Test drive: Ford S-MAX Titanium X Sport 2 litre TDCi 6-speed PowerShift auto

The TotallyMotor Verdict

90%


Let's get the obvious out of the way first - this pumped-up Ford S-MAX Titanium X Sport is one mean-looking MPV.

Sure, it definitely looks spacious enough to swallow some serious family-size loads but just check that it doesn't scare the children too much, before you buy one!

We're taking this top-of-the-range 7-seater into its natural habitat for this TotallyMotor test drive - namely the rat-runs, side streets and B-roads of a crowded London suburb.

This Titanium X Sport test car is packed to the gunnels with gadgets and luxury as standard and from the options list - some of which you may be interested in and others you won't.

But it's the diesel-turbo engine married to a 6-speed automatic gearbox that sounds like a useful combination for pricey Britain, especially in the week that fuel prices hit new highs. We're looking for that perfect MPV-mix of practicality, easy yet exciting driving; hopefully with a decent dash of economy, and dare we say it; a little style, too.


First impressions:
Undoubtedly a car with real presence and a quick walk around it with the camera quickly confirmed that this Hypnotic Silver metallic MPV doesn't have a bad angle. And from the front three-quarter view its one distinctive, brutally-pretty, family-friendly piece of transport kit. So if you don't want to your sacrifice statement-making for puritanical practicality, the S-Max certainly takes sharp-MPV-styling to an unforgettable level. 

It's the Titanium X Sport trim pack that adds all the extra aggression to this S-Max. Starting with that deeper and sharper front splitter, chunky 18-inch 5-spoke alloys and lowering sports suspension.

Now, the S-Max was no softy to start, with its wide and vented wheel arches, chiselled body detailing and scowling face, but with these hunkering Sport styling extras, impressions will always be striking. And with such liberal ticking of the options list we've ending up with a rather striking price - around £32,000 for this all singing and all dancing S-Max. 


Into the interior: 
It's a cavern, all right. A very comfortable cavern. You may not use the third row of (smaller) seats; you may just be looking for a 5-seater 'estate' car with that extra headroom. The choice is yours and it's an easy one.

Just a glance around the interior and I immediately found myself conjuring ideas of all the big stuff I could carry with the seating quickly and easily stowed. Not that I have that many wardrobes that need shifting, but if I did, I could.

Second-row passengers get stacks of space behind the driver even with this taller-road-tester making the most of his full-range of seat adjustability, and with the kids stowed all the way back there you might even forget that you've got them onboard.

Couple-in a bit of 'Multi-Media DVD Rear Seat Entertainment', at a fairly princely £1550, and the kids will surely be happy and quiet, and you can really get the mile-crunching cruise going.

Space is aplenty, but so is that all-important comfort and relaxation for the driver. I immediately felt at home in the modern and supportive seats, and with so much space and adjustment to move my own seating around, I soon found myself fantastically at ease behind the leather wrapped, button bedecked steering wheel.

Visibility was unhindered and the deep dashboard and vast glass outstretched in front gave the forward cabin and driving experience a relaxed, quiet and calming demeanour. However, I did knock the odd steering wheel button when resting my hands and in general the centre console commands and functions took a while to fathom, but these are just little things that you'll soon learn to live with.

Most importantly of all, my elbows found comfy armrests, my back got all the right seating support, and the steering wheel was just a quality and ergonomic touch away. And with my seating position perfectly in place, that's when I could let the torquey turbo engine and economical auto 'box really do their thing. 


The drive:
Sit back and relax and let your journey waft away. This automatic S-Max is very easy to drive. The steering is light and direct enough, the interior calming, and the drivetrain simply sublime.

With 160bhp from the 2-litre, turbo-diesel engine there are enough ponies to make speedy progress, but it's that turbo-torque that lets you waft effortlessly, which, I think, is how we like to spend most of our journey times, especially if the nippers are onboard. In fact, if you're gentle with the go and stop controls, the refined S-Max really turns into a cocooning cruise-liner of a car.

Just dabble in and out of the throttle and the short-shifting PowerShift double-clutch automatic gearbox will quickly up-shift to the taller gears where you'll have to listen hard for engine and road noise. Diesel engines can get loud and ragged closer to the revs redline, but leaving this car in auto mode will see it shifting within its wide spread of torque with no need to overwork and over-rev the engine, but you'll still be making good forward progress. And this easy-going driving style should see decent fuel economy of around 37mpg on a mix of urban and motorway use.

For the sake of testing I did try the manual shift option, which worked the gears quickly and accurately, but I can imagine this side of the gear selector gathering a bit of dust, with most drivers of this auto and diesel-turbo combination happily sticking to the mechanical carpet ride in automatic mode.

Ride is a little firmer thanks to that Sport pack sport suspension. It's what I'd go for if I was buying my own S-Max as I like a firmer, less rolling ride. Those 18-inch wheels with low-profile rubber also add a dash of sharpness to the overall ride experience, but the usual 17-inch wheels and standard suspension will soften things up for those that like more compliance.

But even if softer is usually your thing, give the Sport S-Max a test drive too, as it is the sportier ride and big-wheel-grip that really lets you forget you're in a practical MPV and not an extremely generously proportioned hot hatch.

The cornering, composure and grip in this sporting family-ferry-about is definitely more impressive than you'd tend to expect, and I had to remind myself that this S-Max could attack the bends with much more keenness than I was showing. She can hustle all right, but you'll probably be too busy just being relaxed.


Safety and gadgets: 
Any S-Max will come with the usual host of standard airbags and electronic safety aids, but it's this car's solidity of feel and on-road composure that I found to be its best 'natural' safety features.

I always felt in control of this quite-big-car, with the direct steering and enhanced chassis grip always at hand regardless of the situation. The brakes felt firm and chunky, while the whole package felt solid and well screwed together around me - something that will surely put parents' minds happily at rest when carrying the most precious cargos.


Ten second sum up: 
Solid, striking and well-built, and in this turbo-diesel automatic guise an extremely refined and relaxed drive, with all the space, storage and seating a big family could need. If price isn't a factor the S-Max is definitely a winner, but those families looking at the budget end of the MPV scale might sacrifice all those dynamic S-Max dynamics in search of a bargain. But, make sure you drive it before buying any other MPV. 


Prices and availability: 
Prices start at £21,845, rising to over £33,000 for a very high-spec car. Available now.
www.ford.co.uk


TotallyMotor rating: 93%


Test date: 
December 2010.


By Daniel Anslow

Follow us @totallymotor


 

Driver's Directory

  • Central Car Auctions

    Central Car Auctions Logo

    Whatever vehicle(s) you're looking to buy or sell, we're here to help find you the best possible price.

  • CSMA Club

    CSMA Club Logo

    As the largest private home, motoring and leisure organisation in the UK we are able to offer our members huge savings on everyday purchases.

  • HelpuCover

    HelpuCover Logo

    Helpucover

  • Listers

    Listers Logo

    Listers is the largest privately-owned motor group in England, with over 40 dealerships, representing the world’s major quality motor brands, in operation. They offer a breadth of choice and service that is second to none.

  • P&H Motorcycles

    P&H Motorcycles  Logo

    P&H Motorcycles is the best-known multi-franchise motorcycle dealer in the South East and we stock a wide range of new and used bikes and scooters from quality manufacturers like Yamaha, Honda, Suzuki, Ducati, Victory, KTM and Kawasaki.

  • Car Shop

    Car Shop Logo

    CarShop is the UK's leading used car retailer. Their user-friendly website lets you compare thousands of competitively priced quality cars and hundreds of vans. They also have five locations spread across the country- Cardiff, Swindon, Northampton, Doncaster and Norwich. There you'll get free advice and impartial suggestions from our staff, and they'll also help you finance your car by finding you the best deals.

  • Shield Total Insurance

    Shield Total Insurance  Logo

    Shield Total Insurance is the UK’s leading camping and caravan insurance specialist, ensuring comprehensive cover and total peace of mind, whether you’re at home, on the road, or making the most of the great outdoors.

  • Tyre Shopper

    Tyre Shopper  Logo

    Tyre Shopper provide the most comprehensive range of car tyres, at the best prices with the most accessible network of fitting centres. We are now the No.1 Online Retailer of Cheap Tyres in the UK.

Driver's Directory Articles

Cars with character - what cars have the best personality on the road

Audi A1

Business car users have a wide and wonderful choice when it comes to their new cars; from the frugal to the fast, and everything in between. Leasing a car means you get to change it probably much more regularly than you would as a private owner; taking that new choice sometimes even more regularly than once a year. Here are four exciting new car choices for business drivers.

Features

Newsletter Sign Up

Complete your details below to receive TotallyMotor's free weekly newsletter.



Promotions: