The new S-Max, like the old one, is a car you can enjoy driving with a bit of spirit. Its moderately high grip levels, meaty steering and fairly taut body control defy the MPV mould and give the car more handling composure and deeper dynamic reserves than you might expect of it.
It’s still quite tall and quite heavy and has a long wheelbase, so you wouldn’t mistake it for a sports saloon. It turns in to corners neatly, but with a certain amount of body roll and a sincere but not avid keenness to change direction.
But for Ford to have aimed for anything more could have compromised the car’s ride compliance, stability and drivability, and its chassis engineers are much too wise for that.
For owners of other more gently tuned seven-seat rivals, the S-Max’s hold on the road and mastery of its own mass should certainly impress, which is most of what it needs to do.
Whether it’s a significantly better-handling car than its predecessor is more questionable and will depend a bit on personal taste. Ford’s latest electro-mechanical power steering systems haven’t done the Focus any favours, and although better on the larger Mondeo, they certainly don’t give the S-Max the same slick and oily-smooth, feelsome helm it used to have.
You can guide the car as precisely as ever, but there’s just enough elasticity and stiction in the rack to prevent you from striking up the ideal relationship with the front contact patches.