Unvieled at Geneva, the Ford S-Max was made to fill the gap between the large Galaxy and the smaller C-Max.The S-Max shares the Galaxy’s front-drive ’C1 Plus’ platform (the new Volvo S80 also uses it) and arched-roof five-door styling, but it’s two inches shorter and three inches lower. The S-Max’s tidier dimensions yield a sportier look, an impression the stylists seek to accentuate with simulated air vents at the trailing edge of the wheel wells. Ford design chief Martin Smith cites it as the first example of the company’s new "Kinetic Design" ethos. The new wagon offers a choice of five- (standard) or seven-passenger seating, with the latter setup scaled for pre-teen passengers. The second and, when so equipped, third-row seats fold into the floor, yielding a flat cargo deck, and there are 26 storage compartments distributed around the cabin. Five powerplants are available -two gasoline and three turbo-diesels - with outputs up to 220 hp for the top-of-the-line 2.5-liter turbo gasoline engine. Suspension tuning is firmer than the Galaxy’s setup and includes Ford’s continuously controlled damping, a semi-active system. In addition to an extensive array of airbags - including one for the knees of front seat occupants - the S-Max offers adaptive cruise control, a forward alert system, and collision mitigation braking.
This 217bhp unit with a maximum torque of 320Nm first appeared behind a Ford badge in the Focus ST and, although remapped in the S-MAX for additional smoothness, still manages to take the vehicle from 0-60 mph in 7.9 seconds. This was the engine available at the European launch and is the more powerful of the two petrol engines in the S-MAX range, the other being the 143bhp two-litre unit. Also on offer will be a pair of diesels of 1.8- and two-litre capacities with respective outputs of 123 and 138bhp.
Mated to the established MM66 six-speed transmission, the 2.5-litre engine offers rapid progress through the gears with a supportive, yet comfortable suspension set-up, enabling excellent pace to be maintained on demanding B roads. Open-road response is refined with little wind noise at speed and thorough insulation of the cabin from road and engine noise.
However, under firm throttle there is adequate rev intrusion to let the driver know that this is a sporting vehicle. Power-assisted hydraulic steering provides good feedback and while the test vehicle had dedicated short travel springs and unique dampers, the S-MAX will also be available with optional Interactive Vehicle Dynamics Control (IVDC) with continuously controlled damping, capable of adjusting the response every tenth of a second. This also offers the driver the choice of three settings - Comfort, Normal and Sport.
Well-specified in its standard LX form, the new range is also available in Zetec, Trend and Titanium trim with X and Sport packs on the options list. The 2.5-litre engine is available with a five-speed transmission in Zetec trim and with a six-speed gearbox as tested in Titanium trim.
The 2.5 Titanium tops the range at £21,995. This includes the air-conditioning and sports seats added at Zetec level as well as 17" alloy wheels, automatic lighting, rain-sensing wipers and powered/heated door mirrors with puddle lights. A number of new active driver assistance packages will be introduced after the car’s launch and will include radar monitored cruise control, "Collision Mitigation by Braking" and a new active suspension system.
4.76 m long, 1.85 m wide and 1.61 m tall, this model is 6 cm shorter and 7 cm lower than the Ford Galaxy. Inside, however, the S-Max offers remarkable flexibility thanks to the Fold Flat System (FFS), with 32 possible seat combinations! In addition to the 5 official seats, you can benefit from 2 extra adult seats as an option in a third row.
The boot, with a maximum capacity of 2,000 litres, can be equipped with a sliding load floor for ease of loading. 26 storage compartments are available on board.
Ford has also paid particular attention to the ergonomics of the driving position, designed to put drivers more in touch with their vehicle. Thus, the Human Machine Interface offers a multi-function steering wheel and a set of easily legible instruments. Each audio warning signal is customised in order to be immediately recognisable to the driver.