2005 Ford Five Hundred
This 2005 review is representative of model years 2005 to 2007.
By Dan Jedlicka of MSN Autos
Ford knows that razzle-dazzle doesn't play well in the rather somber family sedan market, which is dominated by the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord and has a few strong American players such as the Chevrolet Impala.
Ford thus went the conservative route when designing its new 2005 Five Hundred family sedan, which is technically a midsize car but has an enormous amount of interior room for occupants and cargo. Rear-seat room is especially impressive, although the center of the back seat is too hard for comfort. The Five Hundred thus is comfortable for four tall occupants, not five.
Big outside door handles make it easy to slide in and out, although the rear doors should open a little wider and inside door handles are on the small side. Occupants sit several inches higher than in some regular sedans, and the interior is airy, with lots of glass area. The especially large windshield is covered by long wipers, and big outside mirrors also help driver visibility.
Impressive Assembly Plant
Ford plans to sell 280,000 units of those three vehicles, with most having Ford Motor's Ford division brand. It plans to make about 120,000 Five Hundreds annually, with the same number of Freestyles, but says it's too early to tell if both will have such equal popularity.
The nice paint and precise fit and finish of my test Five Hundred's body panels and other parts reflect good attention to quality and the use of the latest equipment at the revamped plant, which I toured.
The Five Hundred is based on Ford-owned Volvo's P2 platform used for such Volvo models as the S60 and XC90. However, it would have cost Ford too much to use some Volvo parts. For instance, the rear suspension crade is similar to Volvo's, but Ford uses steel while Volvo uses pricier cast aluminum.
A smaller engine generally delivers higher fuel economy. The Five Hundred with front-wheel drive and a six-speed automatic transmission provides an EPA-estimated 21 mpg in the city and 29 on highways. The figures are 20 and 27 with front-wheel drive and a continuously variable automatic (CVT) transmission and 19 and 26 with all-wheel drive and the CVT.
Only 87-octane fuel is called for to fill the car's 19-gallon tank.
All-wheel-drive versions have Ford's first CVT for North America. It has an infinite number of gears and thus is more efficient than a regular automatic; a driver neither hears nor feels shift points.
Various Well-Equipped Trim Levels
Even the SE has a standard automatic transmission, air conditioning, a power driver's seat, an AM/FM/CD, anti-lock brakes, traction control, speed control, tilt steering column, remote keyless entry, folding power side mirrors, split-folding rear seatbacks, one-touch automatic driver's window, fairly large 17-inch wheels and power windows, mirrors and locks.
The SEL adds a power front passenger seat with a fold-flat seatback, steering wheel audio controls, MP3 capability, woodgrain interior appliques and automatic temperature control. The Limited adds 18-inch wheels, leather seats, bright grille texture, memory function for mirrors and driver's seat—and a storage compartment in the second-row armrest.
Options include an $895 sunroof and $250 reverse sensing system for the SEL and Limited—and $175 adjustable pedals for the Limited. Also optional are front-seat side airbags and side-curtain rollover airbags, which cost $795 for the SE and $595 for the SEL and Limited.
The front-wheel-drive SE, SEL and Limited have a conventional 6-speed automatic transmission, although Ford says the CVT is a no-cost option for the front-wheel-drive SE. The all-wheel-drive versions have the CVT.
My test car was an SEL all-wheel-drive version with the CVT. That transmission shifted smoothly, but emitted a slight whine during acceleration. One might not hear the whine if the car didn't have such a super-quiet interior, and I didn't notice it with the sound system on.
Interior Pros and Cons
My test car's rather small steering wheel was overly crowded with auxiliary controls for the sound and cruise control systems. Also, the shift lever partly blocks the front console cupholders when in the "drive" position, and rear windows don't lower all the way.
The driver has a large floor area on which to rest his left foot. The front armrest is deep, as is the rear one, which contains cupholders. All doors have pockets for such items as maps and beverage holders, and the covered front console bin is large.
The inside hood release feels flimsy, and the hood is held up with an old-fashioned prop rod instead of struts. However, fluid filler areas can be easily reached.
The Taurus, which will be built outside Chicago for awhile, once held the No. 1 auto sales slot. The Five Hundred has a way to go to overtake entrenched Toyota and Honda in the midsize sedan market, but it has all the right credentials to be a strong challenger.