Careful stratification of models has always been central to Ford’s marketing policy. The man in the suburban street may not be able to place a Renault 25 in the snobbery stakes, but he knows that when his neighbour’s Granada GL is replaced by a Granada Ghia, the neighbour is “getting on”. And with such high sales into company carparks, essentially tiny differences in spec and badging assume magnified significance. But gone are the days when mere letters spelled out the driver’s prestige: where the boot-lid once proclaimed “GXL”, the unfortunate designer must now squeeze in, at worst, “Ford Granada Scorpio Executive 4×4”, the transport I sampled before Christmas.
Somehow I had managed to miss out on trying the latest embodiment of the V6 engine which tops Ford’s range of production car engines (I exclude the Cosworth as having been developed independently outside the company), the 2.9 EFT. An evolution of the Cologne pushrod 2.8, the revised V6 has the same bore with a longer stroke (aiming for smoother running than the agricultural 2.8), revised inlet and new separate exhaust ports, and a re-timed cam, which with the Ford-Bosch electronic twin-plenum injection system gives leaner running. Other efficiency improvements include reduced engine friction from lighter valve springs and new piston rings, while the oil pump now absorbs less power and provides more oil.
All this extra efficiency, however, has gone into better fuel figures rather than more power: the new unit still puts out the same 150 bhp, with minor torque gains of up to 6%, although the torque curve is claimed to be flatter and fuller.
Should you choose 2WD, the 2.9 only comes with an auto box, but our 4×4 had the five-speed manual, which had a disappointingly heavy and notchy shift. Together with a rather stiff clutch-action this made an otherwise comfortable executive car with a gentle ride and light power-steering into something of a trial to drive in traffic.
Our car had full leather upholstery which looked and felt very luxurious, and included pneumatic lumbar pads inflated by rather medical-looking bulbs under the legs. Other seat adjustments are electric, and the wheel gives a choice of both tilt and stretch. Electric windows, sunroof, mirrors, and screen de-icing plus air-con are all standard, and the “Executive” extras include cruise control and a sophisticated alarm.
Although I find the Granada’s exterior styling thoroughly unattractive, the cabin is pleasant and well laid-out, from the stubby little column stalks to the binnacle-mounted auxiliary switches, and in the top models a useful fuel-computer is added.
Ford’s 4WD system with its 1/3:2/3 split is well-known by now, and with no controls for the driver to worry about, its presence is undetectable when driving in normal conditions. But while it is mechanically identical to that on the Sierra 4×4, there is a big difference in character between the two. Where the Sierra feels light and manoeuvrable, the Granada is more ponderous, the same 150 horses having to work much harder. The old V6 made a terrific row at high revs, and the 2.9, though better insulated in the bigger car, seems only marginally smoother. Probably the biggest improvement has come from dropping the rev-limit by 300 or so rpm, but it remains one of the less refined engines in this class. Perhaps the better torque curve has reduced the need to grab third or even second to get the car moving in a hurry, but it simply lacks the urge which ought to be there.
Compared to its executive rivals such as five-cylinder Audis, V6 Renaults, turbo Saabs and six-in-line BMWs, the otherwise well-equipped and well-assembled Granada looks like a senior management car with junior management motive power. GC