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post #1 of 9 (permalink) Old 02-03-05, 08:37 PM Thread Starter
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Review:2005 Ford Five Hundred Limited AWD

2005 Ford Five Hundred Limited AWD - Review

The Auto Channel


2005 Ford Five Hundred Limited AWD

It seemed like the ink was barely dry on the paperwork for Ford's buyout of Volvo Cars in 1999 when I first heard the rumor: the next-generation Taurus would be based on the Volvo S80. As automotive industry rumors go, that was a pretty wild one - the norm when a large company acquires a smaller one is that the smaller manufacturer's products disappear as separate entities, and become versions of the larger company's offerings. But Ford has an admirable record of leaving its acquisitions alone to do what they do best in the manner they do best, and even of helping them to do so. Volvo went on to use the basic platform for the S80 in the smaller S60 sedan and V70 wagon, and the larger XC90 SUV. The Ford Taurus soldiered on with minor styling freshenings. It looked like the Ford-uses-Volvo-platform rumor was just another bit of the misinformation, disinformation, and just plain fantasy that keep the automotive rumor mill so entertaining.

Wrong. It was correct, except that the ``next-generation Taurus'' wasn't called Taurus. Ford's new flagship sedan is called Five Hundred, and underneath it is a modified version of the platform originally used for the S80. ``Platform'' in this case means basic structural architecture and suspension design, some of the most expensive parts of a car to develop.

Ford did its homework, and did it well. The Volvo platform is a very good one. But, basic architecture and stampings aside, the Five Hundred is a Ford, not a Volvo. Nowhere will you find a ``Made in Sweden'' sticker, it is born in the Chicago, IL plant that used to build Tauruses. The engine is the 3.0-liter ``Duratec'' V6 familiar from the Taurus and a host of other

Ford and Ford family products. The Five Hundred is positioned more upscale than the Taurus, and three trim levels are offered - value-leader SE, midlevel SEL, and premium Limited. Standard equipment levels are high even in the SE. Interestingly, the standard transmission in the SE and all-wheel drive (AWD) versions of the others is a continuously-variable transmission (CVT). The AWD system is the same as is used by Volvo for the S80, designed for all-weather pavement driving. Front-wheel drive SELs and Limiteds have a six-speed automatic.

One reason for SUV popularity and the decline of the sedan has been space.

A mid-sized sedan only has so much space, and it just isn't enough for many people. But the downside of SUV space and size is fuel economy - 15mpg is expensive with the current and projected future price of gasoline. The Five Hundred has far more interior space than the Taurus - almost as much as the larger Crown Victoria, and in fact more trunk room than a Crown Vic - combined with the sort of cargo-passenger arrangement versatility expected in an SUV. And it has a relatively high driver eyepoint, for good visibility. But it's a car, with the ride and handling and fuel economy of a car, not a heavier, thirstier truck.

So, with available all-wheel drive and interior versatility, is the Ford Five Hundred is designed to be an SUV replacement? Well, yes, except for the small minority of SUV owners who actually do need serious off-road ability. As I discovered in a recent week with an all-wheel drive Limited, it has an amazing amount of space, especially in the trunk, and is a solid, comfortable car that is pleasant to drive. At just over 20 mpg for mostly around-town driving, it may not be as economical as a hybrid, but beats any SUV with a similar amount of useful space hands-down.

APPEARANCE: All of the current Ford passenger car styling themes are exemplified in the Five Hundred - meaning that it's a conservative, European-influenced design that strikes a balance between the overly-rounded 1996 Taurus and the subsequent ``New Edge'' angularity of the 2000 Focus. There is a more-than-passing resemblance to the current Focus in the grille and headlight styling, but the Five Hundred is considerably larger. Considerably. It bests a Taurus by three inches in length, an inch and a half in width, and five and a half inches in height, and the conservative lines, dominance of the passenger cabin, and large wheels and tires make it look even bigger. It's still a foot shorter and four inches narrower than a Crown Vic, although it looks nearly as large.

COMFORT: The most important part of the Five Hundred is its interior. It offers ample room for five, and, according to Ford, trunk space for eight sets of golf clubs.

I didn't try that, but I did get a three-by-five foot table top into the trunk easily, and without need to open up the rear seat passthrough. And not only does the rear seat fold with the standard 60/40 split, the front passenger seats also folds flat (forward) allowing an eight-foot ladder to be stored inside if necessary. (I got that demonstration at a Ford event a few months back.) Interior volume is three cubic feet more than a Taurus sedan, and about four cubic feet less than in a Crown Victoria, but the Five Hundred's 21.2 cubic foot trunk dwarfs the Taurus's 17 cft and even beats the Crown Vic's 20.6. And the trunk opening is large enough for bulky items that are usually hard to fit in a mid-sized sedan.

Interior styling and appointment for the Limited level are best described as ``contemporary upper-middle class''. It's not quite luxury level, but close, with a monochrome color scheme and woodgrain trim. Leather-trimmed seats are standard in the Limited, and place the passengers in a more upright, high-eyepoint position - called ``Command Seating'' - than is usual for a sedan. If the eyepoint isn't quite SUV, neither is the low, easy step-in. Leg and head room are excellent, especially in the oft-forgotten rear seat. The only way to improve on rear seat legroom is to buy a stretch limo.

SAFETY: The original S80 version of the platform had noteworthy crash performance, and the Five Hundred continues this with front and rear crush zones designed to distribute crash energy around the central safety-cage cabin in a controlled fashion. Side impacts are controlled both structurally and by available side and side-curtain airbags. Four-wheel antilock disc brakes are standard, with twin-piston front calipers.

RIDE AND HANDLING: Given its rigid chassis and softly-sprung but well-damped fully-independent suspension, the Ford Five Hundred is meant for comfort. But it is surprisingly enjoyable to drive on the scenic route as well as the Interstate. The all-wheel drive system operates in front-wheel drive mode most of the time, sending power to the rear wheels when necessary. Interestingly, the tires on my test car were Pirelli P6es, at one time Pirelli's number two high-performance tire. All-wheel drive and good tires? This is not your basic late-60s large family sedan!

PERFORMANCE: With the trusty 3.0-liter aluminum alloy twincam Duratec V6 producing 203 horsepower at 5750 rpm and 207 lb-ft of torque at 4500 rpm, the Five Hundred won't set any acceleration records, although at under 9 seconds zero-to-60 it is perfectly adequate in daily life and quicker than many an SUV. It is, after all, a family sedan, not a sports car. The CVT may take a little getting used to, but does its job well. Engine and road speed acceleration may not be directly related. It's strange at first, then normal - and no transmission shifts more smoothly than one that has no discrete shifting. A wide ratio spread in the ZF-Batavia CVT makes allows both a low initial ratio for good acceleration and a high overdrive for economical cruising. Chain, not belt, drive in the CVT should give it good durability.

CONCLUSIONS: You say you like the space and versatility of an SUV but not the high step-in and thirst? Try the new Ford Five Hundred sedan - it offers the space and interior versatility with more comfort, better handling, and better fuel economy.

2005 Ford Five Hundred Limited AWD

Base Price $ 27,845
Price As Tested $ 30,525
Engine Type aluminum alloy dual overhead cam
24-valve V6
Engine Size 3.0 liters / 182 cu. in.
Horsepower 203 @ 5750 rpm
Torque (lb-ft) 207 @ 4500 rpm
Transmission wide-ratio continuously-variable
Wheelbase / Length 112.9 in. / 200.7 in.
Curb Weight 3815 lbs.
Pounds Per Horsepower 18.8
Fuel Capacity 19 gal.
Fuel Requirement 87-octane unleaded regular
Tires P225/55 TR18 Pirelli P6
Brakes, front/rear vented disc / solid disc
Suspension, front/rear independent MacPherson strut /
independent multilink
Drivetrain front engine, all-wheel drive

EPA Fuel Economy - miles per gallon
city / highway / observed 19 / 26 / 21
0 to 60 mph 8.8 sec


Universal garage door opener $ 115
Power moonroof $ 895
Safety package - includes:
driver & front passenger side airbags,
side curtain airbags $ 595
Reverse sensing system $ 250
Memory adjustable pedals $ 175
Destination charge $ 650

My first car was a 67 Mustang Coupe, 2nd one was a 67 Cougar XR-7, 3rd one was a 66 Mustang Coupe. Why did I get rid of these cars for ? I know why, because I'm stupid, stupid, stupid.

My next Ford.....
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post #2 of 9 (permalink) Old 02-12-05, 03:00 PM
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Re: Review:2005 Ford Five Hundred Limited AWD

Thanks for posting that, but I still can't get my head around why Ford doesn't offer a more powerful engine. The thought of 9 sec for the 0–60 and the fact the Five Hundred is no lightweight with the AWD worries me, almost as much as the styling. What Ford DNA? I can't see it, other than saying it looks kind of like an 1980s Taurus with a new grille. However it's a helluva bigger car … Next time I am in America I'm getting another 'Stang.

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post #3 of 9 (permalink) Old 02-15-05, 04:13 PM
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Re: Review:2005 Ford Five Hundred Limited AWD

I think they're absolutely gorgeous.

It does seem to lack some horses though.
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post #4 of 9 (permalink) Old 02-17-05, 08:43 PM Thread Starter
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Re: Review:2005 Ford Five Hundred Limited AWD

Ford Five Hundred Limited AWD

Room enough to be a cop car, but not enough motor.


Ford Five Hundred Limited AWD
Highs: Styling perfect for the witness-protection program, three bags full of space, traction enough to cope with hell or high Cool Whip.

Lows: You still haven’t witnessed anything, you don’t like the slipping-clutch sound caused by the CVT, and you don’t like slamming doors to latch them, either.

The Verdict: Impressive capabilities without the stigma of sexy looks.

Isn’t it wonderful the way our free market keeps confusing shoppers with a blur of choices? You’re hearing a little self-interest in that statement, of course; you wouldn’t buy many copies of C/D if new cars were as predictable as T-shirts. Let’s just say we’re feeling extra secure these days, what with Ford’s new Five Hundred crowding into the spotlight beside the Chrysler 300.

Both are all-new mainstream four-door family haulers. Both are incredibly roomy in the manner of the Ford Galaxies and Chrysler New Yorkers baby boomers grew up with. And relative to the cautious sedan offerings of recent years, both are as radical as the flat tax.

One more detail adding to your editors’ job security: Although Congress will never pass the flat tax, both of these Detroiters are here and itching to complicate your new-car shopping.

If you want a quick summary of Dearborn’s new entry, this much is undisputed around C/D headquarters—yawn!

The four-pillar greenhouse profile brings on déjê vu. A fat Passat? Or maybe an Audi before they made it gorgeous?

Yeah, we’re cruel. But the Five Hundred can take some ribbing because it has the right stuff in categories that win over families. This is a whopper of a sedan, 200.7 inches overall, 3.9 inches longer than the Chrysler. It has 21 cubic feet of trunk room, five more than the 300, and more rear passenger space, too, if only by an insignificant percent. Maybe the front buckets on our top-of-the-line Limited test car didn’t delight the editorial trouser seat, but few will complain.

Still, there is the nagging yawn! problem. Let’s confront it, acknowledging right up front that virtue is rarely exciting. Cavernous space? Yawn! More than decent fuel economy (EPA 19 city, 26 highway)? Yawn! Dignified styling? Yawn! All-wheel drive for only $1700 extra? Yawn! The same high view from the driver’s seat that makes SUVs so appealing? Nice, but yawn!

Actually, let the record show that seat height is merely halfway to SUV altitude, up only three to four inches above the typical sedan’s.

Yawns happen in cars long on prudence, short on verve. Instead of another venturesome Taurus—the first two generations were incredibly brave—Ford is just saying no to risk. Having maxed out its credit cards buying Aston Martin, Jaguar, Volvo, and Land Rover, all with iffy finances of their own, Charming Billy now has to take the best from these acquisitions and, without stepping into any puddles, build a high-volume money maker. That would be a car with broad appeal, something for everybody. And with no risky aspects that provoke vetoes.

So the Five Hundred is a whopper. No risk in that decision. The parade of ever-larger SUVs, followed by the bulked-up Chrysler 300, points the way.
But Ford hasn’t (so far) shown any indication of matching the 300C’s Hemi excitement with a brawny Cobra V-8. Instead, it reached into its own parts bin for the same compact 3.0-liter V-6 that’s been under Taurus hoods for years, tweaked it for three additional horsepower, to 203, and yawn! called it good enough. For now at least, the Five Hundred has zero engine choices.

With some reservations, we think it is good enough. Zero-to-60 comes up in 8.0 seconds; holding the pedal brings the quarter-mile in 16.3 seconds at 88 mph. This is a not-so-close second to the Chrysler 300 with its optional 3.5-liter V-6. The Hemi? Fuhgedaboudit!

The Ford feels even slower. Worse, it lacks the satisfying kick-down that all drivers have come to expect when a powertrain gives its best. The all-wheel-drive package includes a CVT, which uses a variable-ratio belt drive instead of gears. Theoretically, it offers an infinite number of ratios, optimized on the fly to give the best combination of speed, fuel economy, and emissions. If you think of it as the smartest transmission in the world, always making the best choices, you’ll love it.

But instead of kicking down, it merely oozes forward, accompanied by a seamless surge in engine song as the computer adjusts the drive ratio to kick up the revs to what it thinks is the most advantageous point on the power curve. This is all quite wonderful to tech minds but completely unsatisfying to our gearhead pleasures. It could provoke vetoes.

Instead of a veto, try a second thought. Keep in mind this Five Hundred has the all-wheel-drive option. The electronically controlled Haldex system came over from Sweden as part of the Volvo P2 platform that underlies this new Ford. Overall weight is 3977, not bad for a whopper with AWD, and the extra 180 pounds could be responsible for most of the acceleration deficit relative to the 3.5-liter Chrysler. According to the EPA, the Five Hundred’s AWD option drops mileage 1 mpg in both city and highway, to 19 and 26. The all-wheel-drive Chrysler 300—which we’ve yet to test—drops to 17 and 24, compared with 19 and 27 for rear-wheel drive.

Apart from the reminder badge on the decklid, the Five Hundred’s AWD is mostly never noticed, certainly not in our dry-track testing. This car understeers firmly, consistently, and reliably. We measured 0.77 g on the skidpad, perhaps a bit less than expected from the sporty-looking 225/55R-18 Pirelli P6s on the crisply graphic eight-spoke alloy wheels.

The tires sound sporty over some surfaces, too; they rumble on textured city streets, which seems out of character for a whopper.

Two aspects of this car stand out: the huge interior space and the strong graphic simplicity of the interior design. Rear passengers will find cathedral headroom and knee clearance for the Jolly Green. Only footroom under the front seats seems to have limits. Folding down the rear seatbacks will make plenty of length for your pet boa to unconstrict; our Lufkin unrolled just one inch short of seven feet before bumping the back of the front seat. This is in the same league as the best long-bed compact pickups these days. Just don’t expect a flat load floor. It’s not even close.

The design theme of the interior seems to have been grabbed directly from the F-150 pickup. No brocade. No filigree. Instead of the fine, fussy details Detroit reached for back in the Iacocca era to lay on the simulated luxury, the Five Hundred has bold shapes that look weighty. The warm caramel and camel hues of the vinyl and leather are punctuated with frosty aluminum. The instrument bezels look like they weigh a pound apiece. The inner door handles could be ingots with only minimal carving.

Under a hinged lid centered atop the dash is a compartment just the right size for takeout burritos. Another space under the center armrest swallows your bag of chips. A pair of console cup recesses will hold enough Big Gulps at the ready to get you across the Mojave.

Yes, yawns happen in this car, a condition we associate with family four-doors generally. But on the yawn scale, the Five Hundred fares much better than the Buick LaCrosse and Pontiac G6. They are smaller, less generous in their spaces. Compared with the Five Hundred’s “large car” classification, the EPA says the G6 is a “compact,” the LaCrosse a “mid-size.” They can’t match the smart look of the Five Hundred’s interior, either, or the AWD option. Yet Americans tend to lump them together as midmarket choices.

The Five Hundred shares one notable distinction with Chrysler’s number car—neither acts as if it were born to carry rebates.

At first glance the Ford Five Hundred is just another boring sedan. But every time I drive this car, I gain respect for it. Although it’s not very swift, its CVT gracefully extracts every bit of thrust from the Duratec V-6. And for a large sedan that doesn’t cost much, the Five Hundred goes down the road with unusual precision and composure. Think of the Five Hundred as a modern-day Crown Vic with comfortable chair-height seats for five live adults, as well as five more dead ones in the trunk, 15 percent better fuel economy, vastly better road manners, and the option of four-wheel drive. I think plenty of buyers will find a use for such a machine.

Bulletin to Ford powertrain engineering: The Duratec V-6 just doesn’t cut it in a 3977-pound car. We’re talking wheeze city, and the contrast with competing V-6s—from Honda and Toyota, for example—is striking. That’s a shame, because the Five Hundred is otherwise chock-a-block with family values. Interior volume and appointments are limoesque, ride quality is above reproach, and road manners are surprisingly capable. Okay, the styling is as exciting as televised ice fishing, but how many cars in this class are noteworthy for snappy good looks? Ford has put new legs under the family-sedan concept. But those legs need to be a bit longer.

A night of snow and sleet made a mess of local roads, but the Ford Five Hundred’s all-wheel-drive system made the trip to the office a little less stressful. The exterior of the Five Hundred isn’t very exciting to look at, but neither are those of the Accords, Camrys, and LaCrosses of the world. Inside, the Five Hundred is roomy, and it looks and feels terrific. Ford has come a long way in its interior styling. The same can’t be said of the Five Hundred’s engine. The 3.0-liter Duratec’s 203 horsepower isn’t up to the task of hauling this car around, and it’s unpleasantly noisy to boot. Our tester, at close to 30 grand, deserves a more powerful and refined engine.

Vehicle type: front-engine, 4-wheel-drive, 5-passenger, 4-door sedan

Price as tested: $30,525

Price and option breakdown: base Ford Five Hundred Limited AWD (includes $650 freight), $28,495; power sunroof, $895; Safety package (consists of curtain airbags and front side airbags), $595; reverse warning system, $250; adjustable pedals with memory, $175; universal garage-door opener, $115

Major standard accessories: power windows, seats, and locks; remote locking; A/C; cruise control; tilting steering wheel; rear defroster

Sound system: Ford AM-FM radio/CD changer, 6 speakers

Type: V-6, aluminum block and heads
Bore x stroke: 3.50 x 3.13 in, 89.0 x 79.5mm
Displacement: 181 cu in, 2967cc
Compression ratio: 10.0:1
Fuel-delivery system: port injection
Valve gear: chain-driven double overhead cams, 4 valves per cylinder, hydraulic lifters
Power (SAE net): 203 bhp @ 5750 rpm
Torque (SAE net): 207 lb-ft @ 4500 rpm
Redline: 5800 rpm

Transmission: continuously variable automatic with torque converter
Final-drive ratio: 5.19:1
4-wheel-drive system: full time with automatic rear-axle engagement and open front and rear differentials

Wheelbase: 112.9 in
Track, front/rear: 64.6/65.0 in
Length/width/height: 200.7/74.5/61.5 in
Ground clearance: 5.8 in
Drag area, Cd (0.33) x frontal area (27.9 sq ft): 9.2 sq ft
Curb weight: 3977 lb
Weight distribution, F/R: 58.4/41.6%
Curb weight per horsepower: 19.6 lb
Fuel capacity: 19.0 gal

Type: unit construction with 2 rubber-isolated subframes
Body material: welded steel stampings

SAE volume, front seat: 54 cu ft
rear seat: 53 cu ft
luggage: 21 cu ft
Front-seat adjustments: fore-and-aft, seatback angle; driver only: front height, rear height, lumbar support
Restraint systems, front: manual 3-point belts; driver and passenger front, side, and curtain airbags
rear: manual 3-point belts, curtain airbags

Front: ind, strut located by a control arm, coil springs, anti-roll bar
Rear: ind; 1 upper control arm, 1 trailing link, 1 lateral link, and 1 toe-control link per side; coil springs; automatically leveling shock absorbers; anti-roll bar

Type: rack-and-pinion with hydraulic power assist
Steering ratio: 16.0:1
Turns lock-to-lock: 2.9
Turning circle curb-to-curb: 40.0 ft

Type: hydraulic with vacuum power assist and anti-lock control
Front: 12.5 x 1.1-in vented disc
Rear: 12.0 x 0.4-in disc

Wheel size/type: 7.0 x 18 in/cast aluminum
Tires: Pirelli P6 Four Seasons, P225/55R-18 97T M+S
Test inflation pressures, F/R: 32/32 psi
Spare: high-pressure compact

Zero to 30 mph: 3.1
40 mph: 4.4
50 mph: 6.0
60 mph: 8.0
70 mph: 10.4
80 mph: 13.3
90 mph: 17.2
100 mph: 22.7
110 mph: 30.8
Street start, 5–60 mph: 8.3
Top-gear acceleration, 30–50 mph: 4.2
50–70 mph: 5.5
Standing 1/4-mile: 16.3 sec @ 88 mph
Top speed (governor limited): 112 mph

70–0 mph @ impending lockup: 177 ft

Roadholding, 300-ft-dia skidpad: 0.77 g
Understeer: minimal moderate excessive

EPA city driving: 19 mpg
EPA highway driving: 26 mpg
C/D-observed: 18 mpg

Idle: 43 dBA
Full-throttle acceleration: 74 dBA
70-mph cruising: 69 dBA

My first car was a 67 Mustang Coupe, 2nd one was a 67 Cougar XR-7, 3rd one was a 66 Mustang Coupe. Why did I get rid of these cars for ? I know why, because I'm stupid, stupid, stupid.

My next Ford.....
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post #5 of 9 (permalink) Old 02-18-05, 02:14 PM
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Re: Review:2005 Ford Five Hundred Limited AWD

Highs: Styling perfect for the witness-protection program
Why is this a high?

And the interior looks like a Mondeo's but colour coordinated by Barry White …

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post #6 of 9 (permalink) Old 02-18-05, 02:16 PM
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Re: Review:2005 Ford Five Hundred Limited AWD

Originally Posted by windstar38
I think they're absolutely gorgeous.

It does seem to lack some horses though.
Fair enough, Windstar38, and I know Ford must have clinicked the car to see if it would meet a majority's tastes. I feel Ford could have done better after seeing what it's capable of in Europe and Australia. OK, I admit it: I don't like the styling, but the idea is quite sound: roomy, sit-up-high sedan. I had a Peugeot 307 in Europe a few years back and that had a similar philosophy but for the compact class, and the whole "commanding view" idea works. (Also it works for the Ford Territory SUV we have down here.)

Compared to the concept of a back-to-the-future Chrysler 300, this one lacks a bit of weight for me, however, even if the 300 is based on old Merc E-class bits.

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post #7 of 9 (permalink) Old 02-25-05, 02:58 PM
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mad Re: Review:2005 Ford Five Hundred Limited AWD

Every Magazine or TV review of this car states the 500/Montego/Freestyle needs more power. I have heard rumors of a 3.5L Duratec in the works for these vehicles. Otherwise, Why couldn't they have used the Lincoln LS version of the Duratec that makes at least 225 HP??? Or the Jaguar version that makes 240 HP??? I understand these are RWD cars but whatever bits are used to make these particular ones more powerful than the FWD ones(I.E. Heads, cams, manifolds, etc.) should be installed on the FWD engines to make them more powerful!!!
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post #8 of 9 (permalink) Old 03-08-05, 04:37 PM
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Re: Review:2005 Ford Five Hundred Limited AWD

I agree with you! Ten to one it's another Mustang II situation. Ford launches without the gruntiest engines, then we out here complain, and in one or two model years' time, they bring a five-litre 500 out …

Makes you wonder: didn't they learn this the first time around?—JY

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Re: Review:2005 Ford Five Hundred Limited AWD

Review: Ford Five Hundred

The Auto Channel

By Steve Purdy
Shunpiker Productions

You’ve seen the ads. The new Ford Five Hundred smoothly navigates its way down a city street, eerily lit by spotty streetlights, dodging other cars sliding all around. Stability is the message – with tag line something about “the road ahead.” In one context stability could be synonymous with stodginess, but stable handling is an essential element even for a Mom and Pop sedan these days.

Let’s take a closer look.

I picked up a vivid blue Five Hundred at Ford world headquarters in Dearborn last week where the charming Pete Olson, press fleet manager, gave me a walk-around tour of the car before handing me the keys. The folks at Ford are quite proud of this new mid-size - or is it a full-size – sedan, developed off the highly respected Volvo platform that supports, among other products, the award-winning XC90 cross-over. Slated to replace the long-running, successful and ubiquitous Taurus as Ford’s bread and butter sedan, the squared-off Five Hundred is mighty plain at first look, with styling queues reflecting Ford’s corporate “new edge” lines, a stand-up-straight stance and an almost elegant simplicity. There’s certainly no question that it’s related to the other mainstay Ford products.

Mr. Olson points out the cavernous - 21.2 cubic-foot - trunk big enough for eight, count ‘em, eight, golf bags; or as a politically incorrect Ford exec once quipped, “eight dead bodies if you’re from New Jersey.” The Chicago-built Five Hundred is remarkably roomy inside as well. I enter through the driver’s door without bumping my Indy Jones hat. Ford touts the “Command Seating” position that certainly does give one a confident view of the road. The interior is conservatively designed and conveniently laid out. Materials are the quality one might expect in a mid-priced sedan – nothing to find fault with but at the same time nothing to write home about. US and Canadian content is reported to be 70%.

Out on the highway, the Southfield freeway was moving quickly and traffic was dense. The performance, ride and handling initially seemed altogether too tepid, soft and imprecise. Fortunately I reserved judgment since I’d just come off a two-week stint in a high performance BMW X5 with sport suspension – an unfair comparison, indeed. After a week with the Five Hundred I came to the conclusion that all three – performance, ride and handling – are quite adequate and well balanced, particularly considering the target market of this new sedan.

Performance begins with the 3.0-litre, 203-hp, Duratec V-6, which turns out 207 lb.-ft. of torque, mated in this case to a very smooth, Japanese-sourced, 6-speed automatic transmission. Ten years ago those numbers would have been impressive. Today they’re adequate. Aluminum wheels and 17-inches tires along with minimal body overhangs give the Five Hundred a burley stance and a steady feel. Four-wheel disc brakes, with ABS of course, are more than adequate to stop the front-wheel drive car. For 1,700 bucks extra you can have all-wheel-drive and a continuously variable transmission (CVT). But there are no engine options. The fuel tank holds 19 gallons and the book says to expect 21 mpg city and 28 highway on unleaded regular. My observed mileage for a mixture of conditions was 23.5. Not bad.

As I lived with the car for the allotted week, I became quite enamored with its comfort, convenience and poise. Ingress and egress are remarkably easy, even for one of my distinctly portly demeanor. I’m amazed that a car that feels so large inside doesn’t feel cumbersome on the road. It still looks too plain from some angles but it’s growing on me as I discover pleasing design nuances.

The Five Hundred is a tad longer, substantially taller and a touch wider than the long-in-the-tooth Taurus but somewhat smaller than the even-longer-in-the-tooth Crown Vic. Ford has taken none of the styling risks that characterized the Taurus, particularly the second generation, oval-shaped version. My daily driver is a second-generation SHO, so I have some basis of comparison.

Pricing begins at $22,795 for the basic SE front-wheel drive and tops out with a well-equipped all-wheel-drive Limited at $28,720. My test car, with the $595 Safety Package and $250 reverse sensing system, stickered out at $24,145. The list of standard features reads like most others these days; AC, AM/FM stereo with in-dash CD, console, armrest and lots of cup holders, power mirrors, power locks, power one-touch windows, rear window defroster, remote keyless entry, 6-way power seats, cruise control, tilt steering column, CVT transmission and 17-inch painted-aluminum wheels.

Ford is ahead of the curve in crash protection and earned the coveted NHTSA 5-Star crash test rating. The energy from a frontal impact is somehow magically dissuaded from encroaching on the passenger compartment and it meets a 2008 standard that will require the restraint system to automatically adjust to the front-seat passenger. Rear crashworthiness, too, is designed to meet future, not just current, standards. Bravo Ford!

Warrantee is not overly generous at 3-year/36,000 mile bumper-to-bumper. Safety systems are covered for 5 years and 50,000 miles and corrosion (defined as perforation) is covered for 5 years with unlimited mileage. My recent experience with Ford products leads me to believe that the Five Hundred will be dependable and reasonably trouble free but, of course, only time will tell.

Only a couple of annoying issues need reporting. First, I hate those automatic locks. When you shut off the car, only the driver’s door unlocks itself. I’m always trying to get some cargo out of the back seat having forgotten to unlock those rear doors. Yes, yes, I know – they’re designed that way so the bad guys can’t get in the car when you park at a risky spot. But I’m not a city kid and don’t need or want that level of security. I understand there is some way it can be disabled if your technician can figure it out. But even my dealer hasn’t been able to disable it on my SHO after all these years.

And second – what’s up with the headlight dimmer/brightener? To flash the brights we pull one notch back on the stalk. To turn on the brights, pull back a second notch. To go back to dim, pull back again through both notches. It feels like you’re flashing the oncoming driver when just trying to dim.

CONCLUSIONS I like the Five Hundred. Like the Plane Jane you might meet at a party who turns out to be quite charming and even pretty once you spend a little time with her, the Five Hundred unobtrusively exhibited her charm as I got to know her. I like the high seating position, the cavernous interior and trunk, and the simple, understated design, both inside and out. I also like the broad, shallow stowage compartment in the top center of the dash. Just right for a map or two.

The target market, the demographic toward which this sedan is aimed, I think, will be very happy with it. Performance is plenty adequate, handling is smooth and tight without offensive stiffness, and quality appears excellent. The Five Hundred is a very comfortable and pleasant car to drive. In terms of the domestic competition we can confidently say it’s not the equal of the Chrysler 300C but better than the Chevy Impala, and priced appropriately right in between.

Finally, this suggestion for our friends at Ford: let’s have a V-8 engine option? With minimal effort the Five Hundred could compete nearly head-to-head with the Chrysler 300C Hemi - but not without a V-8. It’s not much of a stretch from a sedate Mom and Pop sedan to a hot-shot, exciting sedan. A bit of horsepower, tighter suspension, and minimal cosmetics would do the trick. Look at the venerable Taurus SHO.

Oh, I forgot, they didn’t sell very many of those, did they? It sure was great for the Taurus’, and for Ford’s, image though.

My first car was a 67 Mustang Coupe, 2nd one was a 67 Cougar XR-7, 3rd one was a 66 Mustang Coupe. Why did I get rid of these cars for ? I know why, because I'm stupid, stupid, stupid.

My next Ford.....
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