2015 Ford C-Max 1.5 TDCi Titanium X: what happens when driver assistance systems go wrong?

Some people love to criticise any sort of driver assistance system. A lot of drivers refuse to accept that, on occasion, the car can handle a situation better than them. But even an expert would struggle to cadence brake at the rate of modern ABS systems (18 times a second, if you’re interested).

Parking assistance systems are brilliant, to my mind – from sensors that help you avoid that post that is plain and simply out of view, to those that will park for you and let you concentrate on other matters.


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Our long-term Ford C-Max is packed with clever electrical gadgetry to make life for the family man easier. We rate its superb handling, and part of this is down to the torque vectoring system. This was first developed on the Focus RS, before making it way into family cars such as the C-Max.

Essentially, rather than acting like traditional traction control (which frustratingly cuts power if it detects wheel-slip), torque vectoring can gently brake either of the front wheels to prevent them spinning up – particularly in wet or icy conditions.

[bctt tweet=”“No, I do NOT want to lift off here thank you very much”” via=”no”]

Generally, it works well. Get carried away in the Christmas rush, chuck the C-Max into a slippery roundabout with too much gusto and you can feel the systems desperately trying to prevent the wheels spinning as you understeer towards the verge.

But it’s not flawless. Electrical systems can have gremlins, as I’ve been discovering over the Christmas period. On exiting one wet roundabout, the system went all ‘1990s traction control’ on me, completely cutting power at the crucial moment when I thought I really needed it to drag the car into line. A mini argument occurred: “No, I do NOT want to lift off here thank you very much”. “Yes you do, you idiot, that barrier is about to ruin your Christmas.”

Seemingly the car knew better than I did, as I survived to tell the tale.


A day later, I pulled over to the side of a Welsh moorland road to get a quick snap of the C-Max looking all Christmassy in wintery conditions. The surface I stopped on was broken tarmac – firm, but very cold and wet. I realised that I was in danger of losing grip if I attempted to pull away too dramatically.

I edged it forward with a trickle of revs, then stalled it like a clumsy learner driver. So I started it again, and the traction control seemed to be overwhelmed by the conditions. It was a strange situation – with my left foot on the clutch, and my right foot preparing to give the accelerator the slightest of squeezes, strange noises could be heard as the torque vectoring seemed to apply the brakes to both front wheels and panic as if I were flooring the C-Max through deep mud. I was only on broken tarmac, remember.

I turned the engine off and on again. It calmed down. I drove off with a little more gas and no issues, and it’s been fine ever since. Strange, huh?

In other news, the C-Max has been a wonderful partner over the Christmas break. From negotiating Tesco car park on December 24th (its cross-traffic alert is quite literally a life-saver in these conditions) to pounding the motorways chock-full with bulky presents, it’s taken it all in its stride.

Fuel economy hasn’t been anything to shout about. Covering around 800 miles over the last couple of weeks on Crimbo duties, it’s averaged around 50mpg. And on a trip up the A1 to Yorkshire, with cruise control at 65mph most of the way, it struggled to break the 60mpg barrier. When you consider the official 68.9mpg figure, that’s not great. But then, for a car of this size and shape, it’s far from woeful.

Notepad

  • Wonder if the more powerful 2.0-litre TDCi would make for a more relaxing drive and perhaps better fuel economy at motorway speeds…

Specification

Price (October 2015): £23,395
Price with options: £25,220 (metallic paint £250, rear parking sensors £225, key free system £700, blind spot information system £400, SYNC2 DAB navigation system £250)
Engine: 1.5-litre TDCI turbodiesel
Power: 120hp
Torque: 199lb ft
0-62mph: 11.3 secs
Top speed: 114mph
MPG: 68.9
CO2: 105g/km