Ford's S-Max minivan, shown at Geneva a year ago, has won the international Auto Bild Group's 'Auto 1 of Europe' award while the innovation prize for the best new technical development of the year went to the 'advanced pre crash safety system' in the Lexus LS460.

The awards followed the claimed biggest reader poll in Europe - about 35m in 24 countries - extensive tests and the opinions of racing drivers, motoring journalists and engineers on a judging panel.

Auto Bild publisher Axel Springer's Andreas Wiele, presented a trophy to Ford Europe president and CEO John Fleming at an event at the Geneva show last night (7 March).

For the first time Auto Bild also awarded six trophies for individual vehicle categories. The winners were:

Small and compact cars:
Volvo C30 (ahead of Opel Corsa and Skoda Roomster)

Sedans and station wagons:
Lexus GS450h (ahead of Honda Legend and Volvo S80)

Off-road and SUVs:
BMW X5
(ahead of Audi Allroad and Hyundai Santa Fe)

Minivans and MPVs:
Ford S-Max
(ahead of Citroen C4 Picasso and Seat Altea XL)

Sports cars and coupés:
BMW 3-series Coupé
(ahead of Audi TT Coupé and Ferrari 599 GTB)

Convertibles and roadsters:
Volkswagen Eos
(ahead of Alfa Spider and Lamborghini Gallardo Spyder)

The Lexus LS460 pre-crash safety system has a special infrared stereo camera for early detection of dangers and an associated infrared face field recognition system can check whether the driver is looking ahead in critical situations.

In an emergency, the car will brake automatically with a force of up to 0.6g if a collision threatens. Another new feature is the radar sensor at the rear which gives warning of imminent impact if a following vehicle is approaching too fast. If the system registers danger, it positions the active head restraints and tightens the safety belts.