2007 Ford Five Hundred

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2005 Ford Five Hundred

This 2005 review is representative of model years 2005 to 2007.
By Dan Jedlicka of MSN Autos
Rating: 8

Bottom Line:

A nice new middle-of-the-road family sedan with a touch of European flair.
Pros:
  • Roomy
  • Lively
  • Good ride and handling
Cons:
  • Bland styling
  • Plain interior
  • CVT transmission whine

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
The Five Hundred has a 112.9-inch wheelbase and is 200.7 inches long, making it appreciably larger than the Taurus formerly built at Ford's giant Chicago Assembly Plant, which has been totally revamped and turned into a flexible manufacturing facility to produce a variety of models. Besides the Five Hundred, the similar Ford Freestyle crossover vehicle and Mercury Montego sedan are being built at the plant—with other new models to follow.

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.

No Head-Turner
The Five Hundred has smooth styling, but looks too bland to turn heads. While conventional, the interior has a no-nonsense European-style design. A plus is availability of all-wheel drive for all trim levels, which have standard front-wheel drive.

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.

Strong Acceleration
The new Ford's 3.0-liter V6 is the only engine offered and is on the small side. But it kicks out 203 horsepower and decent torque. It provides solid acceleration, considering that the Five Hundred is fairly heavy at 3,643 to 3,815 pounds, with all-wheel-drive versions being the heaviest. Acceleration in town is lively and it has a good 65-75 mph passing time. Surprisingly, even 70-80 mph acceleration was strong.

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.

Good Roadability
The Five Hundred's steering is quick, with decent road feel, although some may complain that it has a little too much power assist. The rather firm but supple all-independent suspension easily handles road imperfections and allows good handling, although the front seats should provide more side support in curves. Stopping distances are short. The brake pedal has a rather soft feel, but also a nice linear action.

Various Well-Equipped Trim Levels
The Five Hundred comes in entry SE, midrange SEL and top-line Limited trim levels. Front-wheel-drive versions list from $22,145 to $26,145, with all-wheel drive a $1,700 option—giving the most expensive Five Hundred a $27,845 list price without options.

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.

All-Wheel-Drive Operation
The Volvo-derived all-wheel-drive system works in front-wheel-drive mode until the system senses traction loss, which causes full torque to seamlessly go to the rear wheels in 50 milliseconds.

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
There's a lot to be said for the Five Hundred's plain interior, although it has a few glaring flaws. Instruments can be easily read under various lighting conditions, and controls are within easy reach. However, the ignition switch can be hard to find quickly on the steering column and really should be on the dashboard. Sound system controls are large. Some climate system controls are fairly large, but others are small.

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.

Enormous Trunk
The trunk is enormous, with a low, wide opening, and cargo space can be increased by flipping the rear seatbacks (and front passenger seatback) forward. The lid is on struts and moves up well out of the way.

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.

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BB01 - 7/22/2014 7:00:44 AM