I'm easily suckered by both friends and automobiles - which may explain why I agreed to attend the 2008 Detroit auto show with a group of pals after I'd spent three eight-hour days there during press week.
The trip went well, but one friend - a follower of all things FoMoCo - started pestering me as we approached the Blue Oval's display stand.; What Ford-branded product, he inquired, would I actually consider purchasing?
"S-Max," I retorted.; As if on cue, one of the giant seizure-inducing LED screens lit up with pictures (and foreign praise) for the sleek European people mover.; His face lit up with a confused grimace while moving away to ogle a Flex.
I didn't choose European unobtanium in order to be a complete ass (only a minute one).; I just answered honestly.; Frankly, there's not a Ford offered here in the States that appeals to me on multiple levels like the S-Max does.
Obviously, it is practical, given its a tall minivan (multi-purpose vehicle, if you're convinced that's a dirty word).; S-Max offers three rows of seating, offering space for seven - or 30 cubic feet of cargo if the aft rows are folded flat.; From a powertrain perspective, the new 175-hp, 2.2-liter turbodiesel I-4 returns a respectable combined city/highway average of 36 mpg, making the thought of burning oil slightly more attractive.
But it's also remarkably stylish for a miniv- erm, MPV.; Say what you will of Ford's "Kinetic" design theme, but it almost always makes a vehicle look upscale.; Go look at the new Fiesta or the European-market Focus and tell me those don't look nicer than most of their sub- or compact class competitors.
The same goes for the S-Max.; As I drove to work this morning, I caught one undergoing testing and I had to do a double-take.; From a distance, the rear almost looked like an Audi, making me think I'd seen a black Q7 flying down the freeway.; Closer examination (and some spirited driving) revealed the mystery machine's true identity.
In spite of a sighting in Metro Detroit, I'm not holding out hope for seeing one in my friendly Ford dealer's showroom anytime soon.; Yes, I know we're getting the Fiesta on these shores, and certainly I'm aware of head honcho Alan Mullaly's wish for more European content on our shores and showroom floors.
But I'm also aware that our weak dollar doesn't support importing hordes of S-Max's from their Chinese assembly plant.; And yes, I know that in spite of praise from critics and owners alike, Mazda's 5 - a similar offering but in a smaller package - isn't setting sales records at this time.; For the moment, it seems unlikely that bean counters within the Glass House aren't giving me my ideal Ford anytime soon.
So then, I'll have to rest on my second choice: a Transit Connect with the optional second-row bench seat.; I'll take mine in blue; leave the bumpers in matte black, thank you very much.