Wednesday, October 05, 2016

TEST DRIVE: THE 2016 FORD S-MAX 2.0L ECOBOOST® - Petrolheads with lots of Children would be happy with one of these

Abandon all hope for those that enter here. This is a nice phrase to use especially those who earn a modest income, married, have more than three children, a maid, a pet car or dog and can only have one car in their garage yet has the need for speed. This is also the case for those that need to carry a lot of people who are adults, like their parents, grandparents and grown up kids for holidays but love the thrill of driving. There is almost no hope for these sort of people. I mean, to have fun you'd need something like a properly stonking hot hatchback, like a Ford Fiesta ST. Or a Ford Ranger WildTrak 3.2 which could uproot a tree or two. But you need to carry people. Lots of them. 

This S-Max isn't a minibus.....

So you are usually stuck with something properly common like a Toyota Alphard or a Vellfire. Or a Toyota Estima. Or any Multi Purpose Van you can find out there. Or a bus. All of these do the job well as people carriers but as a petrolhead you're basically doomed. Your friends who you used to hang out at parking lots are going to laugh at you. You life will be dull and deary as you operate powered sliding doors as if it were the only toy in the world you can play with. You basically drive a van with lots of windows and expensive seats. At the speed limit and slightly more, but try cornering in one and you may end up as part of the scenery. You life is as interesting as the box that an MPV emulates.

Of course, the people at Ford does not think so. And I now don't think so after driving the 2016 Ford S-Max. This is not your average people carrier folks. It is actually in not so many words, the fastest MPV sold in Malaysia today. It also could be the fastest, point to point MPV in Malaysia as the darn thing handles so well for a 7 seater with luggage. This could be the MPV that would save the lives of petrolheads in Malaysia.

When you slide inside one (high pivot point making ingress and outgress easy), you will find a familiar cabin in terms of design. It is quite similar to the current Ford Mondeo with the exception of the even more airy feeling inside (owing to the higher rooflife of the S-Max). All the controls are familiar and it does come with a heck of a lot of creature comforts especially those front seats. The seats are heated and cooled (air-conditioning for your bum, baby!) , has an 8-way powered massage function as standard. This is fabulous. So fabulous that you'd be smiling in the traffic jams compared to everyone else around you. And we haven't gotten to the driving part yet.

It drives like a D segment car in and around town actually. And once you take it out on the open roads you then find that there is quite a bit of power at your disposal. As is the handling. This is something that you'd almost never find in any MPV in 2016. The 240ps and 345Nm torque easily allows you a 0-100kmh time of around 8 seconds and it is actually ridiculously fast for what it is. 200kmh is easily done in relative comfort as wind noise and road noise are easily suppressed by the S-Max. It actually handles like a slightly larger Mondeo. Which isn't a surprise as they are both built on the same Ford EUCD platform for larger cars. 

So if you punt it into a corner it just handles marvellously well. Do make sure the occupants are securely strapped in first of course as the chassis allows quite high cornering speeds. Close to the Mondeo in some aspects. The EPAS steering has the same slightly rubbery feel and it also has that same breathable chassis of the Mondeo. It feels the road well is how I would describe it. It soaks in what you need and allows you to take all you need to drive properly fast. The engine's torque and smooth shifting 6 speed automatic allows you to utilise the handling of the car when you need it the most. If you were alone and decided to take it on a trunk road or a B-road, it would actually allow you to have a whole lot of fun. You can scare some hot hatches along the way too. As it is fast, and it handles well. Very important stuff here if you're into driving.

Some may say that having 240ps and a bucketload of torque would mean that Ford has set the suspension to be very stiff. I do not think that this is so. It has that nice balance between being firm and comfortable. Quite a hard thing to do and after taking is out for some long drives it is refined enough for most of us including babies. There is also the quiet cabin. Not much wind and road noise as stated earlier. By quiet this actually meant being able to converse with the people at the rear at 160kmh or so.

Then add the adjustable second and third row passenger seats which Ford says are 'Easy-Fold'  seats help to provide up to 32 seating and load-space combinations make the S-Max a practical MPV – there is still a semblance of a boot with all seats up (something some MPVs have a problem of doing). The system allows each rear seat to be folded flat from a push-button control panel at the rear and also allows the second-row and third-row seats to be folded flat at the touch of a button making room for large items. 

Now while I am totally enamoured by how the S-Max drives there are of course certain details which even someone who is lives and breathes cars would nitpick. It looks good, goes  pretty fast, handles way better than any MPV out there yet there is a price to pay for this. The price. At RM234,988.00 on the road without insurance in Peninsular Malaysia and RM238,288.00 in East Malaysia, it is positively on the steep side of steep in terms of MPVs. I suppose the cake is pretty pricey compared to other cakes out there. But the ingredients make this more like some expensive artisan red velvet cake rather than the usual sponge cakes out there. 

There is another thing which needs a little bit in terms of specification. Whilst this car was first launched in 2015 and only brought into Malaysia, it should have been specified with something called a reverse camera instead of just all-round parking sensors. These days I see more and more cars being equipped with 360degree cameras instead of just reverse cameras at the price Ford wants for the S-Max.  Of course, I personally have no problems parking the S-Max, but these things usually are brought up by people who are looking to buy a MPV. The same people may complain about the lack of sliding doors in this car, but I'm not complaining. The normal doors are fine by me especially if I can cruise comfortably at high speeds and have fun yet  carry lots of people and stuff while I am at it. 

I also have no complaints about the passive and active safety systems in the S-Max, it has everything you need, from ISOFIX child seat mountings,  to camera, radar, and ultrasonic devices that  help drive and control the vehicle safely, like the Adaptive LED headlamp and Glare-Free Highbeam Technology, Lane Keeping Alert and Aid,  Driver Alert (monitors the driver's alertness by monitoring pedal and steering inputs to determine driver fatigue), Curve Control and Roll Stability Control systems – which enhance vehicle stability by adjusting engine torque and braking to help drivers maintain control aside from the usual Airbags, ABS, EBD ESC equipment. It has all the safe stuff and a good sounding SYNC2 infotainment system too.

I did enjoy the S-Max. It gives some kind of hope to parents who want to drive fast yet can only afford one vehicle in the garage. Of course, you need to be earning a fair bit to afford a RM230,000+ MPV. A MPV which Ford actually calls a Sport Activity Vehicle (SAV) which I am inclined to agree wholeheartedly. A darn sporting MPV if I may say so myself. So now you can have more than three children and still have fun. Owning the Ford S-Max would be like eating lots of cake and not gaining any weight. 

Pros: Good looks (for a MPV), refinement, handling, engine performance, safety equipment, usable cabin and seat layouts, boot space still adequate with 7 seats up

Cons:  Slightly rubbery steering, no reverse camera at the price offered, interior squeaks a little (some loose trim which can be rectified in the test car)

Conclusion: Another brilliant effort by Ford. Wish it were more affordable to procure.

Engine - 2.0L 4 cylinder turbocharged
Transmission: 6 speed automatic

240ps @ 5500rpm
345Nm @2300rpm - 4500rpm

0-100kmh - 8seconds (tested)
Top Speed: tested to 200kmh
Fuel consumption (combined) : 10.5l/100km (tested) 8.0l/100km (claimed)


7 airbags, ABS, EBA, ESC, HLA, TCS , adaptive cruise control, dual zone climate control, lane keeping alert and aid, rear view camera, Sony infotainment system, microsoft SYNC2, adaptive LED headlights, heated/cooled front seats with massage function

 Buttons for you to drop the seats with one touch

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