When Ford announced that it would be launching plusher, more upmarket versions of its cars to compete with the premium brands, some motoring scribes in a reflective mood likened it to the Ghia editions that Ford previously sold. But whereas in the 1970s, the top-of-the-range Ghia models actually stood for something, with wood trim and leather upholstery, by the time the last Galaxy Ghia models were discontinued in 2010, they were simply just another trim level.
Ford bosses say that they wonít make the same mistake, with the Vignale moniker set to be reserved for the latest top-of-the-range Fords, with noticeable enhancements in quality, materials and equipment, as well as benefitting from visual differences like the distinctive octagon-shaped grille on this Kuga Vignale. And like the Ghia name before it, Vignale was once a well-regarded coachbuilder with Italian roots.
Itís our first taste of Fordís upmarket Vignale model as a long-term test car, and here we run it in popular Kuga guise. We opted for the most powerful 2.0-litre TDCi engine with a 177bhp power output and mated it to a six-speed PowerShift twin-clutch automatic transmission. I was tempted to opt for the newly introduced 1.5-litre unit, but with a caravan to tow, its relatively weedy 1,200kg maximum towing capacity ruled it out. Instead, our car can haul a much more satisfactory 2,100kg, and this will be more than sufficient to tow our Lunar Lexon caravan.
Rather than wait for a car to be built for us, we plucked a car from stock, and therefore our Vignale came with a few optional extras that we wouldnít necessarily have chosen ourselves, namely the 19-inch alloy wheels at £500, and the £150 family pack that incorporates a 230-volt power converter and powered child proof rear door locks. The retractable tow bar will come in handy, and cost £625, while the electrically operated panoramic glass roof at £900 will bring some extra light in the gloomy months. The £425 appearance pack seems quite pricey for rear privacy glass and silver roof rails, and I think I would be tempted to choose just the darkened glass from the options list at £225, instead. But one pack which I think is mighty good value is the Driverís assistance pack at £550, which incorporates autonomous emergency braking, a lane keeping assistant, traffic sign recognition, driver drowsiness detection, automatic high beam for the headlights and blind spot warnings. Had I been specifying the car as a factory order, I think I would have been tempted by the heated steering wheel at £125, the chrome and silver embellishments as part of the Vignale bumper styling pack at £100 and chosen Milano Grigio paintwork, which is a rose gold kind of colour.
There have been critics about the price of the Vignale models, but I actually think the £1,900 price premium between this and the Titanium X version to be quite reasonable once you factor in the additional equipment. Items like the uprated Sony-branded audio system (£500 extra), the reversing camera (additional £250), automated parking system (£425 more), power folding door mirrors with memory and the enhanced quality Vignale fittings, like the leather cladded dashboard and doors, as well as front door finishers and floor mats. Metallic paint is also standard on Vignale models, which normally costs £570 on other editions. Tap those figures into a calculator and the difference works out to be a mere £155, which more than covers the mirrors, better quality leather, door finishers and carpet mats, as well as the Vignale styling upgrades that have been made to the exterior.
With the car arriving just a few days before I wrote this introduction, there hasnít been time to put in some serious miles, but over the coming months itíll be put to good use over the winter months, proving the worth of the four-wheel-drive system, and making good use of the Kugaís 2,100kg towing capacity once the caravan comes out of hibernation in the spring.
Date arrived 20th October 2017
Fuel economy Urban/extra urban/combined | 51.4/57.7/54.3mpg On test 41.1mpg
I reckon that the £1,900 price premium for the Vignale is good value.
The CD slot seems like an afterthought on the top of the dashboard.