By on February 21, 2007

smax03.jpgThe Ford F150 is America’s best selling vehicle. The domestically produced full-size pickup truck is generally recognized as the class of the field. Unfortunately, nothing else Ford sells stateside achieves that standard– and Ford’s “showroom of the future” offers little hope. No wonder the company’s camp followers have turned their gaze upon FoMoCo’s European operations, where the S-Max people mover won the coveted Car of the Year award. Should The Blue Oval Boyz switch on their tractor beam?  

Given that Ford’s “New Edge” design language bloat-morphed into New Ed (i.e. your uncle's idea of design), the fact that the automaker’s “Kinetic Design” survived long enough to find expression in the S-Max minivan is something of a miracle. Bottom line: the S-Max looks more like a Japanese Shinkansen or a TGV than suburban soccer-team transport.

smax07.jpgAlthough the S-Max’ front end is relatively demure, the overall design is crammed with funky details: heavily raked windscreen, blistered wheel arches, [fake] gills behind the front wheels, flame surfaced side panels, bizarre window shapes and more. Say what you will about overwrought design, but my 16-year-old daughter wasn't ashamed to be seen in it and my girlfriend said it didn't make her "feel like a mom.” For a minivan, that’s about as good as it gets.

Marketingspeak calls the S-Max a "5+2" seven-seater sports car. In fact, it’s an elevated station wagon with plenty of room for five adults and two midgets. While that pretty much describes any CUV, the S-Max does the "five" part extremely well. First and second row headroom and legroom are fit for a Queen (Vic). Equally impressive, the spacious cabin fully accommodates the center rear passenger. Again, the S-Max’ third row is a short term solution for short people– whose presence reduces rear cargo capacity to that of a Honda Fit.

smax29.jpgJournalists have compared the S-Max’ interior an Audi's– which is a bit like comparing a bottle of Aventinus Dunkel Weizenbock to a can of Miller Lite. The S-Max’ soft plastics are excellent, but many surrounding materials are cheap and nasty. The plasti-metal on the middle console, adjacent to a brushed-aluminum strip, next to faux-chrome on the steering wheel, reeks. Note to Ford of Europe: nobody wears a white plastic belt with khaki trousers anymore.

The S-Max’ handbrake is easily the interior’s blingiest touch. The jet throttle facsimile shelters tantalizing buttons marked “Comfort,” “Normal” and “Sport.” Unfortunately, using the handbrake is a pain, since it forces you to adopt an unergonomic bent-wrist grip. And for all the effect the three buttons have upon the S'Max's handling, I’m sure these switches were designed by FoMoCo’s Psy-Ops department. Even so, the S-Max is pleasure to drive in any of its [phantom] modes.

4_sav_m_lc_11935_nv.jpgOur tester holstered a 2.0-liter, 140hp (DIN) Duratorque diesel. The mini-mill propelled the minivan with a satisfying turbodiesel snarl-shove at 2200 – 3800rpm, with no bothersome noise or vibration above or below the power band. The S-Max’ ten second amble from zero to 60mph sounds a lot worse than it is; the S-Max’ slick shifting six-speed manual affords easy access to whatever torque the oil burner can muster. In fact, there’s plenty of useful thrust right up to an indicated 120mph.

Although you sit noticeably higher than you would in a normal car, the S-Max has none of the ocean going sway that blights the rest of the minivan genre. At 100mph through high-speed bends, buffeted by stiff side winds, the S-Max stayed level and planted.

smax01.jpgThere’s not much of a downside to this fine handling. Even over cobblestones, the S-Max’ ride quality remains faultless. The vehicle’s noise suppression is good, but not on par with European luxobarges. My daily driver, a hydropneumatic Citroen, is a far more unruffled cruiser at 70mph. At 110mph, the difference is marginal.

Driven around corners at 6/10, the inevitable understeer… never arrives. Accelerating past that point is pointless, controllable and maybe even a little bit of fun. Aside from the S-Max’ lower center of gravity and world class chassis fettling, its communicative tiller is the main hoon enabler.

The S-Max’ helm provides instantaneous feedback on both the vehicle’s orientation and the quality of the pavement beneath its feet. Saying that, the stoppers are a lot more than merely adequate– and much appreciated by drivers intent on triggering the S-Max’ traction control idiot light.

smax16.jpgFord's stylish, practical and entertaining S-Max proves that The Blue Oval employs engineers and product planners who are as good as anybody in Japan or Germany. It's the mid-sized motor vehicle that should have replaced the pathetic Ford Windstar in the American market. Indeed, the S-Max might even have been the minivan that reinvigorated the entire genre, in ways that the bloated Chrysler Pacifica could only have imagined.

Pistonhead dreams of S-Max importation will probably go unrealized, as any such plans should have been hatched at the beginning of the model’s gestation, when a global strategy could have assured its profitability. Ford’s headed in that direction now, but it’s probably too late. The best-in-class S-Max is destined to be another Ford of NA could-a, should-a, would-a been.

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85 Comments on “Ford S-Max Review...”


  • avatar
    shaker

    This thing in the U.S. would perform a laudable function: Crush the life out of the awful Nissan Quest. Of course, FoMoCo and the EPA would ditch the deisel and the MT, taking most of the fun out of it, but it would still be the “lower-mid-life crisis” vehicle of choice. Bring it on, just for the looks alone.

  • avatar
    james2550

    The S-Max is, in minivan terms, an impressive vehicle. It looks and feels genuinely different to US rivals which are still somewhat guilty of being vans-with-windows. And, if it’s 5+2 configuation is not enough, Ford also offers the larger Galaxy based on the same platform.

    Both are stylistically and dynamically superior to any US designed minivan, which look a decade behind. Indeed, this is true of most European minivans (the glamourous Renault Espace for instance). The new Chrysler Voyager, being worse looking the current model, shows that America still has a way to catch up. A traversty, given that it can produce some truly amazing machinery when it really tries.

  • avatar
    aakash

    The S-max seems like it has got what it takes to take on the Odyssenna!

    Interestingly Ford’s European stables have a Camcord beater as well….Ford Mondeo….

    but will it be brought stateside? Why even bother asking!

  • avatar
    hularocker

    um, isn’t this vehicle already in the states? It’s called the Mercedes R class.

  • avatar

    MSRP on the Bama built R-Class: $44k to $84k. And not as good looking.

  • avatar
    hularocker

    So Ford brings it here and no auto scribes label it an R class wanna be?

  • avatar
    Eric_Stepans

    Wow!

    I am not and probably never will be in the market for a minivan, but if I had to buy one this would be it.

    OK, lose the “gills” and the plasti-metal crap trim and give it a slightly bigger engine (2.5L diesel with 3.5L Duratec optional) and I think Ford would sell a pile of these to SUV-abandoners.

    Any fuel economy numbers for this beauty?

  • avatar
    partsisparts

    This vehicle should be sold at Mercury dealerships TODAY. Put the 3.5 V6 in it and it would sell with little investment. Mercury needs product now and bringing a few cars over from europe would solve the problem.

  • avatar

    I agree that bringing the vehicle through the Mercury dealerships would pose a good opportunity for ford. Bring it with the MT as well. It looks nice and should help out Ford. None of this will occur, despite Ford’s “Bold Moves”.

  • avatar
    starlightmica

    aakash:

    The S-Max (and cousin Galaxy) is a size smaller than the Odyssey and Sienna (and MB R-class). It’s actually very close to size the outgoing Mazda MPV which didn’t sell well in the US in part because it was too small. And without kid-friendly power sliding doors, it’s not a credible alternative for many minivan buyers.

    Given current exchange rates, the S-Max is a $32k-$42k vehicle. Mega Ouch. Contrast that with its smaller & distant cousin, the Mazda5, which sells in the US for $17k-$22k.

  • avatar
    ejacobs

    Martin,
    Great review. Thanks for the insight.

  • avatar
    philbailey

    With such a small engine, (even though it is, finally, a diesel) why would this creation sell more easily than the now defunct Pacifica?

  • avatar

    philbailey:

    Labor costs, exchange rate, forgeddaboutit.

  • avatar
    NickR

    Looks good, I agree. But I have visions of one of these labouring up a hill with 5 kids and camping gear for a week. With maybe a canoe on the roof thrown in. How these vehicles perform empty is one thing, how they perform doing what they are intended to do (haul people and their stuff) is another. With that mouse motor providing the motive force, I am not optimistic.

  • avatar
    Vega

    I always wonder what Americans need all the horsepower for. I’m from Germany and half of the cars I see doing 110+ mph on the left lane of the Autobahn are 2 liter Diesel Passats, Golfs, Tourans, Focus (Foci?), Astras, Mondeos etc. The S-Max is a medium sized car, the 140hp Diesel has ample torque when you need it (for accelerating from 60-100 mph without downshifts) and does everything including hustling along the left lane of the Autobahn at 120 mph. While still getting great mileage. US interstates are speed restricted so either Americans are as big as people say they are, constantly have to tow all their gear from one place to another, or cars offered in the US are too heavy and have oversized, inefficient engines.

  • avatar
    rjanecky

    Is the S-Max related to the Mazda 5? Do Americans get the Mazda 5? They’re about as good as it gets in the utility/fuel efficiency/fun-to-drive category.

  • avatar
    hularocker

    I always wonder what Americans need all the horsepower for. I’m from Germany and half of the cars I see doing 110+ mph on the left lane of the Autobahn are 2 liter Diesel Passats, Golfs, Tourans, Focus (Foci?), Astras, Mondeos etc.

    And the other half are big Mercedes AMG’s and Bimmer M’s

  • avatar
    Commuter

    Ford gives the world car a try in the early 90’s and comes up with the mediocre Mondeo. A good idea badly executed. Today when the world car idea makes even more sense, Ford doesn’t even try. It has two world class cars in Europe (the S-Max and Focus) but continues to sell outdated and outclassed cars in the US.

    Even after loosing $12 billion the boyz from Dearborn still don’t get it.

  • avatar
    Martin Schwoerer

    ejacobs: thanks!

    Eric_Stepans: i drove it like a maniac, flooring it most of the time, which normally negates the efficiency advantages of a diesel. so i got less than 27 mpg. 20% better should be easy. the official EU rating is 44mpg.

    ye power-addicted: there is a gasoline version with 220 HP; 0-60 in 7.4 seconds. i wanna!

  • avatar
    Vega

    And the other half are big Mercedes AMG’s and Bimmer M’s

    Yeah that’s right, but these cars are luxury purchases. I just can’t understand that in a speed restricted country standard family transportation is considered inadequate if it doesn’t have at least a 3.5 liter engine.

  • avatar
    starlightmica

    My comment is either munched or in the spam filter, trying again:

    The S-Max (and cousin Galaxy) is a size smaller than the Odyssey and Sienna (and MB R-class). It’s actually very close to size the outgoing Mazda MPV which didn’t sell well in the US in part because it was too small. And without kid-friendly power sliding doors, it’s not a credible alternative for many minivan buyers.

    Given current exchange rates, the S-Max is a $32k-$42k vehicle. Mega Ouch.

    rjanecky:
    Yup. S-Max is on the EUCD platform which is derived from the C1 platform that the Mazda5 is on. Having owned a 5 for 2 weeks, I would say Michael Karesh’s review is right on: https://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1598

  • avatar
    Cowbell

    I was trying to think of a word that means “the development of a deeply held belief about a subject that most people have no original opinion about through the repetition of an isolated opinion” Sort of like a combination of an urban legend and a self-fulfilling prophecy. A situation where a few people state a “fact”, no one says otherwise, so more people start repeating it as fact. And then others hear many people stating the same fact, assume it’s true with out even thinking about it, and this fact becomes “common knowledge.”

    Please no one jump on me for saying this, but I can’t help but wondering if all the Ford of Europe enthusiasm is simply the grass is greener on the other side of the pond. When ever a Europe-only vehicle is shown on an auto-site (Autoblog, I’m looking in your direction) the following comments are just the same to ideas over and over again. 1. I would buy this in a second/pre-order without seeing in person if only they would bring it over.
    2. Ford could be doing so great if only they brought this over here/sell all these as Mercuries.

    I’m not saying these things points aren’t true, but I tend to be skeptical of cliches. And my thought after looking at these pictures is that the S-max would not sell well in the US. It looks like a mini van to me, and mini vans aren’t selling well in the US, even the good ones. Despite Toyota’s record setting year, Sienna sales were only up 1.5%. If all the people not buying the domestic mini vans were going to imports, that number would be a LOT higher.

    I just don’t think the S-max would be worth the cost to Ford when it will compete with plenty of other vehicles (most better looking, in my opinion) that offer cramped third-rows.

  • avatar

    Granted this “seven-seater sports car” is better than the Windstar…Aerostar…whatever..but I don’t really see this making a huge splash in our market. I haven’t see but a few 5’s around though it would serve as a fine niche vehicle, kinda a big quirky hatch, but not as any competition to the Odyssey.

  • avatar
    jbyrne

    I thought with this vehicle that I might read a review without the word hoon. Alas. Good review though.

  • avatar
    Vega

    If the Euro S-max (and slightly taller C-Max) are too small for you, check out the Euro Ford Galaxy…

  • avatar
    Martin Schwoerer

    jbyrne: point taken. my next review will not have the word hoon — i promise

  • avatar

    Cowbell:

    Shibboleth.

  • avatar
    starlightmica

    Vega:
    The Ford Galaxy (L/W/H 4820/1884/1691mm) is dwarfed by the typical colossal US minivan (5000/1981/1900mm) with its 3.5L-4.0L gasoline engine. The Odyssey and Sienna are not marketed in volume outside North America, where other models take their places. I do see that the Kia Carnival/Entourage gets around, as do the Chrysler Voyager.

    Martin:
    Nice review, BTW. Please keep the forbidden fruit coming!

  • avatar
    BostonTeaParty

    If done as Renault did with their Espace and create a Grand version (extra long over the regular, for more luggage space) then this would sell by the bucket loads. Are you going to reveiew the C-Max too? Interesting how euro flavour grows.

  • avatar
    durailer

    Love the looks.

    If Ford ever has the good sense to market this on our shores, let’s hope they don’t call it a minivan -too small for our North American tastes.

    Play it as a tall-wagon crossover, in a class of its own, and you’ll have buyers on the lot.

    Families of 4-5 will do well with such a vehicle.

  • avatar
    SherbornSean

    Good review, although I wish you’d substitute the word child for midget.

    But I think all the calls for importing the S-Max and Galaxy to the US are unrealistic. First of all, Ford would lose the 4 cylinder diesel and manual gearbox. Then it would add AWD, at least as an option. It would get too heavy and the handling/ride compromise would suffer, and they would need to charge $32-35K to make any money, for which you can get the luxury trim in an Odyssienna.

    If you like it so much, buy a Mazda5. Which not many people do.

  • avatar
    MW

    OK, for whatever it’s worth, if anyone from Ford is reading this — I want one, with the diesel and the manual shift, please. There is truly nothing at all like that on the market now — a 7-seater wagon that gets decent mileage and doesn’t drive like an Econoline. You can win sales on the fuel economy alone. Even if it only works out to 30 mpg on the U.S. cycle, that’s heads and shoulders above any similar vehicle available now.

    And no, the diesel isn’t “too slow” for this American — 10 seconds 0-60 is quick enough for a family car, especially for those of us who know how to use a proper transmission. In response to the post above, I understand that my car is going to bog down a bit if I stuff five people and their luggage in it and drive up a mountain with the AC on high. That’s physics at work! Put a gas V6 and a 4-speed auto in it so it “feels fast enough” and you’ll cut the fuel economy in half and negate the car’s uniqueness.

  • avatar
    skor

    This should have been available in the US at the same time it was released in Europe, along with the Euro-Focus, and some nice straight-6 Oz Falcons.

    There is no point in trying to bring this to the US market now, it will take years, and by that time the competition will have moved on to something new.

    At this point Ford NA is toast, it’s past the point of no return.

  • avatar
    MW

    SearbornSean: “If you like it so much, buy a Mazda5.”

    Actually, I might buy one this summer — but I really wish it could get better than 22/27 mpg. How come a small 4-cyl wagon gets the same mileage as a huge Toyota Sienna?

  • avatar

    As much as I’d personally like an S-Max, I’ve questioned whether overseas models are a solution:

    http://www.truedelta.com/blog/?p=18

    The market here for the S-Max is likely around 50,000 vehicles, tops, even if Ford charged $5,000 less than they do in Europe. Which likely means they’d be selling it at a loss.

    GM has justified the importation of the Astra by counting only variable costs in the calculation of profitability. The costs of developing the car, tooling the plant, and corporate overhead are not being included. There’s some logic to this–those costs would have been paid even if the car was not sold here–but it’s not standard practice.

  • avatar
    vento97

    US interstates are speed restricted so either Americans are as big as people say they are, constantly have to tow all their gear from one place to another, or cars offered in the US are too heavy and have oversized, inefficient engines.

    Our panel will accept either answer…:-)

  • avatar
    durailer

    People will pay a premium for class-leading style, economy and performance -they may not pay a premium for a Ford, but a revamped/reinvigourated Mercury (with proper marketing) may capture the hearts and minds of American buyers.

    I like the idea of using the Mercury marque as a guise to import all the euro-spec models. With enough volume, and enough sales, Ford will see the logic of building them locally.

    Imagine: Mercury Mondeo, Mercury S-Max, the list goes on…

  • avatar
    shabster

    Gonna toss my cookies if I read “hoon” in virtually all reviews.

    Other than that, it’s a really interesting article.

  • avatar

    durailer:

    Since your plan depends on proper marketing, from Ford, I have to declare it non-viable.

    Have you seen the ad campaign for the Edge? I hate the ad more every time I see it.

  • avatar
    MW

    “Since your plan depends on proper marketing, from Ford, I have to declare it non-viable.”

    Good point. Maybe they should just call this thing a Mazda. Then the intended buyers might actually consider it.

    On a related note, am I the only one who thinks Ford keeps missing a huge opportunity to market themselves as a good, honest car for the working man? That’s their heritage, not chasing the same yuppie buyers as everyone else.

  • avatar
    KixStart

    Cowbell: The grass on the other side of the pond is greener. Because the grass on this side is dead.

    Martin Schwoerer: Nice writeup, thanks. I like the look of the vehicle. The US market may, as noted, have “size issues” with it but $3/gallon gas might help the US market be more accepting. I can’t see Ford taking the chance, though, and it certainly seems doubtful they could make money on it unless they built it here.

    I’m not put off by 10 secs 0-60. When I was a kid, 10 secs was Hot Stuff and I still consider it to be good. Good enough, anyway.

  • avatar
    Adrian Imonti

    durailer: People will pay a premium for class-leading style, economy and performance -they may not pay a premium for a Ford, but a revamped/reinvigourated Mercury (with proper marketing) may capture the hearts and minds of American buyers.

    This effort was already attempted and failed. Earlier editions of the Mondeo were Americanized and badged as the Ford Contour and Mercury Mystique, and flopped. The current Fusion is FoMoCo’s attempt to fix the mistakes made with the US Mondeo.

    The problem with the prior-generation Mondeo is that it lacked what many mid-sized American sedan buyers want — interior space. The most common complaint was about the back seats, which were too small for American tastes.

    I drove the Contour and was quite impressed by it, but it was fairly obvious from driving it that it was destined to fail as a mass-market US product. As a niche product, it might, but Ford is too large to reposition itself in the US as a niche marketer, at least through this badge.

    Americans who like nimble cars at moderate prices can choose from VW and Mazda, the latter of which is already a Ford company. Both marques have relatively low sales volumes, precisely because Americans largely like interior space and low-end torque, and do not prioritize nimble handling. The cars that dominate that class, such as the Camry and Accord, have bigger cabins and engines large enough to run fairly well with automatic transmissions.

    Turning Mercury into another Mazda would be an exercise in redundancy. At best, it would cannibalize sales from Mazda; at worst, it would give it a brand identity that doesn’t complement either Ford or Lincoln. Euro Fords are fine for Europe, where parking is tight, fuel is costly, and stick shifts are the norm, but in the land of large highways, WalMart, $2.50 fuel and the automatic transmission, they won’t be finding a home on the range anytime soon.

  • avatar
    DrBiggly

    I rather liked the Mazda5 and it seems to be quite similar to the S-Max. Since it was a 2-day loaner from Mazda while the Tribute/Escape was being worked on, fuel economy was never measured. The rest of the vehicle was quite good however. I suppose that is the closest that we will get to the S-Max here in the US. Can’t remember the engine options.

    -Biggly

  • avatar
    NoneMoreBlack

    Is it just me or does the rear end hew alarmingly close to the yawning chasm of Tribeca-tude?

  • avatar
    Sajeev Mehta

    Wow, there’s the Mercury Sable crossover to its Taurus X counterpart! Nice review, I enjoy hearing about metal I’ll never have a chance to see in person.

  • avatar
    DrBiggly

    NoneMoreBlack:

    I hope not! The Tribeca has set the bar unusually high for ugly. Subaru made a huge mistake there in my opinion; should never have built it. Don’t know the sales numbers, but they aren’t exactly rosy as I recall.

  • avatar
    ash78

    I tested out a 1.9tdi Galaxy for over 1,000 miles last summer, and it was never an issue driving with a full load, even over some relatively hilly, steep grades in the Chilterns and Costwolds of England. And that’s the 100bhp version, IIRC. The torque is all that mattered in most situations. And the effective use of interior space on that size of van (and this, and the Mazda5) is optimal…not wasted airspace, as is the case with most SUVs and many minivans.

    I don’t want to rehash what’s already been said in these forums a million times, but Ford’s gunshyness(?) about the previous Mondeo’s failure in the US needs to be viewed as an isolated, poorly-thought-out incident.

  • avatar
    Hippo

    I always wonder what Americans need all the horsepower for. I’m from Germany and half of the cars I see doing 110+ mph on the left lane of the Autobahn are 2 liter Diesel Passats, Golfs, Tourans, Focus (Foci?), Astras, Mondeos etc.

    To get their nose in front and cut you off, from a standing start or in stop and go traffic, other then that they just sleep in the fast lane.

    Well, 95% of them.
    Same reason they drive nothing but auto gearboxes, or huge monsters.

    It probably gets deleted, but it’s the truth.

  • avatar
    jkross22

    Is the S-Max, Euro Focus, etc. available in Canada – Road trip???

  • avatar
    Justin Berkowitz

    Wonderful review, Martin. Thanks for writing it.

    Whether or not there is a business case for the S-Max in the United States, the fact remains that I want one. That’s because like most of the other people here, I have the car disease.

  • avatar
    Martin Schwoerer

    This car has loads of what we krauts call uberholprestige, also known as get-outta-my-way attitude. I spent a very pleasant time on the autobahn at 120mph whisking past exec-BMWs and Mercs who would not have vacated the left lane for another minivan or MPV For this reason (but mainly for the aesthetics and driving dynamics), a Mazda 5 is not a viable alternative (at least for me), nor is any other minivan. And here's the punch line: I do not in any way "need" a minivan. But after driving the S-Max, i was thinking of excuses why it could be a sensible purchase.

  • avatar
    ash78

    What’s wrong with wanting a 5+2 wagon with decent reliability that you don’t have to pay $55k for, like the E-class wagon? That’s the only example I could think of in that niche. (btw, don’t do the direct Euro/GBP currency translation for the estimated US price, that’s fallacious)

    And you could easily boost your ueberholprestige even further with a mean-looking grille and some HID headlights.

  • avatar
    MW

    I always wonder what Americans need all the horsepower for.

    We don’t. Most people buy 250-bhp family cars for the same reasons they buy air compressors to nail up a few pieces of trim molding around the house. It’s all about the fear that the other guy might have a bigger or more powerful tool.

  • avatar
    NICKNICK

    Cowbell–
    I see your point about many people just believing that the grass is greener in regard to euro autos. However, I for one am tired of always getting leftovers or crippled spec sheets. The grass *is* greener when the new Golf arrives three years too late, when we can’t have a diesel for any car, when the four-year-old “new” Focus won’t ever come here, etc. Where’s my all wheel drive Golf that isn’t a special edition that goes for above sticker?
    On the other hand, you’re right–I’m often one of the guys who repeats the Ford of Europe mantras without having driven a single one of them.

    MW–
    I don’t know if you can successfully market to the working man anymore. Nobody wants to be the working man. Now that we’ve got a “service” economy where *every*body graduates from college (and with honors, no less), being blue collar is decidedly uncool. No sense trying to relate to machinists and foundrymen because there are none left. Everyone wants to play middle manager instead.

  • avatar

    “Again, the S-Max’ third row is a short term solution for short people– whose presence reduces rear cargo capacity to that of a Honda Fit.”

    Actually, that would be quite good! The Fit has an amazing amount of cargo room, especially to be sitting behind 3rd row seats.

  • avatar
    Eric_Stepans

    It’s too bad that economic factors will price the S-Max out of the US market.

    I think there would be *substantial* demand for a good-looking 35-mpg 3-row minivan priced competitively with the Caravan/Sienna/Oddessey group.

    Especially going forward when gas prices are going to skyrocket again.

    Does anyone *really* believe that the current Iraq/Iran situation is going to be resolved in an orderly way that won’t rock the oil market?

  • avatar
    Luther

    Say what you will about overwrought design, but my 16-year-old daughter wasn’t ashamed to be seen in it and my girlfriend said it didn’t make her “feel like a mom.” For a minivan, that’s about as good as it gets.

    Yup. I could see Jill Wagner selling this…..

  • avatar
    ash78

    Despite the US’s status as the world’s #1 economic powerhouse, enjoying top-tier standards of living on most metrics (despite income inequality), we still seem to get leftover CRAP in the following two areas:

    1. Cellular phone service
    2. Cars

    In general, most anything else that can be had anywhere in the world can be at least FOUND in the US. This is not flag-waving…I’m speaking purely on material goods availability.

  • avatar
    Jonny Lieberman

    “Aventinus Dunkel Weizenbock”

    Nice

  • avatar
    Johnster

    I just can’t see this thing selling the in the U.S. It’s too small to be a minivan and too weird-looking to sell as anything else.

    It’s like the original small Honda Odyssey that didn’t sell and that was replaced by the big minivan of the same name, or like the Mitsubishi Expo, the Nissan Stanza Station Wagon, the Nissan Axxess, or even the Mazda MPV.

    It looks like a loser.

  • avatar
    nino

    I like the idea of using the Mercury marque as a guise to import all the euro-spec models. With enough volume, and enough sales, Ford will see the logic of building them locally.

    Imagine: Mercury Mondeo, Mercury S-Max, the list goes on…

    Yep, just like they did with the Merkur XR4Ti, the Mercury Mystique, the Mercury Cougar (the small one that was based on the Mondeo).

    Mercury can only sell old cars to old people.

    Besides by selling European models, how can the dealers make more money selling fake wire wheelcovers and “landau” vinyl tops?

  • avatar
    nino

    I just can’t see this thing selling the in the U.S. It’s too small to be a minivan and too weird-looking to sell as anything else.

    It’s like the original small Honda Odyssey that didn’t sell and that was replaced by the big minivan of the same name, or like the Mitsubishi Expo, the Nissan Stanza Station Wagon, the Nissan Axxess, or even the Mazda MPV.

    It looks like a loser.

    Unfortunately, this is the attitude that dooms cars like the S-Max and Euro cars in general.

  • avatar
    omnivore

    Exchange rates, labor rules, etc., make it too expensive to produce cars in Europe that can profitably be sold in the US … the Opel/Saturn Astra problem, the VW problem, etc. But if the dollar is so weak against the Euro, why the heck aren’t the Big 2.5 (or at least Ford and GM) producing cars in the US for export to Europe? If the Astra was produced in the old Ion factory in TN, for example, it could be sold at a competitive price here and a VERY competitive price in Europe. Same goes for the S-Max. As long as the American factories can keep the quality consistent, it seems like a good idea. It would put the US auto industry in the competitive position of the Japanese in the 60s and 70s or the Koreans more recently … builders of competitive but lower-priced cars for export. And it’s not like the Big 2.5 don’t have plenty of factory capacity in North America to use for European production.

    I realize that it takes time to tool up a factory, and that it might be difficult to close down operating factories in Europe, but it sort of seems like a no-brainer to me.

  • avatar
    Jordan Tenenbaum

    Perhaps what Ford should do is create a Gen X/ Gen Y brand similar to what Toyota did with Scion and import a lot of their European offerings under this badge. Mercury unfortunately won’t cut it, it just has a stodgy image that effectively killed Oldsmobile and perhaps Buick once the Gen X’ers get close to retirement.

  • avatar
    blue adidas

    This is a very smart looking people mover. Much better looking inside-and-out than anything else offered today.

  • avatar
    starlightmica

    Video that might explain why the Mazda5’s dismal fuel economy:

  • avatar
    Luther

    “Aventinus Dunkel Weizenbock”

    I would need a Miller Lite chaser with this. I was never completely comfortable with drinking bread.

    But if the dollar is so weak against the Euro, why the heck aren’t the Big 2.5 (or at least Ford and GM) producing cars in the US for export to Europe?

    Great question. Might want to take a look at what Mercedes and BMW are doing in the South.

  • avatar
    taxman100

    Too small, too expensive, and too underpowered for the U.S. market. I think both people who would actually buy a diesel powered manual transmission small minivan post here.

    I know it kills people on this website, but Americans have different tastes – not better or worse, but different.

    If they could sell them for $18-$20k, they would have a chance. More than that, forget about it.

  • avatar
    rudiger

    MW: “Actually, I might buy one this summer — but I really wish it could get better than 22/27 mpg. How come a small 4-cyl wagon gets the same mileage as a huge Toyota Sienna?”

    A Mazda5 hybrid (well, the first hybrid minivan of any size) would cure this failing and holds the potential of being able to revive US minivan sales in a big way.

  • avatar
    Maxwelton

    I know it kills people on this website, but Americans have different tastes – not better or worse, but different.

    I think worse is appropriate when one one hand you have a stylish and efficient automobile and on the other you have image concerns and fear of the unknown.

  • avatar
    starlightmica

    rudiger:
    Toyota does have a S-Max sized Estima Hybrid minivan, JDM only, of course. It’s now on its second generation and shares its powertrain with the Camry Hybrid with the addition of electric AWD. Mazda has previously stated they’re looking into hydrogen rotary powertrains instead of hybrids, and there exists a rotary Mazda5 although the 3rd row is replaced by the H2 tank.

    I haven’t had my Mazda5 long enough to get a fix on its fuel economy, but am expecting to get about 5mpg better than my Sienna (18.5mpg). Low numbers are likely due to its high weight (+350 on the Mazda3s), short gearing to keep acceleration peppy, and lack of a 5-speed autobox available on other Mazdas.

  • avatar
    John Williams

    aakash:

    The S-max seems like it has got what it takes to take on the Odyssenna!

    Interestingly Ford’s European stables have a Camcord beater as well….Ford Mondeo….

    but will it be brought stateside? Why even bother asking!

    We tried that with the Contour once. As a midsizer, it was just too small to take on the Camcords of the time.

    My take: I rented a 97/98 Contour. It was very good on fuel and it looked great, but it had the worse rear legroom on a car this side of a Mazda MX3 (nah, noone’s gonna remember that tater tot of a car).

  • avatar
    svensk

    It won’t sell here because…

    1. It’s a Ford diesel (powerchoke anyone?).
    2. It’s a diesel that gets crummy milage for the size. In fact terrible milage.
    3. Interior is too small.
    4. It’s ugly.

  • avatar
    nino

    4. It’s ugly.

    The posters here demand daring looks and design. But when presented with such , regardless of the vehicle in question, we get this same post.

    From now on, I’d like to know from which ever poster posts this, to tell us which car they feel is not ugly.

    This is a minivan.

    How many esthetics are there for this kind of vehicle?

  • avatar
    jthorner

    Wasn’t the big “Ford 2000” corporate reengineering project designed to produce global platforms, global engineering and global sourcing. The year 2000 came and went quite some time ago!

    One would hope that the S-max was designed to be compatible with worldwide requirements.

  • avatar
    Vega

    @svensk: Official EU rating is 44 mpg. How is that bad fuel economy? Martin has said he only got below 27 because he drove it like he stole it.

  • avatar
    don

    The Ford and GM lineups on sale in Europe and the rest of the world show what great cars these people can make, when they want to. Why they insist on selling us their current passenger car line-ups in North America is baffling. Americans produce great trucks and vans, but that is not what the current market wants, post $3 dollar gallon gas. Get with it before its too late !

  • avatar

    # svensk:4. It’s ugly.Skitsnack, as we say back home.

    Since about the turn of the century, Ford Europe is putting out ever better-looking cars.

  • avatar

    Nice looking minivan … too bad it will never make it to North America.

  • avatar
    Clinton Smith

    Just back from Italy and rented one for 3 days, 6spd manual diesel. I drive a BMW 3 series in the states and with 4 adults this car performed extremely well on tight Florence streets and the Autostrassa at 90 mph. I was shocked nothing like this is available in the US. Go Ford.

  • avatar
    Martin Schwoerer

    According to “Automobil-Produktion” of March 2007, the S-Max is now additionally being produced in Changchun, China.

    What does that mean? Is the Chinese market considered to be more sophisticated than the US? Or does Ford intend to export these vehicles from China?

    Interesting news, with odd implications.

  • avatar
    Ariel Cinii

    Oh, Goddess, please grant me an E.U. residence visa and a decent income source (in reverse order). I’ll put up with the exorbitant TV licensing fees, the inflated prices and the tremendous tax rates to be able to possess a truly decent automobile such as the Ford S-Max, or any of another eighteen others on my desire list.

    Failing this, Goddess, I’d appreciate a shift in the management of the big 2.5 to a leadership that knows what it’s doing and can produce desirable vehicles that won’t embarrass us poor consumers when we want to be environmentally conscious or preserve domestic employment.

    Then again, just scrap all that and give me a few million bucks to live where I want and drive something nice.

  • avatar
    Fritz

    EXACTLY! EXACTLY! EXACTLY! Spent 3 yrs in Italy wondering the same thing. Came back to the USA and have been driving imports ever since and wishing for more Euro-options from GM and Ford. I WILL buy a Saturn if it doesn’t seem too diluted.

    Average American drivers seem to concentrate on what a vehicle CAN’T do vs what a vehicle can do. What they MIGHT need vs what they DO need.

    So due to the perpetual ignorance of the average American consumer, I’m doomed to a bland/overweight/thirsty selection of vehicles from the domestics.

    As for the cargo space in the S-MAX – – – my sister-in-law’s Dodge Caravan had almost NO cargo space behind the 3rd seat for say – 1 bag per passenger. I’ll take a Fiat Ducato TDI or a Eurovan Weekender TDI please – or the S-Max. I WILL be looking at the Mazda next time we shop for a large vehicle.

    Our plan: 2 very small vehicles for around town, something more spacious for occasional travelling – will be sport wagon, or van.

  • avatar
    brick_driver

    Maybe Ford has finally woke up and pulled the collective heads from there asses. I just saw an S Max in the middle of Connecticut. There it was, sitting in a relatively empty parking lot of a local indoor go-kart track. (Can it be inferred that it’s as fun to drive as a go-kart?) It stuck out like a Goth girl at a librarian’s conference; quirky, yet alluring. The girl who’d you love to date, but your friends wouldn’t approve of. It screamed “Different”.

    It was wearing a Michigan “Manufacturer’s license plate, clearly stating that its not “from these parts”. From all outward appearances, it had all the bells and whistles: cool 18″ gun-metal snow flake wheels, wrapped in Continental 245/60 R18 sport tires, Silver Metallic paint, Black and dark grey Alcantra seats, the 6spd manu-matic, Nav system, rain sensing wipers, and all the power equipment. It was missing the third row of seats.

    It didn’t look like a “Test mule”, but I didn’t see any marketing material in the trunk; so; I don’t think it was out trolling for public approval. I really can’t remember the last time I saw a Ford Motor Co. product that made me stop in my tracks, (Has there ever been a Ford product that made anyone stop and say “Ooooooo”?)but this one made me think about going to harass my local Ford salesman.

    Its what the Mazda 5 should have been, way cooler than the Pontiac Vibe could ever be, a Mercedes R-Class for the masses. Hopefully Ford has realized that a Euro-styled car can actually be sold in the States.

  • avatar
    rprowell

    Tried out the Ford S-Max in Germany this a few months ago and wow what a nice and enjoyable ride. I agree this vehicle could definitely rival the Japanese automotive industry as far as quality in the US. I liked the feel and the comfort that it offered. Now am looking at the US versions to see if I can find the quality that I enjoyed in Europe. My kudos to this very nice and enjoyable ride.

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