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Old 04-04-2002, 07:56   #1 (permalink)
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What's a Five Hundred ?

What's a Five Hundred? Ford’s ‘next big thing’ is an SUV-like car


By BOB GRITZINGER




The Five Hundred is bigger than a Taurus, looks like a Passat and will join the Ford lineup in 2004—but maybe not with the same name.

Five Hundred wasn’t exactly revealed at the New York Auto Show, but Ford executives disclosed it and a sketch was shown on a big screen. Ford, in an effort to make future product news in the absence of actual products, did a similar sketch unveiling of its 2004 CrossTrainer sportwagon crossover at the Chicago auto show in February.

So what’s a Five Hundred? Ford product chief Chris Theodore says it’s the “next big thing”—a midsize car with SUV and minivan attributes (as opposed to SUVs and minivans with car-like attributes now prolifer-ating as the “next big thing”). The 2005-model-year vehicle offers high, upright seating for five, loads of legroom, commanding SUV-like view of the road and easy step-in height.

It’s two to four inches higher than competing full- and midsize cars, Ford says. Ford design vp J Mays estimates overall size in the same league with Impala and Avalon. Five Hundred will come with a 3.0-liter V6 engine and a six-speed automatic or a continuously variable transmission. It will arrive on the market as a front-driver, but all-wheel drive is possible.

Mays admits the car’s styling is “Germanic,” and he makes no apologies for what he says will be a worldwide look for Ford products. “If there are elements of VW or Audi, forgive me. I worked there too long,” says Mays, who was part of the team that created the New Beetle.

Ford says the car won’t replace, but rather will augment, the Taurus and will be a competitor for high-end Camrys, Accords and Passats.
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