New Ford S-MAX Vignale model goes upmarket

21 Mar, 2016 4:36pm John McIlroy

We visit Ford's Cologne design studio to take a look at the Ford S-MAX Vignale - the brand's efforts to take the MPV to new heights

The Ford S-MAX Vignale has been revealed at the 2016 Geneva Motor Show. The seven-seat MPV was unveiled officially alongside the Edge Vignale and Kuga Vignale Concept at the brand’s press conference.

If the Edge is looking beyond regular Ford buyers, the S-MAX Vignale surely has the potential to hoover up demand from existing owners. More than three-quarters of S-MAX buyers in the UK go for Titanium trim or above, and some of them, you’d assume, would like even more luxury. Certainly, the latest model’s shape – the natural evolution of the rakish wedge that redefined the MPV a decade ago – seems comfortable, with 19-inch Vignale alloys and flashes of chrome on its sides.

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“We could actually have made S-MAX Vignale with the old generation,” says Chris Bird, global colour and materials design director, “but we’re glad we waited. The lines of the new one seem to suit the luxurious look a little bit better.” Claudio Messale, Vignale styling director, agrees, adding: “I wouldn’t necessarily say S-MAX was the easiest Vignale to resolve, but it did seem to happen quite naturally. We worked alongside the team designing the regular car, and it all came together well.”

The S-MAX’s cabin feels just as plush as the Edge’s. Indeed, the dashboard treatment – complete with turned aluminium insert – is exactly the same. “It shows what we can do when we have a common architecture between Edge and this car,” says design director Piaskowski. Still, it does feel a little odd to have that double stitching and premium finish in a car that’s often used for brutal school runs. Even the pop-up third row of seats gets the same supple leather. The MPV will also feature the brand’s SYNC 3 infotainment system.

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Sonja Vandenberk, chief designer for colour and materials, acknowledges the paradox, but doesn’t see it as a problem. “It was an interesting challenge,” she says, “as Vignale has to be luxurious but S-MAX also stands for practicality and usability. Those elements don’t always sit easily together. But leather’s a robust material, and our Vignale spec is a better grade of hide with less treatment. We’ve also taken some decisions to help with this – so on cars with the light-coloured leather, the seatbacks are still black, meaning foot scuffs shouldn’t show up so badly.”

The Nero S-MAX is particularly appealing, perhaps because it sits so easily with that original definition of the S-MAX driver: someone who had to buy a family MPV but doesn’t want the world to know he did. It doesn’t seem to miss the chrome side strips too badly, and the darker grille and alloy wheels look sharp on the latest MPV’s shape.

Ford decided, incidentally, to launch an S-MAX Vignale instead of a Galaxy version. “We thought there was a more natural fit with the luxury brand,” says Bird. “The S-MAX already transcends any brand snobbery, so it’s an ideal vehicle for the more luxurious Vignale badge.”

Woudl you buy an S-MAX Vignale? Let us know below!