THE Ford S-Max, which is considered by many to be the best handling seven-seater crossover MPV (multi-purpose vehicle) in its segment, is now offered as a more powerful and well-equipped variant.
Its price tag has also increased by RM13,000 compared with the previous variant.
So, what Ford offers here is an extra 37ps of power and 40Nm of torque to hustle its 1,676kg kerb weight along.
This translates into better acceleration, as the more powerful S-Max can now do the 0 to 100kph sprint in 8.2 seconds (compared with 8.5 seconds previously).
However, Ford says its fuel consumption on the combined cycle remains the same at 8.1 litres per 100km.
The higher price tag also means the S-Max comes with a one-piece panoramic roof as well as a nine-speaker Sony audio system that is said to be superior to the previous eight-speaker system.
We certainly enjoyed the remarkable depth and clarity of our favourite tunes played by the MP3/USB port and iPod compatible audio system, which also has Bluetooth and Voice Command capabilities.
Our passengers also liked the relatively quiet ride that the S-Max provides, as the cabin is also well-insulated against road and wind noise.
We think that the S-Max has dynamic styling for a large family car, with its strong side profile, pronounced wheel arches and sculptured bonnet design that is a reflection of the “energy in motion” design theme from Ford.
Besides a host of systems that helped the S-Max to score a five-star EuroNCAP safety rating, there are conveniences like the automatic and adaptive bi-xenon headlamps, LED daytime driving lamps, automatic rain sensing wipers, and keyless ignition system.
However, the highlight of the S-Max is its impressive driving dynamics and refined passenger comfort, and it remains the same with this more powerful variant.
Drivers will enjoy the strong low-end torque from the 2.0-litre turbocharged EcoBoost powerplant, which also delivers responsive performance across the full engine speed range.
The dual clutch PowerShift transmission continues to provide fast, sporty and marvellously smooth shifts.
The electro-hydraulic power-assisted rack-and-pinion steering was precise, and Ford has really done a great job with the S-Max in terms of offering a rewarding driver’s car with a sporty feel.
The present crop of Ford passenger cars is well known for having fun driving characterisitcs, and the S-Max fulfills that criteria.
According to Ford, a wide track and bush attachment base combined in the S-Max to provide resistance to roll movements.
Shod with 225/50 R17 tyres, the S-Max tracks precisely through sweeping bends.
It is only too often that cars with enjoyable handling characteristics have suspension set-ups that are a wee bit on the firm side, and occupant comfort is sacrificed somewhat.
That is not the case here with the S-Max, which has a very well-sorted MacPherson strut front with rear “Control Blade” multi-link suspension.
The ride comfort here is excellent, and achieves a nice balance between a typically firm European feel and a pliant ride that absorb road irregularities well.
The S-Max is everything that Ford says it is - which is a well-equipped crossover that provides all of the benefits of a people mover, but without sacrificing driving enjoyment.
It has a lot of winning elements, but its price tag means only a niche buyers’ segment can appreciate its qualities.