HERE in the UK, car buyers love motors specced up to the nines.
We don’t just travel for the sake of it but want to enjoy time behind the wheel in a comfortable environment where we can literally feel at home.
Many buyers of Fords, for instance, go for Titanium level trim or above, with growing popularity for the ST-Line and Vignale models at the very top.
Vignale, a concept initially run out across a limited number of FordStores, is now widely available through every Ford dealership and brings a luxurious degree of pampering to match, or exceed, your favourite armchair along with technology to help take care of the increasing demands placed on drivers.
It doesn’t do the job for you but makes staying alert and aware so much easier, something from which we all benefit no matter how competent we think we might be.
Anyone who has hankered after the quilted leather stitching of a high end Bentley, for instance, can now find themselves enjoying such luxury while behind the wheel of a brand new Ford costing a fraction of the price of a Crewe-built leviathan while running costs come well on the right side of affordable.
Looked at that way, Vignale is a very relaxing concept indeed although it is a name with historic supercar connections thanks to its early work with Ferrari and others.
To see how well it worked, heading off to the Cotswolds in a Ford Kuga Vignale looked like a good idea. Four of us set out feeling refreshed and excited and all four returned after a 10-hour trip still feeling fresh and reinvigorated by a day of sightseeing from a grandstand viewpoint.
It’s easy to understand why the SUV market has expanded so much when you get to appreciate the new outlook the elevated seating brings.
There’s so much you don’t want to miss on a trip like this and if you use an SUV to go over ground that’s familiar in an ordinary car it becomes apparent just how much you’ve missed in the past.
So the Kuga Vignale delivers a visual feast both inside and out, starting with the special front grille but adding so much more, especially in the area of safety and driver assistance technology.
As the countryside rolls past the windows, the seats inside prove more comfortable than you might have hoped whether you ride upfront or behind.
And despite the tall ride height, getting in and out is incredibly easy, even for those of us who have reached an age where having leg joints regularly greased would be a welcome NHS service.
The test car’s 180bhp 2.0 TDCi diesel engine made progress easy and quiet, even on the twisty lanes where a slow bend was followed by a sudden climb. The ability to see over walls and hedges also made it easier to find space for oncoming traffic, often before the approaching driver was aware the Kuga lay ahead in some instances.
We know quite a bit about this TDCi engine as it’s the one fitted to our new Ford Galaxy, although we have the Powershift automated gearbox rather than the six-speed manual fitted to the Kuga. Our car is still within its first 1,000 miles so is running in but the Kuga had more than 6,000 miles behind it so the engine was well and truly bedded in. It forecast great things to come for our own car, that’s for sure.
Driving with the manual gearbox was no hardship because this engine is so flexible that constant gear changes are not an essential part of driving it. The shift action is also sweet and swift while the clutch is light enough not to be tiresome.
The Vignale trim brings useful extras such as the ability to wave your foot under the rear bumper to get the tailgate motoring skywards. It’s not a feature you might appreciate until the first time you approach the car with arms laden and have to stow everything in the boot. Magical footwaving then becomes a natural part of life, much to the amazement of the uninitiated who wonder how you achieve such a great party trick!
With just over 1,600 litres of boot space and a braked trailer towing capacity of 2.1 tonnes – out-pulling most rivals – the Kuga is perfect for families with a hectic leisure time or for those who want to grandstand in luxury car comfort.
Maurice and Annette Hardy
Car: Ford Kuga 2.0 TDCi Vignale
Does it fit your ego…
0-62mph: 9.2 secs
Top speed: 126mph
Bhp: 180 @ 3500 rpm
Torque: 400 nm @ 2000 rpm
…and your wallet…
CO2 emissions: 135 g/km
Best bits: luxurious all-rounder