It’s easy to overstate the first S-Max’s basic good looks, but it was one of the first models to feature Ford’s ‘kinetic design’ philosophy, and if you think about what the Volkswagen Sharan, Seat Alhambra and outgoing Galaxy looked like in 2006, it was certainly chiselled by comparison for a seven-seater.

In truth, the new car has not fallen desperately far from the tree. The decision to move the front pillar back to provide the car with a longer bonnet is mildly contentious. Some testers prefer the S-Max’s previous profile to the one Ford has optimistically characterised as being ‘even more dynamic’.

Matt Burt

Matt Burt

Executive Editor, Franjevci
A comparatively large rear light cluster has always been a feature of the S-Max, a trait taken further than ever by the latest generation

Either way, the front end finally gets the raised chrome trapezoidal grille and slim headlight design that have been common features elsewhere in the Ford line-up for a while, and the rear is a little more tapered for effect than you’ll find elsewhere in the segment.

Because it shares the Mondeo’s platform, the S-Max gains some of that model’s virtues – namely, the aluminium-rich integral-link rear suspension and the superior attention paid to refinement levels.

Much as it did with the Mondeo, Ford claims better sportiness from the chassis, but more so the improvement in ride quality for rear passengers, possible thanks to the integral link that allows the wheels more freedom to travel rearwards than was the case with the previous suspension. Ford also cites a 3dB reduction in road noise for those seated in the back.

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In the front, the S-Max’s inferred focus on the driver is embodied by the new Adaptive Steering tech, Ford’s new generation of electric-powered rack, which includes additional gearing to reduce the amount of turning required to negotiate tight turns and T-junctions. To calculate the number of turns needed, an electronic control unit and steering angle sensor are housed within the steering wheel.

The reasoning is greater ease of use, although Ford still promises precision and intuitiveness (and continuing its unbroken run as the mainstream’s finest purveyor of steering feel will mean that it needs to).

Alongside the adaptive system, Ford counts at least 20 other new technologies, including Glare-Free Highbeam, Pre-Collision Assist with Pedestrian Detection, Front Split View Camera and a switchable Intelligent Speed Limiter that automatically recognises the speed limit and prevents the driver from breaking it.

Somewhat more stimulating is the availability of four-wheel drive in the shape of Ford’s iAWD system, which can send 100% of torque to the rear wheels should the need arise. With iAWD, twist is provided by the revised 2.0-litre Duratorq diesel engine in its 148bhp and 177bhp forms, the higher-powered version mated to a six-speed Powershift automatic transmission.

Both can be had as front-drivers, too (as the car tested was), alongside a 118bhp version, and the new 207bhp unit, which develops 332lb ft from 2000rpm courtesy of its sequential bi-turbo design. The two Ecoboost petrols, including the 158bhp 1.5-litre, complete the line-up.

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