I am not now, and have never been, a rep, but having driven well over 2000 miles in the last fortnight I'm beginning to feel like one. As you can imagine, a lot of those miles have been on motorways, and it's appropriate to the point of cliché that the car that I've taken along the M1, M6, M40, M42 and probably quite a few other Ms that I can no longer recall has been a Ford Mondeo.
Specifically, a Titanium X Mondeo - the second highest trim level after the introduction in May of the Titanium X Sport - fitted with the new 2.2-litre TDCi turbo diesel engine. The 2.2 is really quite something; quiet, very smooth, and able, thanks to its maximum output of 173bhp, to push the car from rest to 60mph in 8.7 seconds and on to a top speed of 139mph.
Those performance figures, however, are not really the point. In the current Mondeo range, some models are noticeably better to drive than others, and this one is from the top drawer in terms of its ride/handling balance. But it's not a car you want to push hard. It's very large and it feels it, so you wouldn't want to blast it along a twisty country road simply for the fun.
Furthermore, the chassis - as it's set up in this particular case, at least - doesn't seem at all happy when you're throwing the whole 173bhp at it. It never feels unsafe, but in more challenging situations it often feels uncomfortable, as if it doesn't entirely know what to do with all that grunt.
Motorways? Different story. The engine's achievement here is not that it can make the car accelerate hard (though it can), but that it is so flexible. The effective power band extends from not much over 1000rpm to nearly 5000, so that once you're up and running there is rarely any temptation to select a gear lower than sixth.
This makes for motoring which is not only relaxed but also quite economical. According to the trip computer, which from previous experience in the S-MAX which was the subject of a long-term test earlier this year may be optimstic by less than 1mpg, the Mondeo achieved well over 45mpg (the official combined figure is 45.6) during my time with it, suggesting that on a motorway cruise it must easily be possible to break the 50mpg barrier. For a car of this size and performance, that's pretty good going.
Another thing the Mondeo shares with the S-MAX is that although it seems to be not much more than averagely comfortable when you first get in, you can drive it for a long time without wanting to stop. In most cars I tend to want to stop within two and a half hours of starting (it's a question of height - those of us who are six foot three tall often have this problem), but on several occasions I managed four hours in the Mondeo with no problem at all.
It so happened that I didn't need to transport anything bulkier than a suitcase during the fortnight, but it was nice to know that I could have tested the Mondeo more severely in this respect and not found it wanting. As you probably know, there are four-door saloon and estate versions of the car, but this one was a five-door hatch with a large (but light to operate) tailgate and a sensibly-sized opening. There's 528 litres of space in there with the rear seats in place, 1448 with them folded, and you won't have trouble fitting anything inside.
You should also get away with it in the unfortunate event that you have a crash. In the Euro NCAP tests, the Mondeo scores five stars out of five for adult occupant protection, four out of five for child occupant protection and a disappointing (but, for the class, typical) two out of four for pedestrian protection. Several other large family cars match these ratings, but so far none has been able to beat them.
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