Car reviews - Ford - Mondeo - ST24 sedan
Smooth V6, sharp handling, refinement
Room for improvement
Staid looks, unexciting interior
21 Feb 2001
THE Ford Mondeo ST24 could perhaps be viewed as the Blue Oval's answer to the Subaru Impreza WRX.
Subaru's budget-priced missile has established a cult following around the world for its unique combination of supercar performance and family sedan practicality.
Ford's new contender embraces a similar theme, although it leans far more towards comfort and refinement than outright performance.
The primary distinguishing factor between the ST24 and its lesser siblings lies under the bonnet.
Where run-of-the-mill Mondeos use a 2.0-litre, four-cylinder engine, the sporty range-topper derives its power from a 2.5-litre V6.
Ford says the quad cam, 24-valve powerplant is one of the smallest and lightest V6 engines available anywhere.
Its outputs of 125kW at 6250rpm and 220Nm at 4250rpm are by no means earth-shattering, endowing the ST24 with brisk rather than eye-watering performance.
As reflected by the relatively high revs at which peak torque and power occur, the engine needs to be worked reasonably hard to access the available performance.
This is certainly no chore as the V6 happily sings its way to 6000rpm and beyond, accompanied by a sporty thrum from the chrome tailpipe.
A five-speed manual gearbox is the only transmission offered but this should suit most buyers thanks to a relatively slick action and user-friendly clutch.
The 1368kg Mondeo does not plaster you back in the seat the way the lighter, more powerful Impreza WRX does, but it has enough punch to make it an enjoyable car in which to hustle across your favourite twisty road.
Happily, the ST24 does not suffer from the nose-heavy characteristics that afflict some V6-powered front-wheel drives.
There is little evidence of torque steer and the 205/50ZR16 tyres perform an admirable job of transmitting power to the tarmac, even under heavy throttle loads in first and second gears.
The standard traction control system plays a useful role here.
Turn-in is impressively sharp and the car displays near-neutral characteristics under heavy cornering.
There is a liveliness to the chassis missing in most front-wheel drives, which are invariably biased towards understeer.
The ST24's balance and composure encourage the driver to attack corners. The steering is nicely weighted but a bit more feedback would further enhance enjoyment levels.
Its revised suspension settings mean body roll is well controlled but not at the expense of a compliant ride.
Although the ST24 accelerates and corners well, its stopping power is less impressive.
Its front discs are larger than other Mondeos - 278mm versus 260mm - but the car still does not pull up as sharply as might be expected.
Adding weight to this impression is a spongy brake pedal that lacks bite when initially depressed.
Overall refinement levels are exemplary with wind and road noise kept well suppressed and the engine only making its presence felt audibly when pushed hard.
Externally, the ST24's sporting aspirations are reflected in its aggressive front spoiler, side skirts, bootlid spoiler and mesh grille and air intakes.
While the add-ons help alleviate the standard Mondeo's staid styling, the 16-inch wheels do not appear to fit the bill.
They fail to adequately fill the wheel arches and the four-spoke pattern also seems a little tame for this application.
A set of 17-inch rims with a more overtly sporting pattern - such as those fitted to the racier ST200 model sold in Europe - would complete the ST24's transition into a sports sedan with genuine street cred.
Inside, the part-leather sports seats - which are comfortable and attractive - set the right tone but the rest of the interior is decidedly unexciting.
Disappointingly, the dash layout and centre console are standard Mondeo fare, barring the white-faced instrumentation.
The steering wheel is trimmed in leather but it still looks a bit mundane. A Tickford-style tiller, such as those fitted to XR Falcons, would have been better.
Practicality is one of the car's fortes with adequate rear seat legroom and generous boot space.
All-round visibility is excellent and the bootlid spoiler simplifies reverse parking by enabling the driver to see the rear extremity of the car.
Overall, the ST24 is an accomplished package that has enough of a sporting edge to make it a rewarding car for enthusiastic drivers.
However, its humble origins may count against it in the eyes of some buyers and its visual presence is also a little unimposing considering how much it costs.
It would be hard to convince anyone not to spend an extra $3000 and plump for an Impreza WRX.
After all, the super Sube can do everything the ST24 can - and more - albeit with a little less refinement.
But if you are a die-hard Blue Oval supporter and can appreciate the ST24's free-revving V6 and fine chassis balance, it is by no means a bad choice.
Just throw away those wheels and fit a nice set of 17-inch rims.
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