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2005 Ford Five Hundred

2005 Ford Five Hundred New Car Review

Martha Hindes

Which came first, the auto or the SUV? One of each from Ford's design drawing board makes us beg the question. After time behind the wheel of both Ford's new full-size Five Hundred sedan and sibling Freestyle crossover, we've concluded there's no cut and dried dividing line between the two. In fact, let's give a nod to the idea that the Five Hundred is a sedan that would like to think it's America's special — an SUV.

2005 Ford Five Hundred Review
The Five Hundred can fill the bill as a large sedan, along with some of the talents of an SUV.

Sound strange? Well, not really. Both vehicles have a common foundation before they go off in different functional directions. But the minute you open the door of the full-size Five Hundred — which, incidentally, never is listed numerically as "500" like its 1960s predecessors — you get a sense of size that expands beyond the notion of car. Think volume here, for passengers — front and especially rear seat — and for whatever needs to go trunk-wise. That's where Ford has eked out enough carrying room for (it brags) eight full-size sets of golf clubs. They don't tell you, however, where to put the extra three passengers for a double golf foursome despite the interior room of this five-seater.

Next is loft. There's a subtle, but noticeable, height surplus in the Five Hundred missing from most competitive full-size flagship sedans. With Five Hundred, you sit in at about hip level without the need to bend pretzel-wise to get inside. For someone who's taller than six feet, there should be enough headroom to allow for a serious comfort stretch without banging into the interior's roof. Rear seat passengers get a boost as well, with what Ford calls, "theater seating," that raises the rear row a tad above front seats so back seat passengers can see ahead rather than be saddled with a view of the seatback in front. That is, unless they are stretching back to enjoy all that amazing rear seat legroom.

For those accustomed to sometimes "dramatic" designs from Ford (earlier Taurus wagon's space age portholes, for one), the new Five Hundred backs away from any controversy. We found it trim and handsome in a clean, understated way with a simplicity of line more reminiscent of European luxury styling. If some critics find that less than exciting, one should check the uncontroversial appearance of popular competitors Toyota Avalon, Toyota Camry, or Honda Accord. Expect the Five Hundred to stand the test of time while still looking good a few years down the road.

2005 Ford Five Hundred Interior
The Luxorious Interior of the Five Hundred uses the euro theme to look clean and intuitive.

The Euro theme extends to the inside as well, where the look is clean and intuitive, with instrument cluster and center stack controls above a base mounted shifter easy to see and access. The Limited (LTD) has warm wood-look trim brushed metal accents and heated leather seating that is luxurious and inviting, if not as plush as one might expect from a true premium class vehicle. Rear seat headrests fold out of the way when not in use.

Upmarket SEL and LTD editions have fold-down rear seat backs to expand cargo capacity for longer items. (Ford shows off a massive grandfather clock stretched front to rear being comfortably transported in the space.)

Many smirked when the American automaker bought out Sweden's Volvo auto division a few years back. Just another item in the shopping cart as then-company hierarchy went on a corporate buying binge. What could a foreign-badge luxury car add to the down home company with thoroughly domestic image? Actually, quite a bit. As most autophiles are aware, Volvo's sterling reputation for three-quarters of a century has been one of solid safety and structural integrity. It seemed inevitable an overlap in development, including the latest in safety features, could benefit both companies. (Employees around Ford's engineering cubbies got accustomed to hearing Swedish accents.) As a result, Ford gained the solid, advanced Volvo S80 sedan underpinnings (also Volvo's XC 90 crossover foundation), when it was time to develop a front-drive architecture for its new flagship sedan.

2005 Ford Five Hundred Safety Features
Fords Homelink universal transceiver available on the Five hundred Limited.

An emphasis on high tech safety features already has paid off for Ford, which has included such structural advances as "Space Architecture" cross-car beams in the Five Hundred. In December, it won four top five-star safety ratings from the National Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), including for front and side impacts. It was the only 2005 model tested to win top marks for those two crash tests without the optional side air bags.

The Five Hundred is a welcome addition to the company's "Blue Oval" vehicle lineup that has been noticeably missing a true flagship sedan for some time. The waning Taurus is more midsize and, while once the top seller, long ago passed from the wish list phase for American sedan buyers.

While Ford has done an admirable job in developing a new sedan, there are two spots where it fails to shine. There is no navigation system available on the Five Hundred, although Ford "hopes" to have one available during the 2006 model year, said a spokesman.

You won't rip away from stoplights with in-your-face abandon in any Five Hundred. Not at present, at least. With only one powerplant available, Ford has tweaked more gusto out of its capable, staple Duratec V6 engine, enough for most drivers enduring the grind of daily commuting while delivering good large car mileage at a time gasoline prices threaten to flirt with Europe's high petrol costs. With 203 horses under the hood of the Five Hundred, one can still pass a lot of gas pumps without stopping.

Still, with the popular Chrysler 300 C sedan and its "Hemi" engine bragging rights among competitors, Ford could stand to gain more accolades for its new sedan if it added an eight-banger to the mix.

Ford's fuel-saving, six-speed automatic is standard on the front-drive Five Hundred, closely geared to provide more oomph when accelerating while minding mileage needs. EPA averages for front-drive versions is 21 city and 29 highway, with AWD earning 19/26. With all-wheel-drive, Ford adds Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT), an advanced technology that shifts seamlessly through normal gear points for a fluid ride. It has won praise from those wanting comfort without the feel of gear changing power surges.

Five Hundred comes in three different trims, starting with a base model SE version. At $22,795, it immediately scores big on our value gauge, especially considering it isn't a stripped down version. Rather, it is comfortably fitted with four-wheel disc anti-lock brakes and traction control, six-way adjustable power driver's seat with lumbar support, folding power side mirrors, AM/FM Stereo with CD, key fob entry, plus more. Well-trimmed SEL and Limited models start at $24,795 and $26,795 respectively.

In the "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" department, all versions keep the B pillar keypad for cost free access Ford has used for so long on many of its higher end vehicles. (No distress calls needed here for lockout help as long as the access code is remembered or written down someplace.)

We found the Ford Five Hundred taut, responsive and easy to handle during our Northern, pre-snow driving test. Presumably the all-wheel-drive feature would have kept us out of trouble, as wave after wave of snow squalls subsequently hit the area. That's a lot of security comfort for a $1,700 option, the only one of numerous available add-ons with a price tag larger than three digits.

Despite the cargo space for baggage or golf bags, we'd still need a pair of Five Hundreds to transport a double golf foursome to the course, with warm weather returning. But for long stretches of highway travel, a sense of sure footedness when pavement turns to gravel, a feeling of safety, or simply everyday driving in roomy comfort and subtle Euro-look styling without taxing the budget, we think the Five Hundred can fill the bill as a large sedan, along with some of the talents of an SUV.

2005 Ford Five Hundred
Model options:
SE, SEL, Limited
17"; 18" LTD
112.9 inches/2,867 mm
Engine size:
3.0-liter V6, aluminum block and heads
Six-speed automatic (FWD); CVT (AWD)
Base MSRP:
$22,795, $24,795, $26,795

For More Information Click: Ford Five Hundred
For the Ford 2005 Model Guide : Click Here