The Ford S-Max and Mercedes E-class estate are two different ways of carrying seven people, but which has the most real-world appeal?
Sure, they are a class - and £10,000 - apart, but if you are looking for full-sized, all-purpose, faithful retainers, at their respective price points it just doesn't get any better than these two.
Are the differences between them actually more perceived than real? Once you drill down beyond the Benz badge does the E-class still appeal?
The E350 CDI Sport we test here costs £40,400 - a considerable sum more than the £28,260 Ford S-Max 2.0 TDCi, which is groaning under the weight of equipment.
From a practical point of view the choice seems easy. The S-Max's third-row seats not only point the same way as the others but are also much more useful than those in the E-class and could even be occupied by adults for short journeys.
Ultimately, it is the Merc that offers greater legroom for middle-seat passengers, but the S-Max counters with greater flexibility, thanks to seats that slide and recline as well as folding flat into the floor.
Where the Ford ultimately wins is on load space - the Merc's 1950-litre capacity dwarfs that of conventional rivals, but the Ford opens out to swallow 2100 litres.
The S-Max has long been the MPV of choice for those who like to drive, but the surprise here is how close it runs a brand new estate already noted for the excellence of its handling.
The Mercedes has more grip and better dynamic balance, but it is the lighter, front-wheel-drive Ford that owns the more incisive, communicative steering. It feels at least as poised, too.