Ford S-Max – European Crossover OK for USA?

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I’ve been driving the Ford S-Max Crossover for about a week now through England and Wales. The S-Max is a derivative of Ford’s European Minivan – the Galaxy – and its European Mid-Size Car – the Mondeo. Very impressive vehicle in many ways. It was selected as the European 2007 Car of the Year as judged by 58 journalists across 22 European countries. Apparently, Alan Mulally, Ford’s new CEO is trying to bring the S-Max to the USA in 2009 or so. Will the S-Max work in America?

Ford S-Max F34.jpg

Ford S-Max Fender Gills.jpg

Is S-Max a Crossover SUV, Minivan, Station Wagon or Something Un-Identifiable?
Specification Comparison.jpg

First, what is it? We at VehicleVoice and AutoPacific have found that if a buyer cannot categorize a vehicle, i.e. figure out if it is a Minivan or SUV or Wagon, they will shy away from it. This is what happened to the Chrysler Pacifica and the Mercedes R-Type. Ford positions the S-Max as a Crossover SUV – a segment that is booming in the USA. At a glance, S-Max has little “SUV” ambiance. It is a very useful MPV – meaning multi-purpose vehicle – but where is the SUV DNA? S-Max has a very fast windshield with “canard” windows between the windshield and the A-Pillar. This gives a very sporty silhouette, but may yield a shape that is too Minivan-like.
Ford S-Max SV.jpg

The S-Max is a seven-passenger vehicle with a small third-row seat. The third row easily folds flat for loading luggage. If S-Max were introduced in the USA, how would S-Max fit among the other Ford Crossover SUVs – the 5-passenger Ford Escape, 5-passenger Ford Edge, and the 7-Passenger Ford Taurus X (Freestyle)? It is not as SUV-like as Escape and Edge – maybe similar to the SUV DNA of Freestyle/Taurus X.
Ford S-Max R34.jpg

Ford S-Max Cargo.jpg

S-Max, in some ways, comes across as similar to the Mazda CX-7 or a slightly smaller version of the Mazda CX-9. It does not come across as similar to the larger General Motors Lambda Crossover SUVs like the Saturn Outlook, GMC Acadia or Buick Enclave.


Equipment Level Impressive
The S-Max is totally contemporary with the exception of not having an automatic transmission available for the first year (unheard of for a vehicle sold in the USA). Today’s driving experience on Britain’s roads revolves around the navigation system and convenience features and not the powertrain and chassis. With all the speed cameras around, driving in a “spirited” way is expensive.

Ford S-Max Driver Cockpit.jpg

The S-Max Titanium Edition has a very good NAV system… large and bright screen with a turn-by-turn information screen in the center of the instrument cluster. The redundancy is especially appreciated because the turn-by-turn display shows which exit from Britain’s infamous roundabouts to take. The thing you miss after becoming addicted in the USA is satellite radio. Sure BBC is OK and there are other stations, but give me XM or SIRIUS any day.
S-Max has rain sensing windshield wipers, front and rear parking sensors, selectable (comfort, normal and sport) shock settings, automatic up and down driver’s window, automatic headlamps. The center console includes a horseshoe shaped parking brake lever – very cool. The cupholders aft of the brake lever are practically useless with drinks getting knocked about every time a gear is shifted. This would have to be reworked before the S-Max comes to the USA.
Ford S-Max Console.jpg

Diesel-Powered S-Max Makes a Desirable Proposition
This S-Max Titanium was powered by a 2.0L 4-cylinder common rail diesel. You wouldn’t think that such a large vehicle (based on the Mondeo) would perform very well with such a small 4-cylinder, but the diesel has great torque that offsets the lack of displacement and horsepower. Inside the S-Max you don’t even know the vehicle is powered by a diesel. It is very smooth and quiet. When you open the door, there is some diesel clatter. After filling up the S-Max the trip meter registered 629 miles to empty. While spirited driving brought the miles-to-empty down quickly, the fuel consumption is very thrifty without giving up performance.
Understandably, driving in England and Wales is much different from driving in the USA. Frequent roundabouts (for traffic “calming”) keeps the speeds down and plays to the virtues of the diesel. Still, this powertrain with a 6-speed automatic transmission would be very acceptable in the USA. Oh yeah, diesel fuel is almost £1 per liter – that makes it about $8 per gallon. Eeeeeek!
Can Ford Bring S-Max into the USA at a Reasonable Price?

This particular S-Max has an MSRP of a bit over £27,000. That translates to $54,000 at present exchange rates and this represents one of the major problems facing Ford in bringing the S-Max to the states. The British are privileged to pay almost double for a product than they would pay in the USA. At $27,000 to $32,000 (fully equipped) the S-Max represents a good value even if it would sit on top of the Ford Edge in its price position.

This article has 4 comments

  1. Mr. Vent 06/27/2007, 8:05 pm:

    As I have heard that the safety features make a long list with a variety of acronyms that promise ample protection which include Mazda brake shoe, brake dust shield, brake pad, and other high quality brake system parts. Another standard features would be on all trims that will include air conditioning, power windows and door locks, remote keyless entry, cruise control, and six airbags… A Cool Interior – This CX9 that focuses on refinement and elegance, a pretty aggressive styling for an SUV….

    Mr. Vent
    Not that I want to criticize your comments at all, or your attempt to drop a link into your comment, but your comments are practically unintelligible. It would serve better if you took time to edit it before submitting.
    ED

  2. Benjamin 01/05/2008, 2:54 am:

    Hi,
    I’d like to know the colour displayed on the pictures above.
    Thanks for your help in advance.
    Best regards
    Ben

  3. brett kaufman 04/07/2008, 8:26 pm:

    The position that this vehicle can compete is on mpg.
    The overall vehicle is very good looking and functional….the sell price seems high for the other options Ford has. however, if the mpg was double based on the diesel version — they will have a winner.
    I am looking for such a transport that has good milage and is functional to carry more than 5 at times or luggage or project things like recycles. I have a Volvo now that is similar, but millage is 17 +/- 2 mpg — IOW, the milage sucks, but the overall package is the same.
    I hope Ford brings the diesel for the mpg — I think it will sell; look at VW’s versions — you cant get one.
    bjk

  4. Alexis Cousein 10/04/2008, 2:20 am:

    The colour [sic – it’s a British car, after all] is Tango Red.

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