2005 Ford Freestyle Car Review
entry into the crossover market: the 2005
boughs bend as the speeding vehicle careens along
a double dirt track lane, then slap back at empty
air. The blur of steel that sent them in motion
is far ahead, unhampered by the rutted ground underneath.
A hint of fog shrouded mountains in the distance
suggest this is truly the kind of back country trek
not for the timid. The fast-paced foray along this
wilderness path leaves little doubt this is a display
of "no boundaries" capability. Or at least
hand-shaking familiarity with it.
So we saw the commercial, too. And Ford can be forgiven
for implying there's the same kind of ruggedness
it prides its "no boundaries" off-roaders
for having. Association for any auto maker is part
of the name of the game.
test drive of Ford's new "multi-dimensional"
Freestyle utility vehicle in Great Lakes country
(lotsa water, no mountains) was a kinder, gentler
type of foray. Our path encompassed urban roads
with wind buffeted traffic signals and Interstate
trenches that can make a back country wilderness
seem tame by comparison.
we liked what we tried.
is the vehicle from Ford that was a long time coming
in the booming crossover category,the latest must-have
for any serious vehicle manufacturer. Ford's version
is sandwiched comfortably between the smaller, more
rugged Escape and larger, Explorer, with an eye
obviously cast on achieving the same kind of mass
popularity of both with a welcomed vehicle that's
been missing from the lineup.
these days who avoid minivans like the plague and
have tired of the rougher ride of many truckier
sport utility vehicles still want the punch of owning
something that looks like one. Crossovers, mostly
on auto underpinnings, have moved in to fill the
pipeline with a widely varied range of vehicles
from wagon-sized to big boxes that all offer something,
but not everything.
SUV in style, the 2005 Freestyle is built
on the same chassis as the
Ford 500 sedan.
trumpeted by Ford as "Goes Anywhere,"
and "Holds Everything," gets close. With
Freestyle, what you get is a good looking truck
substitute one wouldn't mistake for an auto outfitted
as a wagon. With its solid, SUV-type face and sporty
accessories, it won't settle into the minivan mold.
With its silky driving dynamics we'll get to a bit
later there's not a hint of bucking bounce, just
the easy driving comfort of a luxurious sedan.
despite an overload of choices in competitive showrooms
(Chrysler's Pacifica is a prime target), Freestyle
should elbow its way into a prime, big numbers spot
with some real consumer potential. For one thing,
its seating height is just right with a low step-in
that doesn't look it. It's easy to get into and
out of without having to bend down as one would
with an automobile, or use a grab handle to hoist
oneself into a loftier SUV. Just open the door and
scootch across -- freehand at that.
design is perhaps safer than some Ford offerings
of the past, but mighty attractive nonetheless.
It has the kind of understated, yet solid styling,
trimmed with roof rails and 17- or 18-inch wheels,
that promises to wear well over time.
With the trunk
area visually sectioned off by a wide, slanted "C" pillar behind the first two rows of seats, its size
is deceptive. Its exterior appearance doesn't adequately
reveal the surprising amount of easy access hauling
space inside, especially with the third row of seating
secreted into the rear floor and all other passenger
seating folded flat.
maxing out spacewise at just short of 10 feet front-to-back
with seats down, it's just loaded with nifty nooks
and crannies for stashing stuff. There's a really
usable pop-open shallow bin atop the center dash,
and a dozen cupholders. Map pockets abound. And
you don't mash your cell phone cord if you charge
it while you're driving. The front seat's center
console with one of three power points has a notch
so the lid can be closed.
the wheel, there's evidence of Volvo heritage in
the crispness and handling, with a wider stance
compensating somewhat for the taller profile. Freestyle's
foundation is the same as the new companion Ford
Five Hundred sedan. Both are on a derivative of
Volvo's XC90 crossover architecture noted for solid
handling characteristics. Volvo's presence also
is evident in Freestyle's stiff chassis structural
safety design, augmented by an available, full-length
side "safety canopy" airbag system and
a driver sensing adaptive steering column for accident
protection. With Ford now owning Volvo, it was only
a matter of time before such synergies began to
interior of the Freestyle is enjoyable and
pleasing to both drivers and passengers.
Ford borrows from the DNA of its true off-roader
kin for a sports-capable feel. Instrument panel
and gauges have a clean, uncluttered look, anchored
by a dash-mounted passenger grab handle and floor
front-drive Freestyle comes in three trim levels,
SE, SEL and Limited. All-wheel-drive versions use
the same system as Volvo's. Our early production
test vehicle was the top-of-the-line front-drive
Limited with 18-inch wheels and a base price of
$28,545. The total, including $650 in destination
and delivery charges, was $30,315. But our test
car price included a reverse sensing system ($250),
memory adjustable pedals to fit drivers of any size
($175), and safety package ($695) with side curtain
airbags. Adding the active all-wheel-drive system
would have raised the bar by $1,700.
Depending on version, other amenities available
on this crossover include leather trim, heated seats,
rear air conditioning, moonroof and electronic message
center, and an overhead console with a small convex
"conversation" mirror to monitor the brat
pack in back.
word of caution here. Sampling too many goodies
at the deli counter could load up the pricetag into
a range that would defeat one of the Freestyle's
main attractions: A lot of vehicle for a comparitively
modest amount of money, with an entry level base
at about $25,000.
riding on the success of its fuel conserving hybrid-powered
Escape, has put a different type of conservation
into the Freestyle with what it calls the industry's
only continuously variable transmission (CVT) in
a crossover class vehicle that's expected to help
Freestyle meet strict California LEV II low emissions
automatic transmission system has an infinite number
of shifting points so there's no sense of a power
surge revving up from one gear to the next. Rather,
there's virtually no perceptible change during acceleration,
just a smooth move up to speed that lets the newly-refined
3.0-liter Duratec 30, 24-valve engine seamlessly
take advantage of every possible fuel-saving gear
point. "Awesome," was one tester's initial
reaction. The system lets the Freestyle delivers
about 20 city/27 highway miles per gallon, or about
one mpg less with all-wheel-drive.
there's a downside to the Freestyle, it's the lack
of a larger engine than the 200 horsepower (200
lb. ft. of torque) V-6 that's standard in all models.
Expect to hear some grousing about that until the
automaker reneges and accommodates (although it
could dent Ford's corporate average fuel economy
rating). Yes, the AWD model has a tow capability,
sort of. Limited to 2000 pounds, you could haul
a small, open trailer with a curio cabinet that
simply wouldn't fit inside the roomy interior, but
not much more.
Freestyle features Theater-style seating for
up to 7 passengers.
for families of six or seven (depending on second
row captain's or bench seating), including a tall
teen in row three, or a couple of St. Bernards,
or a load of plywood for that basement project,
or six months worth of groceries, or -- you get
idea. One really couldn't go wrong.
thoroughly enjoyed the fluid ride, spacious interior,
quick seating change ease, and thoughtful amenities
that put it ahead of the pack. We didn't log enough
miles at one sitting to judge the long range comfort
quality, although short-term felt fine. That could
be a trip for another day. And with the Volvo underpinnings,
we would feel secure in taking it off a pavement-only
venue when we did.
this crossover get the blood boiling with the same
fervor as, say, a new generation Mustang or Ford's
pricey screamer GT? Of course not. But given the
opportunity to get behind the wheel of a Freestyle
again for some serious additional test driving,
we'd take up the offer in a minute. Heck, we might
even take it away from the road long enough to slap
aside a few pine boughs.
More Information Click: Ford
For the Ford 2005 Model Guide