Pope Francis opted out of luxury travel during his recent visit here when he spurned opulence for a more modest Skoda Rapid. But members of his elite bodyguard, the Swiss Guard, luxuriated in an eight-seater Ford Tourneo Custom with conference-configured leather seats and carpet comfort, chauffeured by a special garda driver to Knock shrine and the various venues around Dublin during the whistlestop visit.
His Holiness is known for his love of the simple things in life and would appreciate the story of how the humble Transit van has morphed into a top-line transporter for the rich, and some famous, over the past two decades.
In 1995, Ford saw an opening in the growing hospitality market and over the years converted a van into a minibus. A new name was needed and the Tourneo emerged in various sizes to become a common sight on taxi ranks and a popular shuttle transport for top hotels. The better appointed versions rose in status and were branded as the Tourneo Custom in 2013.
What you get in the Tourneo Custom is comfortable group travel for eight or nine people for an asking price of €50,139 for the eight-seater LWB version in Top Titanium level trim with the option of leather seats, €900; LED lights, €400; SatNav with Ford SYNC, €765; and metallic paint, €615. Entry level Trend versions are priced from €46,601.
Power comes from a 2-litre TDCi 130bhp diesel EcoBlue engine which has 162g/km of Co2 emissions with an annual road tax of €570. There is a clever six-speed manual transmission with a switch on the gear lever to convert it into a full automatic which is quite frugal if the rev needle is kept in the region of 2,000rpm. The engine is now 13pc more fuel-efficient and low-end torque is up by 20pc in the new engine setup.
Bumpy roads and tight turns will show up with some turbulence in the cabin but otherwise this is a very comfortable transporter with a huge amount of luggage space. Even a party of girls on a hens outing or a shopping trip would be hard put to fill it. Conveniently, there is a running-board type of step underneath the panel sliding doors which helps make for a dignified entry and exit as you sit high on big wheels.
Seats can be folded to give limousine-like space or removed for lifestyle weekends if extra equipment is needed. There are six USB ports, a 10-speaker audio system and noise levels are acceptably low.
The driver gets lots of help. Speak to the 8in touch-screen and you will be directed to “coffee,” “fuel,” or “parking,” while an Intelligent Speed Limiter recognises speed signs and will keep you within the law. Other aids include Cross Traffic Alert and a Pre-Collision Assist system.
A good all-rounder for large families and lifestyle customers.