Driving the Great Ford the U.S. Can't Get The new-generation Mondeo is the size of the U.S.-built Ford Fusion. By Alistair Weaver, Contributor Date posted: 12-05-2007 Featured Specs - 217-hp 2.5-liter inline-5 - 60 mph in 7.3 seconds - 3,596 pounds The 2007 Ford Mondeo is what remains of Ford's last attempt to build the "world car." Back in the days of former Ford CEO Jac Nasser, we were told that if Ford could just build one car for the whole of mankind instead of a bunch of different platforms for every little Ford region, we'd all end up with better cars. They would be cheaper, too. It sounds like the same kind of thinking that Henry Ford brought to the Model T. Only with this world car, Ford spent a squillion dollars and called it the Mondeo. And it came to the U.S. in 1995 as the Ford Contour and Mercury Mystique. And it flopped. America wanted a big, spacious package powered by cheap gasoline (actually America wanted the Ford Explorer sport-utility), and Europe wanted an efficient utilitarian sedan that ran on diesel. No one within Ford could agree on the car's future, while cost complications further doomed the world car concept. But Ford Chairman Alan Mulally is once again talking about rationalizing the number of different platforms that Ford builds around the world. Now that America is suddenly interested again in efficient sedans, could the all-new 2007 Ford Mondeo be the right kind of car for America? It should be, because this is the best sedan that Ford builds anywhere in the world. Mondeo Man Like so many Euro sedans, the Mondeo is available as a five-door hatchback to improve utility. Since the Ford Mondeo first appeared in 1993, more than 4 million examples have been sold. In the United Kingdom, this car has historically been the default choice of the traveling salesman, the man in the unfashionably shiny suit. Your company would hand over a leased Mondeo and you'd spend the next three years touring the country and selling whatever was in its trunk. The car became such a staple of British working life that ex-Ford CEO Jac Nasser referred to "Mondeo man" as a social phenomenon. But this success became a problem, because Mondeo man didn't like being stereotyped. He either downsized to the similarly spacious yet undeniably cheaper Ford Focus, or traded up to the BMW 3 Series that was tantalizingly within reach. Today, the Ford Focus is the UK's No. 1 selling car and the BMW is in the top 10. To restore some faith in its staple sedan, Ford has sought to inject some individuality into the new Mondeo. The Look of the Modern Adaptive headlights swivel 15 degrees with steering angle; bi-xenon headlights are optional. Thanks to J Mays, Ford's worldwide design director, the new look of Ford is all about "kinetic design." Taking its lead from last year's Iosis concept car, the Mondeo tries to represent "energy in motion." What this means in the real world is a car that's more distinctive than its nondescript predecessor. There are three body styles — sedan, hatchback and wagon. The Mondeo is not what you'd call a step-ahead, but it is handsome and manages to look reassuringly expensive. For a European sedan, it's also huge. At an overall length of 190.7 inches, it's sized almost identically to the Ford Fusion and closer to a BMW 5 Series than the ubiquitous 3 Series. And thanks to the packaging benefits of a transverse engine and front-wheel drive, the cabin is almost as spacious as a BMW 7 Series. The Mondeo's interior also looks right. When VW introduced the fourth-generation Golf in 1998, it achieved a quantum leap in cabin quality, forcing Ford to follow suit. The European driver now expects interior plastics to feel soft and leather to feel like it once belonged to a cow. In this, the Mondeo obliges. It's not quite up to the exquisite standards of an Audi, but it's not far off the quality of the latest Mercedes C-Class. This is mainstream fashion posing as haute couture. Driving Like the Modern Mondeo Man There's plenty of electronics, including DVD-based satellite navigation and a "Ford Power" start button. Every European-engineered Ford since the first Mondeo has driven extremely well thanks to the oversight of Richard Parry-Jones, who recently retired as Ford's chief technical officer (and has been honored by Queen Elizabeth II with a CBE, no less). His successors have continued this good work with the new Mondeo. The sedan's suspension features the Mondeo's familiar arrangement of MacPherson struts at the front and Ford's multilink independent setup at the back. The rear subframe of the chassis has been isolated in the interests of improving on-road refinement. It works. No other front-drive sedan goes down the road as effectively as the Mondeo. It might not be quite as agile as some of its smaller predecessors, but it's hugely accomplished. The damping is terrific, combining excellent high-speed control with a low-speed ride that, while firm by U.S. standards, is never uncomfortable. It's so good that you wonder why Ford bothered to give this car its optional adjustable suspension control. We also think the Mondeo's crisp steering is a factor here, especially as Parry-Jones is a fanatic on the subject. The Mondeo features a conventional hydraulic-assisted power steering system in place of the electrohydraulic system fitted to the Focus, and there's more road feel through the rim of the steering wheel, which enhances the Mondeo's impression of agility. So, too, does the rapid shift action of the six-speed manual gearbox. All this makes the Mondeo a fine tool for driving long distances, yet this car also proves genuinely entertaining when the road starts to twist. Team RS, Ford of Europe's performance division, will have a fine starting point if it's given license to tune the Mondeo. Making Modern Power Like this Ghia model, more than 70 percent of Mondeos are diesels; a special capless fuel-filler sensor prevents gasoline for being mistakenly used. More than 70 percent of Mondeo models sold in Europe are powered by diesel. There are three turbocharged common-rail diesels to choose from, and their output ranges from 99 horsepower to 138 hp. Four gasoline engines are also part of the model mix, and their output ranges from 123 to 217 hp. The Mondeo Titanium X that we spent time in featured a 217-hp turbocharged 2,521cc inline-5. There are 236 pound-feet of torque available between 1,500 rpm and 4,800 rpm. The car's performance is brisk — it takes 7.3 seconds to get to 60 mph, and acceleration doesn't stop until you reach 152 mph. Nevertheless, the Mondeo is a heavy car at 3,596 pounds, and it needs to be worked hard to deliver its best. Fuel consumption inevitably suffers, which is especially problematic on a continent where gas now costs over $8 per U.S. gallon. Why the Mondeo Won't Be in the U.S. Any Time Soon The Mondeo is Ford's best sedan; too bad the dollar's exchange rate makes it so expensive. Money. The 2007 Ford Mondeo is built at Ford's plant in Genk, Belgium, and the 30 percent decline in the dollar's value against the euro makes the prospect of exporting this car to the U.S. utterly untenable. In the U.K., the top-of-the-line Mondeo 2.5 Titanium X tested costs $46,950 at today's exchange rates. Since the price of a Ford Fusion now starts at $17,770, it's not hard to see why there'd be no American constituency for this car. As one senior U.K.-based Ford exec put it, "If we sold it in the U.S., we'd have to take so much equipment out of it that we'd have to sell it as a cave." But while the European-spec Mondeo's limited prospects for America are therefore easy to explain, it's still a shame that U.S. drivers cannot experience its brilliance. As the 2007 Ford Mondeo proves, Ford might not have the badge prestige of Audi, BMW or Mercedes-Benz, but it can build a car that can go toe to toe with the very best sedans in the world. The Mondeo is Ford's best sedan; too bad the dollar's exchange rate makes it so expensive. First Impressions: This is Ford's best sedan, an example of the kind of quality it needs to bring to America.