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Ford S-Max Titanium 2.5T review (2006-2010)
Model: Ford S-Max Titanium 2.5
Engine: 2.5-litre turbo petrol
Transmission: Six-speed manual
Date of Test: June 2007
What is it?
Ford’s attempt to make the MPV interesting and even sexy. Good looking, roomy and practical it could also be seen as an attempt to coax people out of their SUVs and into a car that has most of the SUV advantages – perceived space, looks, practicality, high riding position - without the disadvantages of thirst, dodgy handling and image problems. It’s clearly working too, since it is selling like hot cakes and was also awarded the coveted Car of the Year title for 2007 – marking Ford’s first win here since the first Focus in 1999. This version is the top of the range 2.5 turbocharged petrol version.
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Where does it fit?
It is closely related to the Galaxy MPV, which is slightly larger and more spacious but nothing like as handsome, and it is still a 7-seater, if you want it to be, with fold flat back seats. It of course shares its main chassis platform with the Galaxy and indeed many other cars in the blue oval empire including the new Ford Mondeo, the newish Volvo S80, and the newish Land Rover Freelander 2 – but is none the worse for that as all are fine cars. Its precise rivals are few, if only because most resemble minibuses in looks and driving ability – but those looking at an S-Max will also look at the Renault Espace, VW Touran, Toyota Verso, Citroen C8 and Vauxhall Zafira, as well of course as its Galaxy sister car.
Is it for you?
If you have a family – or are planning to have one – or even if you just need to shift lots of stuff around regularly, quite probably. Nearly everyone who I mentioned this car to who fits into these categories took a great interest in it, and the friend who drove in it loved it. The crucial advantages that it has are that it drives as well as a normal car, looks great, and has a high driving position. Indeed our test car, which admittedly is the most bling-looking model in the range, complete with optional 18” alloy wheels, even got admiring glances – which is certainly not something you get when in a Chrysler Grand Voyager…
What does it do well?
It looks good and drives sweetly. This turbo-charged petrol version gives real guts to an already strong drive and the car was happy to be pushed around twisty mountain roads on our week-long test in Snowdonia in North Wales, with little of the body roll that you might have expected from such a large and relatively tall car – all aided by a super slick six-speed manual gearbox. The seats are comfortable and the controls sensible with a quality feel that give the impression they will last. The Titanium spec version on our test car came loaded with goodies including MP3 connection, rear tinted glass (which was a bit too Victoria Beckham for my tastes), cruise control and front and rear parking sensors.
Like all modern Fords it has a whole batch of passive safety features including multiple airbags, and has a 5-star NCAP rating. The rear set of seats fold completely flat in a very quick and simple way, making a very usable space. Finally, it’s good value; you can pick up a new bottom-of- the-range S-Max from around £17,000, and for this one at the top it’s only £22,000. Options will cost you obviously, but the car is well equipped throughout the range.
What doesn’t it do well?
This version is hot, so it has more thirst than you might like. Our test car had optional 18” alloy wheels which look good but don’t do much for the ride – the standard 17 inchers should be fine. Elsewhere, unlike most modern estates, there’s no way to cover up the contents of your boot, and there isn’t much luggage space if you have the third row up. Nor is there much headroom back there – the price you pay for the lovely curvaceous ‘swoop’ of this car which makes it much more elegant than the Galaxy.
The 'airliner' style handbrake is bit OTT – a simple electric button might be better, while the optional satnav fitted to our car (£1,500) wasn’t quite as easy to use as some. Finally, the giant windscreen reflects the giant dashboard far too much, perhaps because of the heated-screen element embedded within. The 220hp engine is a good one – but has less lugging-power torque than the biggest diesel.
What’s it like to live with?
Very good. You’ll enjoy owning this car, which is practical as well as good looking. Servicing will be fairly cheap and reliability decent. It’s early days, but depreciation is looking good thus far. It is comfortable and easy to spend time in, but in this hot version you are going to have to become reasonably well acquainted with petrol stations. The climate control system quickly delivered copious cold air when required, and your children will be happy, comfortable and safe within, especially given its Isofix child-seat points.
How green is it?
This car has many recyclable parts, but there is no avoiding the fact that this is the fastest version and green credentials take a hit. We averaged 26mpg (against a listed combined figure of 30), while official CO2 emissions are 224 g/km – just sneaking into band F and thus narrowly avoiding the killer G band, whose onerous tax implications will serve to savage residual values in the future. If fuel economy and emissions are important to you, you should look at the diesel versions.
Would we buy it?
Yes. It’s the best looking MPV on the market bar none and the best driving. There are niggles, but all are outweighed by the positives. Even this fast 2.5 turbocharged petrol version might make sense against the more economical diesels as an ultimate compromise vehicle for the family torn between a greed for speed and a need for space and practicality. Instead of the expense of owning a practical car AND a sporty one, just get both in the same car. Sure it will cost more on petrol, but involve a lot less cash than running two cars, and greener to boot.
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