No cars were harmed during the writing of this review

Posted on: 24 September 2015 by Michael Edwards

Ford’s new look C Max is tortured to the limit at the Lommel Testing circuit in Belgium writes Michael Edwards

Ford 2015 C-Max 1.5 EcoBoost

Ford’s C max is one of the most tested and tortured cars of all time. It was driven nearly 6 million miles in just 6 months over test tracks replicating Parisian cobbles, Brazil’s particularly vindictive railroad crossings and ultra deep Indian potholes.  Roads at the Lommel facility, driven day and night by gaunt looking test drivers, pay tribute to the worst of roads in 25 countries. Add in 5,000 figures of eight at a stomach-churning 18mph to replicate the wear and tear of urban driving.

A banked high-speed 4 kilometre track is worryingly reminiscent of the killer Nürburgring circuit back in the 1970s. Disappointingly there was a little more wind-rush and road noise than I had expected from the C Max at speeds of around 70 mph.

Then, for Ford’s family favourite, there was the high humidity chamber for 6 weeks and salt baths for another 6. Just to make sure, the cars are driven at minus 40 °C in the Arctic Circle and also in the soaring heat of Death Valley in the Mojave Desert. Back in the laboratories it is also bombarded with 156 days of ultra-violet light, testing for sun-light levels far exceeding those experienced in Europe.

But the worst case scenario is the enemy within, motoring’s Fifth Column. Kids spill fizzy drinks, smear chocolate into the upholstery and stamp mud into the carpet. Scratching paws complete the assault on interior trims and paintwork. Grown-ups have been known to spill coffee too.

Ford’s material scientists are continually pushing the boundaries, spilling milk and cola on textiles until their suppliers have produced fabrics with state-of-the-art liquid repellent features. 

Think of a five pronged medieval mace-like torture device and you’ve got the equipment Ford use to replicate scratches on interior textiles originating from belt-buckles and jewellery. Continually Ford seeks to reduce the staining properties of substances such as sun lotion and nail polish remover. Of course flame retardant tests on the upholstery are obligatory.

Ford prepared the C - Max for a mid-life facelift with far more than just a cosmetic make-over. Already well-placed in the ultra-competitive Multi Purpose Vehicle market segment, thanks to road-holding and suspension coping with what is impressive poke for an MPV,  Ford test the C - Max internally and externally with regimes that are positively sadistic. Countries have gone to war with less foresight and presumably smaller budgets too.

Michael Edwards testing 'third age' suit

Designers wear pregnancy suits and Third Age suits to empathise with drivers. Gauges on the elbows and knees set different degrees of restriction on the Third Age Suit, stained goggles and ear muffs replicate declining eyesight and failing hearing. The C Max is engineered to ensure that it meets the needs of as many drivers as possible. There is even a vibrating arm-piece to simulate the symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease.

Far more elegant and stylish than many a MPV, which so often are a Playschool amalgam of boxes, the C - Max is an attractive proposition for empty-nesters, perhaps a pension-pot treat. Put cases and golf-clubs in the boot for a leisurely road-trip.  

But nowadays children have a tendency to boomerang back-home. Even worse they perceive their parents as free child-care or pet-care facilities.  Grandparents are expected to provide taxi services for football (mud), cinema trips (popcorn and fizzy drinks) and trips to the countryside (more mud).

Safety has been beefed up too with the addition of Active City Stop. LED sensors take on responsibility for braking when the driver’s attention has meandered. At urban speeds ACS should prevent a crash, any faster and it still reduces the impact.

Ultra-sonic sensors raise the alarm if cross-traffic is passing when reversing, very useful when backing out of a parking space into busy traffic. But drivers may worry that smart technologies - there is a total of 18 sensors, cameras and radars – are threatening to deskill human beings.   

Drive past a parking space, press the P button, slip into the reverse and the Perpendicular Parking feature, will do the rest until it tells you to finish off the manoeuvre by changing into first gear. Hands-free steering, during parking, is another step along the way to the driverless car.  

Storage and boot space Ford C-Max 1.5 EcoBoost

So should you buy a C – Max? On the plus side it is surprisingly fun to drive for an MPV that can transform into a flexible vehicle, for the return of hectic family life, at a moment’s notice. Although some competing MPVs offer more storage space, the C – Max is very comfortable indeed: ample head-room and legroom – unless you have to shoehorn 3 adults into the back seats.

With prices beginning at around £180,000 you are paying a premium for safety features and resilience. Opt for top of the range models, with extras, and there would be scant change from £25,000. At entry level there is the award-winning 1.0 Litre 3 cylinder EcoBoost Petrol Engine. The diesel range opens with a 1.5L TDCi option.

And finally never believe what you read. Ford’s tow-trucks and engineers are constantly on call to assist cars falling victim to Lommel’s terrors.  Cars were very definitely harmed. 

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