COME HITHER CABIN
The top Titanium X Sport trim helps make this a very inviting place to sit down for a driving spell but the low beltline, wide doors, easy entry floor height, and well engineered seat release systems also do their share. The front buckets are Porsche-worthy in terms of trim, support, grip, and sporting flavor. The second row is divided into three seating positions, all with tilt-adjustable backrests, while the third row adds another pair of adult-sized accommodations. Both back rows fold flat to provide six distinct combinations. There's also an underfloor cargo hold at the rear of the interior and various shades to hide what you're carrying from unscrupulous eyes. In addition, the door trim offers large beverage container stowage and there's a handy bin built into the top-center surface of the dash.
Designers went all out with an entertaining U-shaped parking brake handle, contrasting French-stitched trim, Alcantara seating inserts, and metal-plated pedals. Door trim spears are finished with a convincing titanium-like appearance. There's a useful left foot dead pedal and a 4-spoke steering wheel designed for serious drivers. Upper spokes are loaded with toggle switches that operate the audio system (left) and instrument cluster menus (right).
POWERTRAIN OF THE FUTURE
Two different 2.0-liter gasoline engines and two turbo diesels displacing 2.0- and 2.2-liters are available in S-Max along with two manual (5- and 6-speeds) transmissions and one 6-speed automatic. Luckily, we scored the most interesting combination -- a 2.0-liter EcoBoost engine rated at 200 horsepower mated to the 6-speed "Powershift" dual-clutch automatic.
In terms of power and smoothness, the EcoBoost four is as good or better than the V-6s we've experienced of late. There was no detectable shake under power or shimmy at idle. The intake and exhaust notes were pleasantly unobtrusive. We didn't measure mileage but the 18.5-gallon fuel tank provided a surprisingly large operating range.
A manual mode, engaged by moving the shift lever to the right into an S (sport) gate, was capable of holding gears to and at the 6500 rpm redline. Automatic shifts were polished and there was no apparent hesitation starting from rest without help from a torque converter. In European mileage tests, this powertrain scored an impressive 29 mpg in combined driving.