Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan - Driving in Winter Wonderland
say it is cold in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan in the winter
is equivalent to saying that Santa Claus is slightly overworked
at Christmas. Sometimes things are just too obvious to ignore.
As the saying goes, if it looks like a duck, walks like
a duck and sounds like a duck, it must be a duck.
a good thing then that the 2005 Ford Five Hundred, Ford
Freestyle and the Mercury Montego were kept idling on
a continuous basis. Stepping in and out of warm vehicles
is preferable to having to cold start them each time.
a Canadian, I am more than comfortable driving in winter
weather. The purpose for this trip was to highlight the
advantages of Ford's all-wheel drive system and to show
its effectiveness in even the most extreme driving conditions.
dynamic trio of the recently introduced 2005 Ford Five
Hundred, Freestyle and Montego, would be our test vehicles
for this particular event.
Five Hundred and Montego go head to head with some of
the most respected vehicles in the mid-sized sedan category.
While other car companies such as DaimlerChrysler have
taken risks by introducing the stylish 300 and 300C sedans,
Ford has chosen a less perilous path for the styling of
the Five Hundred and Montego, focusing instead on providing
the best overall package.
Ford Freestyle is helping to define a new market for consumers.
True, it's not leading edge in outward appearance, but
as a proper crossover vehicle, it provides all the roominess
and comfort we have come to expect in a van and none of
the truck-like qualities inherent with a boxy structure
previously experienced both the Five Hundred and Freestyle
for a week long test drive, I was well aware of their
many good qualities: smooth ride, luxurious appointments,
enormous back seat legroom in the Five Hundred and the
excellent storage space found in both. What I was not
prepared for was how well they would handle in ice and
solution to nasty weather driving is their on-demand Haldex
electronic all-wheel-drive system.
normal driving, it operates as a front-wheel-drive unit.
The moment it senses wheel slippage at any of the four
corners, it instantly re-directs torque to the wheel with
the best grip. The system is seamless and quick, transferring
power within 50 milliseconds, the equivalent time it takes
for the tires to rotate 1/7th of a wheel.
prove the worthiness of their all-wheel-drive, Ford had
us test all three vehicles on several unique courses over
the span of a day. Most were equipped with AWD, but for
comparison sake, some vehicles were front-wheel-drive
first series of tests was conducted on a straight-line
snow and ice road section at a regularly used test facility
in Sault Ste. Marie. On each side of the football field
sized road, high snow banks protected two-way traffic
from sliding into each other and offered some protection
from the winter elements.
a standing start in compacted snow, we accelerated to
normal city driving speeds and rapidly applied the ABS
equipped brakes at various intervals along the track.
Stops were quick and, for the most part, controlled. Even
with ABS brakes and AWD, it is still possible to lose
control of a vehicle, albeit more difficult.
through the icy mid-section, it was time to really put
the vehicles to a test by placing the front driver's side
and rear passenger side wheels on a patch of ice, while
the opposite front passenger side and rear driver's side
wheels remained in the compacted snow.
theory behind this test was to try and force the vehicle
to lose traction completely and see how fast the Haldex
electronic AWD system could react and deliver traction
to the opposite side.
every test, the Ford Five Hundred, Freestyle and Montego
performed flawlessly. Reaction times were immediate, and
the vehicle never felt out of control. Even under full
acceleration, it was only a matter of milliseconds before
traction was restored and we were on our way.
second main test area included a snow covered road course
to demonstrate winter cornering and braking, as well as
a deep snow driving course to spotlight each vehicles'
AWD pulling power.
winding course through the backwoods of the test track
proved both exciting and fun. Yes folks, it is possible
to have lots of snow on the ground and still enjoy driving
corners and icy conditions were no match for the AWD equipped
Ford Five Hundred, which I drove. With Anti-lock brakes
and the smooth shifting CVT, (Continuously Variable Transmission)
it was exciting controlling the car through the turns
and sliding it ever so slightly sideways just before the
AWD system could grab hold and straighten the vehicle
deep snow course consisted of mostly powder snow with
several compressed areas due to other cars on the track.
In some places, the snow was up to nine inches deep. I
was amazed at the pulling power of the AWD; never once
did it feel like I was going to get stuck in the snow
and have to resort to calling a tow truck.
all of the winter driving was taking place, there was
also the opportunity to enjoy the significant interior
appointments found in each vehicle.
driver's seat in both the Ford Five Hundred and Mercury
Montego is excellent. A logical dash and 4-spoke steering
wheel make driving a pleasure. Add to that a 200 hp 3.0L
V6 engine, excellent visibility and state of the art safety
features, and you understand how well thought out this
Ford Freestyle is equally well appointed, and offers the
convenience of seven passenger seating to go with its
luxury features. In many ways, it drives and feels just
like a sedan, but with room to spare.
matter what conditions you find yourself in, whether its
winter driving in Michigan, rain showers in Southern California,
or sandy beaches in Florida, having the option of AWD
is an added feature many of us are choosing. Ford has
developed an excellent system capable of handling the
worst conditions. For those of us who love to spend time
on the road, it makes driving a whole lot more enjoyable,
even if the weather is only fit for a duck.