What is it?
Maybe a Ford Mondeo can never be classed as 'premium' because of its blue-collar badge, but in every respect that matters, this new facelifted model is the quality-equal of an Audi.
The visual update is subtle but effective. The new nose has an enlarged lower grille and a slimmer upper one, chrome-slatted in the top Titanium models to give an oddly Kia-like look. Lesser Mondeos' black mesh looks purer and neater.
An air shutter gradually blocks off the lower grille according to airflow needs, improving aerodynamic slipperiness by up to six per cent. LED running lamps share space with the front foglights, and the bonnet is less bluff. LEDs fill the rear light lenses, too, and high-end models get a bright outline for the entire side 'daylight opening'.
What’s it like?
Inside all is calmer, with a one-piece centre console, soft-touch black paint on the plastics and simpler graphics. There's more soundproofing, better door seals and a sound-absorbent windscreen. New technology abounds: blind-spot alerts, lane-departure steering-wheel vibrators, an alertness assessor, a rear camera, automatic headlight dipping and more.
We’re testing the new 2.2-litre TDCi Duratorq turbodiesel with its piezo-electric, vibrating-crystal injectors, enlarged turbocharger, startling 197bhp and massive 310lb ft of torque (332 on transient overboost). It's mated to a six-speed manual; a double-clutcher arrives later.
This is one muscular engine. Once past some low-speed lag you just feel a smooth surge of thrust almost regardless of speed or gear, even from 1600rpm in sixth. It makes the Mondeo a supremely relaxed and quiet cruiser, with a new-found suppleness from higher-profile tyres. The Sport comes with adaptive dampers, too, but the differences between the three modes aren't great and soon you just leave it in Normal.
Where the Mondeo really scores is in its accurate, intuitive steering, its progressive brakes and its great mix of stability and agility. There's a natural flow here not always evident in premium German rivals.