From £25,6707
The Ford S-Max Vignale is the company's premium executive express. Can it really be worth the extra over the standard S-Max?

What is it?

Ford is being squeezed, and it’s all down to our buying habits. A couple of decades ago we’d likely have rocked up to the Harvester in a Mondeo to enjoy a steak dinner with the clan; these days we’re more likely to be pulling up to Jamie Oliver’s Diner in an Audi, BMW or Mercedes.

So our tastes have moved upmarket, and the Vignale range – which now includes this S-Max and the Edge alongside the Mondeo - is Ford’s answer. The theory makes sense: take a fine car such as the S-Max, trim it out in high-grade leather, add high-end features such as massaging seats, and serve with a personal concierge service.

What's it like?

We’ve been driving the front-wheel-drive 178bhp diesel, although other varieties are available: you can have four-wheel drive, a more powerful 207bhp twin-turbo diesel, or a 237bhp petrol.

The 178bhp is a fine reference point. It’s not the fastest thing on four wheels, but that term ‘adequate’ seems to spring readily to mind. It’ll hit 70mph with no fuss, but little enthusiasm either.

You can opt for an auto, but we had a crack with the six-speed manual gearbox. It’s a pleasure to sift through the slick gate, and lets you extract the most from the agreeably smooth engine. Sure, you can hear some distant diesel clatter at slow speeds, but otherwise it hums away in the background, complimenting the hushed road and wind noise, and advancing the claim that the Vignale’s a sophisticated beast.

It's sporty-ish, too, with well-managed body control and decent composure down a lumpy B-road. Our car came equipped with Ford’s new toy – the optional variable steering. It gives the car great high-speed stability, with a supercar-quick rack at slower speed. Its urgency needs time to dial in to, but the more natural self-centring action, compared with that of the standard steering, is an instant hit.

A well set-up chassis can often aid passenger comfort, too. So the S-Max Vignale is a pleasant car to drive, or be driven in, from coast to coast. It has the ability smooth out roads that in lesser cars, appear to be strewn with stalagmites. If you’ve ever hired an S-Max on a skiing holiday, as I did a few months back, you’ll know it’s also a roomy five-seater. You can make that seven if you use the kiddy-sized pull-up seats in the back; or leave them down and make use of the huge boot.


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So we know it’s comfortable, refined and spacious, but what about quality? It’s an area Ford isn’t known to excel in, and one that the premium brands tend to have licked. Well, the seats looks good in their agreeably soft hides, and happen to be extremely supportive, pleasurable even, with the massaging feature in play. The stitched leather over the dashboard and piano-black inserts also set the Vignale apart from lesser S-Maxes. Then you look a little farther down the cabin and the bubble bursts.

That’s where the scratchy stuff resides, like the hard plastic glovebox lid. Ford may get away with this on a car costing £25k, but at not at this level, when competing with the premium German brands.

This was our first chance to sample Ford’s new Sync 3 infotainment system, and it’s a real improvement. The menus seemed more intuitive, while the larger icons no longer need fingers like needles to hit with any degree of accuracy. It’s still no iDrive, though.

Should I buy one?

We like the S-Max Vignale, for the same reasons we like the regular S-Max. Why wouldn’t we? It’s got nicer trim and a whole bunch of extra goodies, so it’s bound to be better.

Yet there’s that elephant in the room, pointing out the obvious question: would we spend £35k on one, over say, a cheaper BMW 2 Series Gran Tourer?

I think you can guess where this is heading. Comparatively, the Vignale is going to have the equivalent of financial alopecia, shedding great chunks of its value by trade-in time. In the unlikely event that money happens to be no object to you, chances are you will be a badge snob: that is, you’ll want to be seen at Jamie’s rather than the Harvester, pulling up in a BMW rather than a Ford.

So there you have it. Yes, you will have ‘Ford Vignale Services’ at your disposal, which Ford states will attend to your every whim, but unless that entails sending a chap to do your ironing, the kids’ homework and put the bin out on Thursdays, we can’t see many of you changing your buying habits anytime soon.

Ford S-Max Vignale 2.0 Duratorq TDCi 180PS

Location Hampshire; On sale Now; Price £33,395; Engine 1997cc, diesel; Power 178bhp at 3500rpm; Torque 295lb ft at 2000rpm; Gearbox 6-spd manual; Kerb weight 1726kg; 0-62mph 9.7sec; Top speed 131mph; Economy 56.5mpg (combined); CO2/tax band 129g/km, 25%

Join the debate


24 June 2016
Not sure where Ford were going with this one? You can't even blame the "One Ford" policy from the US as they aren't getting the Vignale trim out there, it's a European (that feels like a dirty word today!) trim level only.

Sadly the days of the Cortina 2000E are gone and ultimately, this is what this car is a modern day version of. Depreciation is always going to be an issue because of the how good the base car is and people that put their own money in to a car will have considered that before buying a BMW or Audi.

That said, the modern car market is rapidly going down the route of lease schemes and the like. If Ford can offer these cars on that scheme at a competitive rate, then this is where that can get sales (well, leases).

24 June 2016
To be honest I still don't know how to pronounce the ruddy name. It all seems like such a waste of money by Ford (the sub brand) - money they could have better spent on higher quality glove box plastic across the WHOLE range.


24 June 2016
The S-Max transcends some of the brand snobbery and would have no hesitation taking one over a 2 series tourer..

24 June 2016
I'd easily have this over the 2 series. Much bigger car for starters, and will have a lot of extra kit as standard of the BMW. Only thing I would have like to have seen would be a differnt look to the outside to distinguish it over the standard car

25 June 2016
Yeah! Fantastic idea, as everyone is buying Mundaneo Vignale's you see them on every street. Super luxury mpv's are on every other person's wish list. Give it 2 month's they'll be worth the same as the normal S-max. Similar to what's happened to the Mundaneo Vignale. The arse has fallen out of them.

27 June 2016
Before laughably trying to be a premium brand, on their mainstream models Ford should sort out their crappy dealers, desperate customer service and woeful 1 year warranty (the next two years excludes trim or 'service items'). They regard trim dropping off or corroding as 'wear and tear'. Service items include things like gearbox oil which is horrifically expensive and is supposed to last 3 years or 36,000 mile. When it doesn't it's just tough luck, even if you have followed the service schedule.

Maybe if Ford looked after it's existing customers properly they wouldn't go off and buy a BMW or Audi next time. Just a thought. I won't be back, by the way.

27 June 2016
Soren Lorenson wrote:

.... Service items include things like gearbox oil which is horrifically expensive and is supposed to last 3 years or 36,000 mile ..

Interested in knowing what Ford you have that has Gearbox oil as a Service item each year(or is it 3, difficult to understand)? And is really horrifically expensive at maybe £40 every 3 years.

29 June 2016
It's an S-Max Power-Shift Auto. The gearbox oil is supposed to be changed every three years or 36,000 miles at a cost of £270. Mine lasted 2 years and 3 months and 32,000 miles before the box gave up. I know it's only a minor thing but Ford were not interested at all. It certainly doesn't cost them £270 to make it so its just a massive profit item for them.

28 June 2016
I read that Vignale was an Italian design house, just like Ghia was!!!!!!
So "Vignale" is the modern day equivalent to "Ghia" & we all know where that went!!!!!
(down the tubes!!!)
Ford hasn't got a leg to stand on in it's battle with the premium brands, even VW's Golf has surpassed the Focus in the UK sales charts.

29 June 2016
Like high quality, good value, desirability or fit for purpose, premium is just one more descriptor which should never be used in conjunction with the word Ford.


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