Friday, 6 September 2013

Mondeo takes on the Lake District

THEY criss-cross the Cumbrian mountains around Derwent Water, chucking in plenty in the way of tight corners and challenging inclines. They give just about any car 23 miles of some of the most challenging motoring in Britain.

They are the Honister and Newlands Passes, and they turned out to be the perfect place to put the Mondeo to the test.

Earlier this week you might have read that I've added a 51-plate Ghia X - bought for a grand - to the Life On Cars fleet, meaning I've got more in-car gadgets at my fingertips than I've ever normally been used to. Admittedly, one of them's aready given up the ghost, with the six-CD autochanger refusing point blank to either play shiny musical discs or go hunting over the airwaves for BBC Radio 2, but replacing it with a single-CD job means I can at least take advantage of the superbly crisp speakers. I'm also particularly loving the cruise control system, which meant the blast up the M6 up to the Lake District was astonishingly easy work.
Yet once I'd peeled off the motorway and found some proper roads to play with, it was one thing in particular which really stood out on the Mondeo. The 145bhp from its 2.0 litre, 16 valve engine.

Out on the really demanding roads between Keswick and Buttermere, the leather-lined family favourite was an absolute revelation. Admittedly, the best thing I've ever piloted along these mountain passes was a brand new Lotus Elise S, closely followed by an original Mini and my old, much-missed MX-5, but the Mondeo impressed me hugely through its combination of mid-range torque to blast you up the steep straights, and Focus-but-bigger dynamics to keep me entertained through the bends. How could something so big and so heavy, I wondered, be so much fun?

It might not be the definitive gospel of driving fun - for that, you've really got to go for something lighter, smaller and more specialised - and pushing on is only ever going to give you mild understeer, but the Mondeo more than survived trial by Cumbria, with the tough and twisting roads showing it's got a fun streak running through its steering and handling.

The best bit about visiting Cumbria, however, is that when you've finishing haring around the mountain passes you can go to the Lakeland Motor Museum, which I've already mentioned is a superb afternoon out even if you aren't a petrolhead.

Among the highlights, for me at least, was checking out the Land Rover Series One used as a support vehicle during Donald Campbell's world speed record attempts on land and water, fittingly finished in Bluebird colours.

Even though the Mondeo's impressed me hugely with its speed, its handling and its gadgets, I know which I'd rather have in my dream garage!

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