylish and sporty machine.
Perhaps it’s the kinetic design and tight tolerances of German engineering, maybe it’s the up market approach of all that marketing gaff, or is it the aggressive, athletic stance, big wheel arches and go-fast styling the XR badge brings to an otherwise normal car? Which ever spin you put on it, the Mondeo is simply a bloody good looking vehicle.
Sadly for many cars, that’s about where it ends, an attractive shell with very little substance – not so with Mondeo. The cabin is almost as attractive as the exterior and is very nearly as sporty.
The feeling of quality is the first thing to grab you. Simply put, it’s far better finished than other cars of this price. The sporty “Alcantara & Napoli” leather seats, the blend of materials through out, the attention to detail are all so well presented for a mass produced car that it really does get you wondering just how the others manage to go so far wrong.
A leather wrapped steering wheel with info and audio buttons at a thumb’s reach, cruise sits just a little lower, and a full colour dash display with all manner of settings (Ford call this HMI – Human Machine Interface) complement the well laid out dash to make the car feel even more your own.
I did find the speedometer increments a little hard to spot at a glance in our speed camera infested suburban streets, but otherwise, it’s a flashy set-up which is easy to use and to live with day-to-day and illuminates in a classy soft blue-white hue at night.
The sweet little MP3 compatible six stack Sony stereo with i-Pod connection (hooray) has just enough bass to shake the self dimming rear view mirror at the lights and can be fitted with Bluetooth interface for an additional charge.
Dual zone climate control, variable heated seats, one-touch power windows, and let’s not forget the start/stop button, all adding to the overall feel that you are indeed getting a good deal for your hard earned cash.
Back to the starter button for a sec, many claim it’s a gimmick, but once you’ve got the hang of not fumbling for the keys every time you need to start the car, the novelty soon becomes one of those things you miss when you hand the car back.
In all the interior space is quite overwhelming, you’re almost of the impression it’s bigger than it looks, Tardis like. The rear leg space is incredibly generous, head room is great and although it’s a little narrower than Falcon shoulder to shoulder, it shares a wide centre console to give an impression (from the front at least) that the car is actually a full-sized family hatch. Clever really.
Your luggage is spoilt too. The low loading lip is ideal when you’ve got an armful of bags and that large hatch opens really wide to accommodate just about all manner of goods be it golf clubs, suit cases … and as if it’s not enough all ready, you can flip the rear seats down flat and gain another few acres – great for those snowboarding trips. Perhaps I should have waited until winter.
Reversing can be a little tricky with regard to rearward vision. The raked rear window and rear spoiler together create a limited line of sight which thankfully the parking sensors go some way to help overcome. It is though one of those traits you’ll soon get used to and work around happily given everything else on offer.
So it sounds great, and it is, in fact I’m impressed. Perhaps it would be better framed and hung in the pool room, after all it’d be a shame to dirty it. But no, let’s do just that, go out and get sweaty – from driving of course – get your mind out of the gutter.
The Mondeo deals well with traffic. The clutch is light enough not to be bothersome and presents a precise uptake point which is very readily welcomed by the slick shifting and beautifully weighted six speed gear box. The whole manual experience is rather pleasant and indeed a lot nicer than you’d feel is worthy of a $40K car.
Sure the turbo lag is there from standstill, as you’d no doubt expect, but it’s brief and soon vanishes to give a claimed sprint to 100km/h of 7.3 seconds, and on to a top speed of 245km/h.
It’s quiet too, refined, and although there’s a little reflection from the centre grille on the dash against the windscreen, it’s otherwise an enjoyable space, quite relaxing and definitely worthy of showing off to your mates.
But trundling around town and running from the lights can only amuse even the best of drivers for so long, after all, what fun is a car at 60 (clears throat). The country road is far more my scene and I think the Mondeo shared my feelings too.
That first straight when the speed limit lifted to 100 was a welcome sight and the Mondeo was there all too quickly. The in gear acceleration is linear, but in a brisk kind of way, and is really quite strong considering the vehicle’s mass. The peculiar sound of that sweet little five-cylinder lets you know its managing our state limit all too easily.
Finally reaching a road worth driving the Mondeo sat dwarfed by the towering eucalypts of the infamous Black Spur (a tight twisty stretch of sub-alpine road in Victoria’s Dandenong Ranges). A car lover’s playground offering turn after turn of fun and frivolity, the Spur is one of those unique roads which is actually enjoyable at the speed limit and it’s not uncommon to find all manner of high end cars and sports bikes up here on any given weekend.
Mondeo leapt from corner to corner like a kitten playing with a moth. It’s just too easy. The suspension is quite agile adjusting rapidly to changes in camber with no loss of balance or poise. A sinewy chassis and rigid body combination which although tight, still allow enough give to offer a decent ride over mid-corner lumps and bumps.
Response to directional input is effortless offering brilliant feedback and road feel, even with the ESP switched off. The adjustable rate power steering gives superb response and points very sharply for a car this size. Turn in rate is very quick thanks to Mondeo’s large footprint and short over hangs, and the follow through from the rear end is very tidy due mainly to a well sorted multi-link rear end.
At the heart of the beast is a Duratec 2.5 litre five-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine producing a respectable 162kW and 320Nm. It’s a funny little motor that seems to come on a lot earlier than the 5000rpm maximum delivery point would have you believe thanks mainly to an early torque kick from the turbo.
Shared with the cult status Focus XR5 Turbo, the engine is detuned some 4kW which makes Mondeo somewhat less potent than its smaller sibling. The extra 300kg on board is noticeable too and I think personally that although the Mondeo performs well, a little extra grunt should have been added, not taken from, the engine’s overall output.
Regardless of this one qualm, it tours effortlessly, sprints well and is flexible enough to provide an enjoyable drive whilst not losing out to the stiffer more sports orientated ride of the Focus XR5.
Not to be outdone by all the going on hand, the stopping is equally as impressive. The braking is progressive, smooth and strong. You can feel there’s a great deal of assistance behind the otherwise smallish discs but nonetheless soft pads and rotors make for optimal braking performance which seems to always be ready, even after copping a hammering between corners.
There was a huge amount of black dust on those tough 18” alloys afterwards, but the grins I got at the car wash later on made all the scrubbing seem worthwhile.
ADR tests claim a combined average fuel economy of 9.5l /100km which although is believable, may not be sustainable once you start tapping in to all that turbo joy. I found myself up around the 13 mark whilst at play and in to the mid 8s when cruising.
Mondeo just seems to beg you for more though, and the more I got stuck in to it, the more the car seemed to enjoy, a recipe for a grin almost no other activity can offer. Think of it as a family sports car that should also get the wife on side.
If that fails, perhaps you can point out the various safety features on offer such as the seven air bags, standard ESP, five-star ANCAP rating, ISOFIX prepared rear seating, Traction Control, and ABS with Emergency Brake Assist.
Even the little luxuries like front and rear parking sensors, capless re-fuelling, rain sensing wipers, and auto headlights might help sway your argument.
Either way it’s a good deal, worth the spousal convincing, and if you don’t believe me go and take one for a drive yourself. It’s well worth your time and may even coerce you down from a larger car. Not hard to see why Mondeo won Australia’s Best Car.