The start point for the best source of fleet information
Phase two of Ford's attempt to give its car line-up a posh top end has arrived in the form of the new S-max Vignale.
Following on from the Mondeo, and with the Edge and Kuga also in the pipeline, the S-max Vignale treads the same path in terms of acting as a top-spec version of the regular MPV.
Plush interior, extra technology and exterior detailing all mark out the Vignale as something more special than the regular seven-seater, with what Ford describes as the "hexagonal-quilted Windsor leather featuring prominent tuxedo-style stitching for the seats" providing a particularly comfortable place to land. The external changes include a bespoke grille, chrome detailing around the door handles and Vignale badging, as well as unique alloy wheels.
The regular S-max's strengths are alive and well too, with the car enjoying the practicality and fine-driving characteristics synonymous with the car that has forged a reputation as the antidote to large, boxy people carriers. The sleeker, stylish curves and lower roofline hide the bulk well, and nice touches include a third row that can be power-raised to save reaching into the boot to pull the back two seats upright.
Ford sought to establish the Vignale branding to give those buyers increasingly opting for the top-end trim levels somewhere else to go, rather than switching to premium brands, and this arguably makes more sense in the MPV sector, where buyers tend to be more accepting of the slightly higher purchase price, and where prestige options are less dominant.
The costs case is also interesting for these cars, not least because the S-max Vignale surprisingly gets a lower predicted residual value than the top-spec version of the regular model, the Titanium Sport, at 36.0% and 40.5%, respectively. That compares with 34.7% for the comparable BMW, and just 30.5% for the top-spec VW Sharan, but 44.9% for a seven-seat Discovery Sport.
For whole-life costs, the Vignale ends up more expensive per mile than the top-end BMW 2-series Gran Tourer and the Discovery Sport, but well below the Sharan, which is more expensive but with a much worse residual than the S-max. The S-max Titanium Sport, for comparison, beats all the cars mentioned here at 62.4p per mile, although it does start with the lowest list price.
So it's expensive, but not prohibitively so, and reasonably efficient too, creeping under 130g/km for the manual, while the 180hp diesel - the lowest power of the three units on offer and the only one available as a manual - is well-mated to the big S-max, and offers a refined drive. It makes you wonder if the extra 30hp of the more powerful diesel - only available as an auto and at a cost of £750 over the 180hp auto - is worth the step up.
The S-max makes more sense than the Mondeo as a Vignale offshoot, as there's not the same level of premium competition and more buyers already tend to go for the higher trims. There's a huge gap between the Vignale and the next S-max down, which to many would be the sensible choice, but the new top model does at least offer a decent, more premium alternative.