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Ford S-Max 2010 Road Test

Wed, 03 Feb 2010

At the original launch, back in May 2006, the first roundabout convinced me of one thing. The Ford S-Max is a seven-seater sports car.

Perhaps not with the 1.8 litre TDCI engine. But certainly with the 2.0TDCI. And no question with the 220PS turbocharged 5-cylinder Volvo motor.

A real surprise, then. Blokes with two, three, even four or five kids could buy a car that could carry all of them and still be decent to drive.

Another surprise was the quality of the ride. Even on 18” wheels with 235/45 tyres.

Underneath it all, of course, lurked the floorpan of the then still forthcoming new Mondeo. The S-Max was a very worthy European Car of the Year 2007.

In truth, the S-Max is not a full 7-seater in the sense of seven fully lunched rugby players. It’s a 5+2, with a lot more room for the two in the back than the average 2+2. And the flexibility to fold one, two, three, four or all five back seats away to create more luggage capacity.

(If you want a full 7-seater, you swap the coupe-like rear of the S-Max for the 2” longer and 3” taller Galaxy, which is actually about 6” higher at the back.)

The important changes to the 2010 S-Max and Galaxy are a new range of engines and the adoption of Ford and Getrag’s six-speed twin shaft Powershift ‘automatic’ gearbox.

Gone is the old 1.8 TDCI that originated in the Oilwellian engine of the 1984 Fiesta. In its place are 115, 140 and 163PS incarnations of the PSA/Ford 2.0 litre TDCI.

You can still get the 145PS 2.0 litre chain cam petrol engine, as before. But the big news for octane enthusiasts is a turbocharged manifold in head variable valve timing version named the ‘Ecoboost SCTI’ that pumps out 203PS (200bhp) and a diesel-like 300NM torque, yet still offers 35mpg even attached to the 6-speed Powershift auto.

This is a marriage made in heaven, and likely to save a few marriages where she who must be accommodated insists on an automatic. Punchy power and torque. As much speed as a family man (or woman) should ever sensibly ask of the family car. And no need to ever worry about changing gear.

In fact, there isn’t any point in worrying about changing gear. You don’t get a paddleshift and don’t need one. Just get your braking and entry speeds right for any corner: uphill or downhill, open or tight, and the drivetrain just pulls you round, no drama at all. Yes, at the end of the day, if you really push it, you will eventually get a little bit of understeer. But nothing to upset you or your passengers enjoyment of the drive.

And that is incredibly smooth. Not for the Powershift, VAG’s DSG’s occasional heartstopping hesitation when exiting sideroads or entering roundabouts. This box is virtually seamless. And pulling such a superb chassis, corners flow into each other beautifully. Left foot braking doesn’t always work effectively with every automatic. But it does with this one. If you want to play at high speed chauffeuring, this is the car to do it in.

However, it does come at a price: 189g/km CO2. So, sensibly, the S-Max Ecoboost SCTI is not the right choice for business drivers now saddled with severe Benefit in Kind penalties for emissions of over 160g/km, and their employers with tax write-down penalties.

So what has Ford done for them? It has allied the Powershift transmission with 140PS and 163PS versions of its 2.0 litre diesel engine. 152g/km with the 6-speed manual. 159g/km with the Powershift. So now business drivers (and their wives or husbands) can have 7-seater automatic that doesn’t hit them below the BIK.

On top of all this, the 2010 S-Max has been updated, Styling improvements include new wraparound rear light clusters and low level LED DRLs that are unlikely distract other drivers or conceal the presence of motorcycles. The door mirrors have acquired Volvo’s bind spot warning system that works down to 20mph. There still isn’t any spare wheel, but now the S-Max comes with a Tyre Pressure Monitoring system and optional runflat tyres.

Ford’s Easyfuel misfuelling prevention device, seen on the Fiesta, Focus Mondeo and facelifted C-Max is fitted. There’s utterly foolproof steering wheel mounted cruise control with a speed limier that, very sensibly, can be overridden by flooring the accelerator pedal. Higher grade models have keyless entry with a start stop button. Go for the Satnav with Bluetooth and you get a reversing camera. And there’s the option of a very high quality premium audio system.

Opt for the Titanium level of trim and instead of comparing the car with Vauxhalls, Renaults, Citroens, Peugeots and VWs, you have to look at it against Audis, BMWs and Mercedes. Fords have long been equal or better than these cars under she skin, but now the evidence is tangibly there in the ambience of the cabin and the quality of the trim.

So, a great car has been refreshed. Most importantly with an efficient new petrol engine that provides a sensational drive. And with the option of a seamless automatic transmission for both petrol and diesel engines that remains under 160g/km with the diesel.

What more could you sensibly want?

For prices, specs, engines and transmissions, dimensions, and performance and economy, please click the tabs.

More at www.ford.co.uk

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