With the British winter already making its presence known, many car buyers will be contemplating investing in something with four-wheel drive. Something like this new Ford S-MAX AWD.
Around 12 per cent of cars sold in the UK have four-wheel drive, and Ford wants to cash in on that by offering family models like the Mondeo, Galaxy and S-MAX with its intelligent all-wheel-drive system.
Image 2 of 13
On the S-MAX, you can specify AWD on the 148bhp 2.0-litre diesel Titanium paired with a six-speed manual gearbox, or the more powerful and pricier 178bhp six-speed automatic Titanium Sport.
The 4x4 version weighs around 60kg more than the standard S-MAX, so our 148bhp version is a bit slower – getting from 0-62mph in 12.1 seconds compared to the front-wheel-drive car’s 10.8 seconds. The engine feels torquey, though, and in-gear response is strong enough that you don’t find yourself changing gear too often.
That means the S-MAX AWD is just as good as a motorway cruiser, with only a bit of road and wind noise at speed. It’s still comfortable to drive on more rutted roads, too, with well judged suspension that has a good balance between comfort and handling. Being a tall MPV, there is some body roll, but it doesn’t feel unstable through faster corners.
Image 3 of 13
Ford’s all-wheel-drive system is adaptive – meaning it sends more power to the front or rear wheels, depending on which requires more traction. It makes the car feel sure-footed, even on the slippery cobblestone section of Ford’s test track – and in the UK, while having the AWD system is not a necessity, it certainly gives you that extra reassurance when dealing with our famously unpredictable weather.
The main trade-off is when you look at the costs, however. The four-wheel drive adds £1,500, and the cheapest S-MAX AWD you can get your hands on is our £29,195 Titanium-spec test car.
Fuel economy takes a slight hit, too, with the AWD model claiming 52.3mpg – that’s 4.2mpg down on the standard model’s 56.5mpg. CO2 emissions also jump from 129 to 139g/km, so you’ll pay an extra £20 per year in road tax.
Image 5 of 13
Nevertheless, opting for an AWD model over the standard front-wheel-drive S-MAX doesn’t change anything inside. You still get the upmarket interior and mid-spec Titanium models come with sat-nav, Bluetooth, cruise control, DAB radio and automatic lights and wipers as standard.
Like the rest of the S-MAX range, the AWD model has plenty of space inside. There’s loads of head and legroom and a decent 285-litre boot with all seven seats in place. Fold the third row of seats and you free up 965 litres; drop the middle row, too, and there’s up to 2,020 litres. That’s a bit bigger than the Citroen Grand C4 Picasso – and you can’t get that with all-wheel drive.