Currently reading: Ford S-Max v Merc E-class estate
Two different ways of carrying seven people, but which has the most real-world appeal?

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.

See the exclusive test pictures

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.

But in other areas the S-Max can't disguise its origins. The 67bhp deficit of its 161bhp motor is masked by a 235kg weight advantage, but its 251lb ft of torque at 2000rpm isn't so easily ignored against the Merc's 398lb ft down at 1600rpm.

Even when fully laden the Benz feels truly effortless, needing to use fewer revs and lower gears to do any job. The Ford is game, and its optional six-speed auto closer to the Merc's seven-speeder than you might think, but its engine is coarser and needs to be worked hard for pace.

The S-Max rides well on its Mondeo-derived chassis, but the E-class, with its standard self-levelling rear suspension, offers world-class comfort. Likewise, while you won't moan about noise levels in the Ford, you'll likely marvel at how well the Mercedes isolates you.


Based on these two cars, it's honours even.

Both are exceptional at what they do, the Ford punching well above its weight yet unable to make the Mercedes look less than good value.

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If you want a result, then it must be the Mercedes - but not the one you see here. For £28,895 you can buy an E220 CDI SE wagon that will outperform the S-Max, use a little less rather than substantially more fuel, will cost below £2000 more than the Ford tested here, and still come with all that load-carrying ability as standard.

The full test review is available in Autocar magazine, on sale now.

See all the latest Ford S-Max reviews, news and videoSee all the latest Mercedes E-class reviews, news and video

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JimmyJacko 19 July 2010

Re: Ford S-Max v Merc E-class estate

Hmm, think the S-Max is great but wondering if it would be more fair to compare the E-Class with the Galaxy.

Both the S-Max and Galaxy have the EcoBoost engines - I don't think the E-Class can compete with fuel effiency...

The best family movers around ?


morellomax 15 June 2010

Re: Ford S-Max v Merc E-class estate

nicksheele wrote:

morellomax wrote:

Of course, if you want a Merc badge and 7 seats that actually face the right way (saves on valeting costs - vomit is a bugger to get out of seats and carpets), then you have to put up with the bloated, badly built dog's dinner that is the R class. Prices from £40k, comes with a free 5 year diary so you can plan parking and overtaking manoeuvres in advance.....

'5 year diary', eh? So the 7-seat Land Rover Disco comes with a Mayan calendar?

Before all you transparent Merc-bashers get carried away with tortoise-like performance descriptions and value-for-money comparisons like an English 3-bed semi, cast an eye on a Land Rover Discovery:

0-60 mph 9 secs, max speed 112 mph, 30 mpg, 242 bhp, 444 lb.ft, 'HSE' £50k.

Now compare that to a long wheelbase, facelifted 350 CDI R-class:

0-60 mph 7.5 secs, max speed 145 mph, 33 mpg, 261 hp, 457 lb.ft, price £45k,

And before we get too carried away stamping on the build quality of anything that comes out of Mercedes-Benz Tuscaloosa, take a look at the build quality reputation of Land Rover Solihull.

Oh yeah, you forgot to add - for a full-house - Rooney is the world's best player - then we would have known you were really taking the p!ss.

Calm down. I didn't even bring the Discovery into it, nor am I a Merc basher in general. I like this latest E-class, and I like (and have owned) other lovely expensive German machinery. I'm just saying that the price gap between the S-Max and the E-class is bigger than the article suggests, and that the gap gets still bigger if you put the S-Max up against something with a Merc badge and 7 forward facing seats. That's a reasonable point to make, since anyone considering an S-Max anyway is likely to be wanting to use more than 5 seats on a regular basis.

When I get fed up of the Ford dealer network and the slightly duff stereo and the odd rattle and creak, how much is it going to cost me to cart the family round in something genuinely better ? More than it should.....

Chris576 14 June 2010

Re: Ford S-Max v Merc E-class estate

It's perfectly reasonable to take cars from different sectors of the market and compare how they do the job. It's reasonable for buyers to go through the same process.

But the S-Max isn't a car. It isn't even a substitute for a car.