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Spied: Next-Gen Ford S-Max Spied Testing In America

Last we heard, Ford wasn't pursuing a large, seven-seater version of its forthcoming C-Max MPV for North America after all. But wait, what's this? Our spies recently caught what appears to be a super-stretched C-Max prototype testing out west.

Let's start with the obvious question: is this just a Grand C-Max? The photos suggest the answer to that question is a resounding "no." A quick look at the vehicle's hind quarters not only reveals the rear sliding doors have been sectioned and stretched, but that a similar treatment has been applied to most surfaces aft of the C-pillars. The rear wheel wells no longer meet the rear edge of the sliding door, the rear bumper no longer wraps all the way around to the wheel wells, and the D-pillars are roughly three times as thick as those on a stock Grand C-Max. The cant rails that frame the roof also appear thicker, and it almost appears as if the front fascia has also been widened ever so slightly

So, if this isn't a Grand C-Max, what is it? A larger Ford minivan/MPV, obviously, although it's not likely the European Galaxy, as Galaxy mules recently photographed by Autocar look completely different. Our spy photographer suggests this is an early mule for a next-generation Ford S-Max MPV, which slots in size-wise between the Focus-based C-Max and the larger Galaxy.

Interestingly, the S-Max and Galaxy may have more in common than ever before. Autocar reports the next Galaxy will share its platform used for the new 2013 Fusion and Mondeo. - which, as it so happens, will also be used for the S-Max. That same modified platform is also expected to underpin the next-generation Edge crossover, which is due to launch between 2014 and 2015.

Does the presence of an S-Max mule in the United States indicate the model will join the U.S. lineup in the near future? Not necessarily: we frequently see European-market vehicles (including a last-generation S-Max) testing on our roads, yet never see them wind up in our showrooms. It'd be interesting to see how Ford could add a seven-passenger S-Max to its existing U.S. portfolio - though it certainly would provide for a more traditional minivan-like package, Ford presently sells two seven-seat crossovers - the Flex and Explorer - in our market.

But what say you: is there room for a third? Would you like to see the Blue Oval return to minivans for the first time after exterminating the Freestar in 2007, or should it stick with crossovers? Send your thoughts our way by way of the poll below.