Ford Mondeo ST200 review
by David Finlay (10 December 1999)
Sad but true: if you are the party in power, the highest-paid opera singer, or one of the planet's leading car manufacturers, your standards are liable to slip. Despite your early promise, what usually happens in the end is that you put taxes up when you said you would put them down, or sing only the easy bits, or build very dull cars knowing you will sell just as many as if you built very interesting ones instead.
Ford was guilty of this last sin for many years. Nowadays, though, it has done the equivalent of unexpectedly putting taxes back down again by producing far more interesting products.
These things are a matter of evolution, but if you had to pick a turning point it would most likely be the introduction of the Mondeo in 1993. All other considerations aside, it was really rather nice to drive, which Fords generally were not before and generally are now.
For those of us who enjoy driving, this was the good news. The less good news, until recently, was the lack of a proper high-performance Mondeo, despite the fact that there have been 2.5-litre V6 versions around for several years now.
The really good news comes in the form of the ST200, which takes over from the ST-24 as the fastest Mondeo. Where the ST-24 makes do with 167bhp, the same V6 fitted to big brother has a whisker over 200, which happens to match - as near as makes no matter - the output of the original Sierra Cosworth.
There is no point in taking the comparison any further, because this is no Cossie descendant. For a start, it handles the power a lot better, partly thanks to a better chassis, partly because it doesn't have the Cosworth's dominating low-down grunt. And, attractive though it may be, the ST200's aura does not give the same shock to the system as that of the Sierra did in the late 1980s.
It's still fun, though. Allow it to rev freely and it fairly scampers along, booming thunderously as it does so. I have no doubt that this is the result of much development and a skipful of discarded prototype exhaust systems - modern engines don't sound like this unless you work hard to make sure they do. But if that's what it takes to produce such a wonderful noise, so be it.
The chaps in the chassis department, meanwhile, seem to have spent most of their time driving along fast A-roads, because that is by far the best terrain for the ST200. Through long sweeping bends it feels terrific, whereas on smaller country roads, and indeed in town, the abilities of the suspension are masked by a slight clumsiness in the major controls.
The gearchange, for example, is notchy in a sadly familiar Ford way, while the steering lacks the sharpness that Nissan has been engineering into even its most basic models for several years.
As regards motorway cruising, I can only speak for people of my height and say that the seats, which look great, offer support in all the wrong places. Two days spent racking up hundreds of miles left me feeling that I had spent a night sleeping on my elbows.
Overall, the ST200 is unlikely to go down in history as one of the great performance Fords. But it's the most enjoyable Mondeo yet, and that should certainly be worth a footnote.
Second opinion: Right on, as far as the fast A-roads are concerned. Very competent long-distance runner. I much prefer the ST200's seamless performance to anything ever offered by a Sierra of any description. Didn't mind the seats or driving position, but I sit forward with the seat back well reclined, which is unusual for somebody of the lanky persuasion. Yes, I'd like a sportier gearchange action too. Ross Finlay.