Out of character
Despite the overwhelming success of the first S-Max, customers expressed that there was room for improvement. For instance, buyers reportedly complained that all Fords had a different face, which would be confusing. Moreover, the first S-Max was so extravagantly styled that Ford could only sell the model in Europe.
When developing the new S-Max, Ford listened to all the wishes. Moreover, the S-Max is not an "afterthought" this time, but was developed at the same time as the Galaxy. The Galaxy is and remains the spacious, practical family car while the S-Max is more focused on fun and "life style".
Despite all Ford's good intentions, the first encounter with the new S-Max is a disappointment. The original S-Max was somewhere between a sports car and a van. Buyers who didn't need an MPV at all therefore still fell for the S-Max's unique charms. Single people spontaneously bought a seven-seater! And those who did have a family actually found the car too cool for kids and wanted to enjoy it themselves.
Next to the first S-Max, this second generation is rather... boring. Compared to other MPVs, the lines are sleek and modern, but the charisma of the original S-Max is far from it. It is all too stuffy and streamlined. The only hints to the original S-Max are the air vents on the front wheel arches and the rising rear window frame.
If you look closely, you will see a "tall Mondeo" in the new S-Max, and rightly so. Indeed, under the skin, the S-Max is largely based on the Mondeo. This means that all the Mondeo's advanced technology is also available on the S-Max.
Think cameras and radar all around. These make parking easy, but also allow the S-Max to automatically keep its distance and perform emergency braking if necessary (even when reversing out of a parking space!). The cameras are also used to automatically dim the high beams to avoid blinding oncoming traffic.
New for the S-Max is an "intelligent speed limiter". This is a speed limiter that takes into account not only the speed limit chosen by the driver, but also the local speed limit. The S-Max knows the speed limit by reading traffic signs and using information from the sat nav. In this way, the driver has complete freedom, without risking fines.
Forget about Sony's optional audio system, which is very spectacular but absolutely does not live up to the "high end" claim. The soundstage is too narrow for that and the sound never detaches from the speakers, making it sound very artificial.
The S-Max is meant to be a "life style" car and it shows in the interior space. Head and legroom in the front leaves little to be desired. Rear seat space is no more than adequate for a car of this size. Legroom in the third row of seats is minimal; only small children can sit comfortably here. Those looking for space should therefore choose the 10 cm longer Ford Galaxy.
Very conveniently, the seats can be folded at the push of a button. In this MPV, there is no need to undo latches, pull levers or anything else. Handy!
The S-Max may be based on the Mondeo under the skin, but the suspension tuning has obviously been adapted to the S-Max's weight distribution. Moreover, the S-Max is available with standard, sports and variable suspension.
Those who really buy the S-Max as an enthusiast's car can opt for "Adaptive Steering". This makes the steering direct at low speed and indirect at high speed. This makes the S-Max feel compact and agile in the city, while the car is more stable on the motorway. With the standard suspension and steering, the S-Max's handling is fine, but only with a modified suspension and variable steering is the S-Max a special car to drive.
As the S-Max is meant to be an enthusiast's car, the most exciting engine on the option list was chosen for this test drive: a 2.0 EcoBoost with 240 PS / 345 Nm. With this, the S-Max sprints from standstill to 100 km in a mere 8 seconds, which is extremely brisk for such a large MPV.
Yet the S-Max does not feel fast by any means. This is "due" to the high level of comfort and the lack of engine noise. When the throttle is pressed to the floor, it takes a long time for the automatic to understand the command. The engine delivers the promised 240 horsepower only at a high engine speed (5,400 rpm) and therefore the S-Max has to be pushed very hard to perform.
The 2.0-litre diesel engine delivers much less power (180 hp) on paper, but has a much livelier character. Moreover, the manual gearbox gives more control over the car, which suits the S-Max's character better.
With the first S-Max, Ford established a unique product. For the first time, an MPV was bought for its image and not for its space. And so, when testing the second generation of the S-Max, expectations were high.
Unfortunately, the new S-Max does not live up to high expectations. The new S-Max looks good, is brimming with innovative technology and drives fine. A sensible choice, then. But... that is not what an S-Max is all about! Compared to the first generation, the new S-Max lacks charisma, individuality and driving pleasure. In short: the new S-Max is good, but out of character.
- Excellent handling
- Extremely comfortable
- Advanced, usable electronics
- High consumption
- Not as exciting as previous generation
- Moderate interior space considering the exterior dimensions