UK CAR Reviews: Ford Granada 2.9 Ghia
Oliver Reed started his career slim and handsome with somewhat unrefined behavior and rough edges hiding his basic talent, and ended his career much heavier and uglier with a bad drinking habit, but underneath it all had developed into a much more refined and talented individual.
The Granada seems to almost have followed in his footsteps, the chubby kid which became the slim and stylish youth, before growing increasingly large, bloated and ugly.
For this test, we were loaned a G registered Granada (the best part of ten years old), well past its first bloom of youth, and now depreciated almost to the bargains section of Auto Trader. The Granada has always been the luxury limo of the masses, for the badge snobs, the low rent Ford badge just doesn't carry the kudos of certain European machinery, and hence its residuals are not great, but Ford still managed to shift bucket loads of the things, admittedly most went into the heavily discounted fleet market, where companies would use them as a sort of cheap senior manager perk. But there is still a raft of choice and this of course is great news for people hunting out used examples.
It's an awful lot of car for not a lot of pennies. Just look at what you get. BIG saloon body, large enough to easily hold 5 Ollie's. A large boot with fold down rear seats, capable of swallowing all of their take-outs. Rear wheel drive, all round disc brakes, ABS, power steering, and automatic gearbox.
Oh and Ford's venerable V6 in 2.9 liter cologne form.
Sure, the less than teetotal drinking habits of the ancient V6 lump will put off a lot of people, but that's why they're so cheap. Some one else would have to do the figures, but it's a fair guess that what you spend on fuel, you will get back on the laughably cheap Ford service and spares cost in the long term, when you compare the car with more modern, more frugal and much more expensive alternatives.
In reality, the engine is actually the most disappointing part of the car. 143 bhp from a fuel injected V6 and the best part of 3 liters is nothing to boast about. This is close on 20 bhp down on the earlier 2.8 units fitted to the legendary Capri. I guess that's catalytic converters for you.
What the engine does have is torque - and bags of it; an automatic gearbox is perfectly suited to this unit and most of the time, it merely waffles along at around two thousand revs, these two factors do mate perfectly to give excellent smooth takeoff and the big car purrs to 50mph on a whiff of throttle, slurring the shifts beautifully.
On narrow, twisty back roads, the auto-box does get caught out as it's far too lazy and willing to change up as soon as you release the go pedal and then there is a delay as the box changes down as you get back on the gas. A multi-mode gearbox would be a lot more fun, but what can you expect at this price?
The narrow road also exposed the want for handling, not that it's bad, just that you can only move a big car at a finite speed around narrow lanes. The car's smoothness can also cause problems here, with you arriving 15 or 20 mph too fast at a tight corner. Luckily, the all-round discs perform superbly at bringing the car to a smooth, drama free halt.
The ride can get caught out on rough back roads too. It damps out most of the pockmarks well enough, and keeps its composure all of the time, but the suspension will thud over larger pot holes more than may be expected. It's independent suspension doesn't mask out road imperfections as well as say a Citroen XM.... but then, what does?
Wider A roads and the motorways that are this cars natural habitat are dispatched with aplomb. The Granada serenely shifts large loads from place to place without even ruffling its feathers. Most of us don't have rear wheel drive cars any more. The Granada reminds us what we are missing. It never lays claim to being the best handling car in the world, but it has excellent stability and no discernible understeer at sensible speeds. The body does roll somewhat but never uncomfortably, just a gentle reminder that a lot of metal is generating some large G-forces. The other thing we forget about front wheel drive cars is how pathetic the steering lock is; the Granada can be twirled round in small tight spaces despite its titanic length.
The Ghia tag didn't count for much by the time of this car's production. Velour seats, fog lamps, electric windows, mirrors, sunroof, heated front screen, height adjustable seats, lumbar support, centre arm rests are all included. Leather, air conditioning, electric seats are all held back for something above Ghia, but it's all fairly comfortable. The seats are plenty comfy and, for me at least, I could relax with both elbows on the centre and door armrests whilst ambling down the motorway.
All I needed was a (bigger) beer gut of epic proportions and a cigar and I would have been laughing. The plastic wood is just about the tackiest ever created (but luckily, there is very little of it) and the driver's binnacle is incredibly cheap, nasty and ugly, but the rest of the interior is fairly restrained if slightly underwhelming. The Nike pump lumbar support in the driver's seat is a great wheeze - and actually works!!.
I guess that, like many people, I would normally profess to disliking automatics. They still posses a slightly fat American image. This was actually the first large auto I'd driven as the only other autos I have driven were awful little sewing machines, with boxes that constantly hunted for that in-between gear, so I approached this one with some trepidation. But it dispelled some of my bigotry and just proved to me that automatics can make sense; when combined with a motor with a healthy helping of low down and midrange grunt, they can be a pleasure.
Riding around town in stop-start stop traffic, they are an absolute godsend.
Just like Ollie, the Granddads have gone now and it will be left for us to look back over time and see how underrated both were. At least with the Granada, the ones that were produced, including the so-called Scorpio, seem to be lasting quite well, so we could be seeing them for a long time yet. The newer versions do have an image problem that the likes of the Sweeney helped the early versions avoid, but as long as you avoid the disgustingly ugly hatchback, your street cred won't suffer too much.
So what the hell - ignore the general populous trying to eek out massive gas mileage's from their horribly staid little cars. Instead sit back, relax, don't worry about the fuel costs and enjoy the ride instead. You only live once so why suffer a crap car? - Treat yourself to one of these and live a little.
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