Big Piney, Wyoming, United States
The Blue Oval's 'One Ford' mantra has seen rapid commonization of the automaker's products across markets, but North America still has to look from afar at most of the company's Max-branded people movers, including this new S-Max. That's a bit of a shame - we like the space efficiency and above-average driving dynamics of the C-Max models we do get, but seeing this updated seven-seat small minivan makes us want the One Ford initiative to extend even further.
The new model's changes include an updated powertrain range including a 1.5-liter EcoBoost four with 158 horsepower, and a larger, 237-horsepower, 2.0-liter model, along with a pair of revised lower-emissions 2.0-liter diesels. The big news, however, is the advent of available all-wheel drive, something that hasn't been offered since the S-Max first went on sale back in 2006.
On the technology front, the S-Max is the first European model to receive Ford Adaptive Steering, a variable-ratio technology we recently sampled in a prototype Fusion that is expected to go into production on the next-generation Edge. The S-Max also receives a new aluminum-intensive integral link rear suspension, packaged to continue to fit up to 32 different seating combinations. Safety equipment is always a prime concern in kinschleppers like the S-Max, and to that end, this new model receives pre-collision assist technology and LED headlamps.
It's taken four years of study, but the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has finally closed the books on its investigation into rollaway accusations surrounding 1.56-million Ford SUV models.
The probe, which centered on the 2002-2005 Ford Explorer, 2002-2005 Mercury Mountaineer and 2003-2005 Lincoln Aviator, ends without the federal agency calling for a recall. According to The Detroit News, the investigation was closed due to a "low number of complaints" - NHTSA documented 180 such complaints that resulted in 14 crashes and six minor injuries, but the number of incidents have been slowing. The suspected defect rate for the trucks' automatic transmissions was found to be 4.4 per 100,000 units, and the brake-shift interlock mechanism failure rate was judged to be even lower at 3.4 per 100k.
Ford is toiling away, installing heavy-duty engine components into select 3.7-liter V6s to allow them to run on compressed natural gas (CNG) and liquid petroleum gas (LPG) in addition to gasoline. That's nothing new, but now, Ford has announced that it will offer the 2014 F-150 with this engine configuration, bringing the Blue Oval's total number of CNG/LPG-friendly vehicles up to eight. The F-150 will be the only half-ton pickup on the market that can run on these gases.
Ford will charge $315 per vehicle to equip the optional engine, but the trucks won't be ready to run on the alternative fuels straight from the factory and must be upfitted with additional equipment. A Ford Qualified Vehicle Modifier will install a separate fuel system for the compressed gases at a cost of $7,500 to $9,500, depending on fuel tank size. With the right-size tank, the F-150 equipped with the CNG/LPG-prepped engine can go 750 miles on one tank of gas, according to Ford, averaging 23 miles per gallon.
The practice of offering flex-fuel vehicles is gaining momentum as businesses take advantage of cheap gas. CNG can be bought for $2.11/gallon on average (per gasoline equivalent), and sometimes for as little as $1.00 in some parts of the US, Ford states. "With the money saved using CNG, customers could start to see payback on their investment in as little as 24 to 36 months," says Jon Coleman, Ford's fleet sustainability and technology manager. The automaker expects to sell a total of 15,000 CNG/LPG-prepped vehicles in the 2014 model year.