Loaded with every toy Ford could muster, our new long-term test Mondeo estate is a tour de force of technological wizardry usually reserved for cars competing higher up the executive pecking order.
The problem is that at £27,870 as tested, this range-topping 2.0-litre TDCi Titanium X estate, which admittedly has an extra £4,800 worth of toys added, also sits up in the executive price range.
For this money you can drive off in a far more powerful and much cleaner (177bhp and 128g/km CO2 compared to 140bhp and 156g/km) BMW 320d SE Touring.
So why opt for the Blue Oval when a premium German estate can be yours for the same money?
Well, first the drive is excellent.
Whatever model you opt for, the Mondeo is simply one of the best-handling cars in its class. But not, sadly, as good as the 3 Series, although it is the closest Ford has got to being a serious challenger to the BMW’s benchmark handling.
This new Mondeo will not disappoint on the back roads – the only surprise being just how agile it is.
On the motorway – the Mondeo’s home turf – this new Ford is a born cruiser.
Its 140bhp diesel engine is not the quickest, but when cruising, it is quiet and relaxed.
Most of this car’s short life has been spent on short commutes and tackling the back roads of Cambridgeshire.
It is during those stop/start commutes that one begins to appreciate the work Ford has put in on the interior.
It has a solidity and quality one would usually only associate with those German premium marques.
Then there are the toys.
While the 3 Series and the Mondeo share some of the same gimmicks such as a starter button, this loaded Mondeo does make the driver feel rather special.
However, there are issues with some of this technology: the keyless entry for example.
Being able to leave the key in your bag while opening the doors and starting the engine is great, but if you need to find it afterwards then, in my mind, the best place to have it is in the car’s ignition – at least then it’s not flying off the passenger seat or lost in the depths of a bag in the boot.
Some of the other toys also have their foibles too.
The heated seats don’t cancel themselves, for example, which gives you a nice warm derriere on a frosty morning but a sweaty back driving home after a day in the office.
Or the sat-nav, which is brilliant in every respect except the standard ‘pay attention’ advice on the start-up screen is rounded off with a pointless exclamation mark.
But to be fair these are minor quibbles with a superb car that is dripping with technological wizardry, the best of which is not the voice command system or the automatic headlights or wipers, but is Ford’s adaptive cruise control.
Costing an extra £1,000 means it is not going to be big seller, but if you are a heavy motorway user, happy to let the car take the strain or are worried of becoming Gatso fodder, this system could be a life as well as a licence saver.
Over the next few weeks the Mondeo will have some extensive motorway driving to contend with as we go on trips the length and breadth of England visiting relatives and friends, which will give me a real chance to assess its cruising characteristics.
The thought of such journeys would generally have me weeping into my cornflakes but, with the Mondeo, I suspect they are going to be a joy.
The manufacturer’s view
Ford has grown its UK market penetration with successful new models that have increased its profitable share of the retail and fleet markets and improved residual values.
The new Mondeo has already recorded more than 16,000 sales concentrated on retail and higher value fleet business.
Fleet sales are crucial to Mondeo but the balance has changed, with retail sales now accounting for around 35% of registrations, compared with 18% previously.
Kevin Griffin, director of fleet operations, Ford
Equipment and options
Price (OTR): £23,095 (£27,870 as tested)
Company car tax bill (2007) 40% tax-payer: £160 per month
Insurance group: 9
Combined mpg: 47.9
Test mpg: N/A
CAP Monitor RV: £6,975/30%
Contract hire rate: £504
Expenditure to date: Nil