When you create a model that’s already acknowledged as the best of its type it’s difficult to improve on it when you launch the next generation.
But Ford has proved with the new S-MAX, which lifts the car into a new generation after spending more than nine years at the top, that you can take good thing and awaken much more to make it even better.
As the owners of two S-MAX models, one made just after the first revise in 2010 and the second that’s now 21 months old, we’ve come to appreciate how Ford has steadily evolved the original car. Although both our cars looked identical, apart from colour, the raft of changes under the skin with the second car showed how Ford was progressing the electronics to make the entirely new generation vastly different.
At first, you might think the old S-MAX looks the same as the new but you are wrong. The differences become obvious when you see them together, preferably in the metal. Seeing them, and more importantly driving them, underscores just how much thought has gone into keeping the S-MAX at the top of its game.
There has been a marginal lift in luggage space, from 2,000 litres to 2,020 with the seats all folded. But when you open the tailgate, you are immediately met by a flat floor so loading up is easier.
Far better is the access to the extra compartment under the boot floor whether or not the third row is raised. When it is, the compartment lid can be lifted and attached to the seats so that a deep boot is opened up. When you want to stack bags of shopping, it makes a real difference. Hiding in the compartment’s floor is a flap that reveals the means to drop the spare wheel. This is the first UK S-MAX to offer a spare and this reassurance alone might win new customers.
We went out and about in the S-MAX Titanium X Sport, two grades up from our own Titanium model. Maybe the Sport suspension is a matter of taste because the car handles wonderfully in standard spec but the Titanium X with its glass roof opens up the world while you travel.
Our own car has the 140 PS version of Ford’s 2.0 Duratorq diesel coupled with the Powershift automated transmission. The test car had the latest 180 PS power output (there’s also a choice of 150 PS that replaces the 140) and its ability to pull smoothly while still delivering the same fuel economy, or slightly better, than our car was remarkable. Diesel running costs are also reduced as service intervals are stretched to 18,500 miles or 24 months. The Powershift box also has an even smoother shift between ratios and is now seamless in all conditions. Our car can sometimes shunt, although only rarely.
The fascia is entirely new, dominated by a touch screen that controls every imaginable function although those who prefer will still find buttons to press for the heating, ventilation, and heated seats if they prefer.
Handling is as good as it has ever been, even sharper with the Sport pack. But most owners will find the standard car more than meets expectations although there’s now an all wheel drive version for ultimate mobility and handling sharpness. But the beauty of it is that it doesn’t look big and unwieldy while still offering huge space inside. Both passengers and drivers love it!
Maurice and Annette Hardy Car: Ford S-MAX Titanium X Sport 180PS Powershift
Does it fit your ego…
0-62 mph: 9.5 secs
Top speed: 129 mph
Bhp: 178 @ 3500 rpm
Torque: 319 lb ft @ 2000 rpm
…and your wallet…
Combined: 52.3 mpg
CO2 emissions: 139 g/km
Insurance Group: 24
Best bits: space travel for the 21st Century