Fords-Max Vignale 2.0 TDCi

Don’t write this test off as unrepresentative of a UK car, because despite wearing German registration plates, this flagship S-MAX Vignale is actually right hand drive, with the same specification as the cars arriving now at Ford stores. This new top-of-the-range S-MAX is the second model in the new Vignale line-up to go sale, designed to elevate ambiance to a new level. In addition to extra chrome embellishments and an octagonal meshed front grille to the outside, there’s a similar shape for the leather upholstery and a hide-covered dashboard. Work has been carried out on enhancing refinement, including the inclusion of noise cancelling technology.

Additional equipment includes those electrically adjusted leather seats, a reversing camera, adaptive LED headlights and mood lighting for the £2,700 price difference over a Titanium Sport specification car. Add those features to the lower specification car and there’s just a £450 price difference between it and the Vignale, which seems reasonable for the many enhancements.

The seven-seat S-MAX was already a good basis for the Vignale treatment, and we reckon it’ll be more popular than the Mondeo Vignale. The 177bhp 2.0-litre TDCi engine provides decent acceleration off the line, with good overtaking ability, and was mated to the silky smooth six-speed manual gearbox in our test car. While the engine is chattery from the outside when cold, occupants won’t hear a peep out of it. And the inevitable sound from the wind for a vehicle this size and shape is nicely muted, with very little noise from the tyres. Ride comfort is pretty good, too, even with the optional 19-inch alloy wheels. At slow to medium speeds the bumps are soaked up nicely, with only deep craters resulting in a jolt. The S-MAX has always been one of the most entertaining multi-purpose vehicles on the road, designed to give hot hatch buyers something to aspire to once they have children. Accurate, well-weighted steering delivers plenty of feedback, while exceptional body control and minimal body lean means it doesn’t wallow around corners like so many other seven-seaters. It’s the ultimate large family choice for the enthusiastic driver.

The most upmarket S-MAX to date also happens to be the most pleasing MPV to pilot, and should be the seven-seater of choice for more enthusiastic drivers.

The leather covering to the dashboard and doors lifts the ambiance enormously, though it’s a shame that the glovebox door and the plastics lower down are still hard. An elevated driving position gives the driver and passengers a good view out, and thanks to deep windows and parking sensors fitted as standard, manoeuvring in tight spaces is fuss-free. Leg and headroom is plentiful for front and middle row passengers, and thanks to a wide cabin and three individual seats that recline, slide and fold, it’s possible for a trio of occupants to spread out in comfort. For the sixth and seventh chairs, they are best suited to children, or short journeys. Even with all seats in place, there’s 285 litres of luggage room, which is a larger space than you’ll find in some superminis. But fold the third row down and it opens up to an enormous space that is deep and wide, with a low loading sill.

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