New Car Review of the 2005 Ford Five Hundred Full-Size Sedan
Base MSRP Range: $22,145 - $27,845
Base Invoice Range: $20,300 - $25,430
MSRP As Tested: Not Available
Versions: SE, SEL and Limited
Vehicle Category: Full-Size Sedan
Engine Location: Front Engine
Transmission As Tested: Six-speed automatic, or optional CVT Continuioisly Variable Transmission.
Fuel Economy (city/hwy): 6-speed automatic 21/29, CVT automatic 20/27.
Standard Safety Features: Dual-level driver and passenger airbags, Optional Safety Canopy side curtain rollover airbags, Adaptive steering columns. ">Antilock Brake System, electronic brake force distribution
Competition: Chrysler 300, Chevrolet Impala, Pontiac Grand Prix, Volkswagen Passat, Buick La Crosse, Nissan Maxima, Toyota Avalon.
A couple of years ago at the New York Auto Show we interviewed Jim O’Connor, the CEO Ford - who is now about to retire. We asked him about Jay Mays’ effect on Ford design. He started to talk about “sophisticated design.” But then said, “let me show you.”
From his pocket, he produced a stack of flash cards on which information about the products he was stumping at the show was printed. Among the cards was a drawing of a car he was to announce later. It was the 500. Our immediate response to the image was that Ford was going to build a domestic version of the Volkswagen Passat. It turns out that is exactly what they did.
Ford announced the demise of the Taurus a year ago. It will be replaced with two new sedans. The Five Hundred is one, and the other will be introduced in January 2005. Additionally, in 2004 Ford introduced four other passenger cars including the Focus, Freestyle, Mustang, and GT. It makes sense for Ford to concentrate on expanding sales of its passenger cars after the successes with SUVs and the F150 have taken a lot of their attenion.
The Five Hundred is Ford’s new flagship. It is available in three trim levels: the entry level SE, mid-level SEL, and the top-of-the-line Limited. Ford calls it the “first crossover-based sedan,” meaning, they wanted to provide some of the appealing features of an SUV - command seating, large cargo and passenger area, optional all-wheel-drive for inclement-weather driving - without the size and expense of an SUV. As such, the car has an immense trunk, big enough for 5, full-size sets of golf clubs, and there is more passenger room than in the Crown Victoria - a much larger vehicle.
The Five Hundred is further evidence of the “Volvofication” of Ford - something we consider a good thing. The Five Hundred is built on the Volvo P2 platform along with the Volvo S60, S80, V70, XC90, and the Ford Freestyle. Other technologies from Volvo include the all-wheel-drive system and an array of safety features. It also has more of the elegance of the Volvo product line.
The Ford Five Hundred is clearly a J Mays design. Outside it looks like a product Volkswagen or Audi could have developed, clean and simple. It is devoid of unattractive cladding and gaudy bodywork that will be out-of-style before the car loan is paid off.
It has the rounded profile of the VW Passat, and Audi A4. In front large lenses cover the housing containing the headlamp, high beam and turn signal. The fog lamps are separate, located below the bumper flanking a second opening for cooling. Above that is a large, diamond-patterned, mesh grille. The hood catches light nicely, sweeping up into the rounded roofline, and down to the rear deck - a very attractive line. The rear is less European and dramatic than the front, with rear taillights similar to those on the Honda Civic.
The styling of the Five Hundred is much more sophisticated than the Taurus. And while it is not flashy like the impossible-to-see-out-of Chrysler 300, it has the elegance buyers of affordable full-size sedans demand. It won’t date quickly making it unlikely people will regret their purchase after 5 years of ownership.
The 2005 Ford Five Hundred’s interior is conservative, without being dull. Once again it looks like an Audi or Volkswagen interior - that’s a good thing. Soft touch materials were used on the dash and for the upper door trims too. The hardware, like the door handles, is made of satin finished aluminum, giving the Five Hundred a more luxurious look. The SEL and Limited models come with burl-wood appliqu©. The sportier SE edition interior has carbon-fiber-look trims.
Beneath the rounded cowl is an instrument cluster with the Tachometer on the left, and the Speedometer on the right. The gas and temperature gauges are in between. The middle of the dash, above the center console, has a large storage area with a lid. Below it are vents for the Heat-Ventilation-Air Conditioning (HVAC,) an analog clock, followed by the console containing the entertainment system, climate controls, and the switches for the traction control, etc. The center console also has the gear selector, and cup holders -- one each for the driver and passenger. The rear of the console has a large padded armrest and more storage. However it still won’t hold a handbag.
The 2005 Ford Five Hundred is all about lots of room for passengers and cargo, in an affordable package, that is easy to drive. The Five Hundred has a, class leading, 107 cubic feet of volume in the passenger compartment. There is considerably more headroom and rear legroom than in the Chrysler 300, Chevy Impala, or the Volkswagen Passat. It beats everything short of a moving van for cargo capacity. The Five Hundred has a cavernous, 21 cubic foot trunk. That’s 10 cubic feet more than a Passat, 4.4 more than a Chrysler 300, and 2.4 more than a Chevrolet Impala! And it is ever so much more attractive than the later two.
The 2005 Ford Five Hundred is powered by a Duratec, 3.0-liter, dual-overhead cam, 24-valve, V6 engine -- the same one found in the Escape and other Ford products. The engine develops 203-horsepower at 5,750 rpm, and 207 lb-ft of torque at 4,500 rpm. The engine performs well, but is shy on horsepower when compared to the 3.5-liter, V-6 offered in the Chrysler 300, or the engines in the Altima and Acura TL - and there is no V8 option available. Ford claims that 500’s performance is comparable to the 300 when the Duratec engine is mated to the Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) with a 4 to 8 percent fuel savings - important for full-size cars. But that is a difficult case to make through advertising, and we expect the product to be challenged by a perception that it is shy on horsepower. The other transmission offered on the front drive models is a six-speed automatic.
The engine is just fine. The CVT works well and gives better gas mileage than the 6-speed transmission. In fact most manufacturers claim CVT automatic transmissions get as good mileage as a manual, because the engine is always working in the optimum power range. The six-speed transmission is also good, giving the Five Hundred 20-mpg in the city and 27 on the highway. It bests the cars in its class by 1 to 3 miles per gallon.
CVTs differ from conventional automatic transmissions which use a set of gears to match the engine’s speed to the wheels’ speed. The CVT uses a set of pulleys to perform a similar task. One pulley on the driveline (or powertrain which includes the engine delivering power to the transmission, and thus the wheels) disseminates the power produced by the engine. The other pulley distributes engine power to move the wheels. The effective length of the two pulleys varies constantly keeping the engine in the most effective power range for the current driving condition. No gears need to be shifted.
The performance is all that is needed for a family, or commuter’s car -- no more, no less. And that is how it will be used. We would love to see the Five Hundred in an SVT version, a high performance, all-wheel-drive car with a manual transmission, or perhaps a V8. This will make it more fun to drive. But most people will be perfectly happy with the V6 CVT.
Ride and Handling
The Five Hundred has a nice ride; it is comfortable with enough sportiness to keep you from being bored. The ride has been tuned to American tastes - softer with less road feel - yet it handles more like a European product. The cornering is precise. Putting the car where you want it is easy.
We compared the Five Hundred to its competitors on a small test track. The Five Hundred was significantly more nimble than the Chrysler 300, and it was better, in every way, than the Chevrolet Impala.
Haldex manufactures the optional all-wheel-drive system. It is similar to the one available in the Volvo S80, XC70, XC90 and the 2005 Ford Freestyle. It works well in most situations, so bad weather or slippery roads should not cause much concern. The system is good on hills. It provides plenty of traction to get you, and keep you, moving up a hill.
The 2005 Ford Five Hundred is built on the Volvo P2 platform which can take a hit and dissipate the energy in the best-possible way to protect the occupants. A new bumper system helps transfer the energy from a crash, around the passenger compartment, through a high-strength safety cage. In addition to class-leading, chassis stiffness.
Five Hundred is equipped with dual-stage, driver and front-passenger airbags. These airbags have sensors that determine if the front-passenger is an adult, a child, or a child in a safety seat. They also sense the severity of the impact, and whether, or not, a seat belt is in use. All that is calculated before deploying the airbag. Seat-mounted, side-impact airbags are available as an option, as are Safety Canopy rollover, side-curtain airbags. The Safety Canopy costs only $595. It is an inexpensive option.
Five Hundred has an Adaptive Steering column. It collapses differently in a frontal crash. It is dependent upon data about the impact energy and the size of the driver. It can reduce chest injuries.
The 2005 Five Hundred is built on the world-class Volvo P2 platform. It is an entirely different, and much better product than the Taurus. But it does not fill Taurus’ place alone. A second sedan comes out next year. The Five Hundred is more elegant looking, better riding, and more nimble than its predecessor. And it doesn’t scrimp on passenger and cargo space.
The all-wheel-drive option is a must-have for those living with lots of rain and snow. In fact, no option for the Five Hundred costs more the $1,000 making it is easy to equip just the way you want it. And don’t forget to buy the safety canopy.
Five Hundred doesn’t have imposing design, or a high-performance V8 version available, as does the Chrysler 300. The design is more timeless, and refined, and the Five Hundred is nimble to drive. It is roomier than the 300, and it is a better overall package. More than likely the Ford product will be better built than the Chrysler. Ford wins this one, even if we would like to see an SVT version with all-wheel-drive, a manual six-speed, or SMG type transmission and a supercharged engine. That would be fun. But on the other hand, most people who want a product to drive to work every day will be happy with it just the way it is.
Pros: Great platform and flexabilty in the seating and cargo areas. Nice interior with a conservative level of refinement. No option costs more than $1,000.00.
Cons: Plain wrap styling, low on power compared to the competition.
- Style: 7
- Performance: 7
- Price: 9
- Handling: 7
- Ride: 7
- Comfort: 7
- Quality: 7
- Overall: 8.2
Where Built: Detroit
Major Options: All-wheel drive, Power-adjustable pedals, DVD entertainment system with wireless headphones, power Moonroof, side impact airbags and Safety Canopy rollover airbags .
Number of Rows: 2
Length in Inches: 200.7
Warranties: 3 years/36,000 miles bumper to bumper, 5 years/unlimited miles corrosion protection, 3 years/36,000 miles roadside assistance.
Weight in Pounds: 3,664
Cargo Capacity in Pounds: not available.
Gross Maximum Vehicle Weight in Pounds: not available.
Towing Capacity in Pounds: 2,000.
Gas Tank Capacity in Gallons: 19
Destination Charge: $650