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Future Classic Friday: Ford Mondeo ST220

Published 30 March 2018

Performance Fords have always had a following, but there’s one that very much hides its light under a bushel.

Introduced in 2002, the Mondeo ST220 was much more subtle than Uncle Henry’s previous performance offerings, with the only external clues to its whomping performance being its 18-inch alloys, subtle boot spoiler and bigger bumpers. Even then, though, these are discreet, so it’s no wonder that the ST220 became the unmarked car of choice for many of the UK’s police forces during the mid-2000s.

One of the reasons for the ST220's subtlety is that there was never really a plan to create a performance Mk3 Mondeo in the first place. Its predecessor, the ST200, had been a run-out halo model for the Mk2 in order to generate more interest as well as promote Ford’s involvement in the British Touring Car Championship, but by the time the ST220 appeared there was no motorsport in which the Mondeo was involved.

It evolved purely through chance, as the Mondeo’s chief programme engineer, Juergen Gagstatter, explained at the model’s 2002 press launch. 'We were developing the chassis of the standard Mondeo and came to realise that it could handle much more power,' he said. 'So after we’d got the launch of the standard car off to a good start, we focused on seeing how far we would take it further.'

Ford Mondeo ST220 (3)

What emerged was a 3.0-litre V6 powerhouse, packing 224bhp and with a healthy 203lb ft of torque – enough to get the ST220 to 60mph from standstill in 6.8 seconds, along with some serious mid-range grunt. Backing this up was a sports exhaust system that was a true aural delight, complete with a cheeky pop-pop-pop on the overrun.

But straight-line performance wasn’t the ST220s core appeal. Sure, it was impressive, but it was the way in which the car handled the power that won it many plaudits. The Mk3 Mondeo was the best-handling saloon car of its generation and the ST220 showed that it wasn’t at all stretched by the addition of a beefy new powerplant. Indeed, far from it – the extra performance really brought the Mondeo’s platform to life. It may be subtle, but the ST220 is beautifully well-engineered – you can sense that Ford’s chassis team had a lot of fun developing it.

Of course, such performance had its downsides. Chief among those was that it fell into the highest road tax bracket, which people who buy Range Rovers and Bentleys are prepared to accept, but not necessarily those who buy Mondeos. Nor was it cheap to run – while its official MPG was up in the high 20s, an enthusiastically driven ST220 would be lucky to score in the high teens.

Enthusiasts didn’t care, but used car buyers did. So while the attractions of the standard Mondeo were still there – a spacious cabin, great comfort, a superb stereo and a choice of saloon, hatch or estate body styles – the ST200 fought a losing battle against depreciation. For a while, it made it something of a performance car bargain, but the downside of that is that many fell into the wrong kind of ownership.

Ford Mondeo ST220 (4) (2)

Finding an original, unmodified example now is pretty tricky, but they’re still out there – and they’re still cheap. You’ll pick one up for a grand if you’re not fussy about cosmetics, while even tidy cars struggle to break £3500. There are £5000 cars out there, but these are the very best, and they’re already collectable.

They’re not immune to their problems, though. Sills and rear subframes can rot, interiors can look very tired, the ST220-only exhaust system will cost a few quid if it goes wrong and using the wrong oil can have a catastrophic effect on the engine – if it rattles, walk away.

If it doesn’t, then the ST220 must be one of the best neo-classic performance bargains out there right now – and being a fast Ford, future collectable status is guaranteed.

Ford Mondeo ST220 (2)

Comments

InfraRedST220Saloon    on 30 March 2018

I currently own an ST220 and has been the only car that I've owned the longest, every time I get in and drive it it brings a smile to my face, it may be 16 years old but can still keep up with lots of modern cars, plus its got enough toys to keep me from being bored and still looks great for its age, will definitely be holding on to it for the foreseeable.

Maltozo    on 30 March 2018

Remember the great sounding race cars in the BTCC too. Character, charisma and a fair dollop of a style too if a little too quiet even way back then but still far superior to today's bland, mono-tone counterparts

bam    on 31 March 2018

had my st 220 4yrs now and love drivin it .its got the power 4 a bit of fun and drives like its on rails would never sell it such a good lookin all round car . around 32 - 35 mpg on a run 18- 20 mpg around town .

   on 19 August 2018

I have had my ST220 for just over ten years and can honestly says it’s a joy to drive and own, apart from the usual wear and tear items it’s cost me very little in maintenance and has been 100% reliable. I have though looked after it and it’s probably the lowest mileage ST220 in the country @63k, meticulously serviced and cleaned, The performance is superb, fuel economy isn’t great and tax is high but that doesn’t matter. I intend to keep it as can’t see anything similar to replace it with. It would make a great weekend car.

Callum Ford Man    on 11 November 2018

What colour do you have yours in thinking of getting one but don't know the best colour as I want a classic blue one but don't know how the paint holds up.

Clive M    on 24 October 2019

I bought my 2006 ST220 just over 3 yrs ago with 68,00 mls on from it's 2nd owner who bought it with 13,000mls on it. He spent a fortune on it like a £1,700 double din sized satnav and a new set of 18" RS alloys rather than repair the kerbed originals. I paid just £2,000 as he foolishly put it on Ebay as he wanted a quick sale as he was going back home to the States. I've just replaced the rear crankshaft oil seal but as the clutch plate only had about 10.000 mls left on it i put a 3 piece clutch in it retaining the flywheel as it was perfect. Other than that i've only replaced the rear shocks and 1 Lambda sensor. Yes it's £550 to tax it and does 18mpg as i rarely use the motorway but only do 4,000 mls a year. Being Panther black metallic with the red leather interior it is even rarer than the more common bright blue models. The body is rust free and untill a fortnight ago was perfect but a foreign woman decided she preferred driving on my side of the road and i just managed to glance off her bumper denting my o/s wing but i have a perfect 2nd hand one to fit.I'd say it's the ultimate wolf in sheeps clothing as i've made many so called fast cars and their drivers look stupid. Definitely a future classic which will only go up in value as i've been offered 4 and 5 grand from 2 people in the last year.

Edited by Clive Matthews on 24/10/2019 at 13:39

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