Car Review of the 2005 Ford Freestyle Crossover Utility Vehicle
Base MSRP Range: Not available
Base Invoice Range: Not available
MSRP As Tested: Not available
Versions: SE, SEL and Limited
Vehicle Category: Mid-Size Luxury Sport Utility Vehicle
Engine Location: Front Engine
Drive Wheels: All-Wheel Drive.
Transmission As Tested: CVT Continuioisly Variable Transmission.
Fuel Economy (city/hwy): 14/17.
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 Pacfica, Nissan Murano, Buick Rendezvous, Pontiac Aztek.
Crossover vehicles are a combination of a sport utility vehicle (SUV), and a minivan, generally speaking. In most cases the SUV look takes precedence in the exterior design, while the minivan lends the interior styling and flexible cargo capacity. Crossovers are usually unable to go where an 4-wheel, or all-wheel drive equipped SUV can. Nor are they able to carry the size load a minivan can. Nonetheless crossover products have great appeal as they combine the cache’ of an SUV, the carrying capacity of a van, a car-like ride, and a higher seating position.
The 2005 Ford Freestyle is the first crossover SUV that really works well for automotive consumers. Freestyle’s competitors include the Chrysler Pacifica, Pontiac Aztek, Buick Rendezvous, and the Nissan Murano. Unlike most competitors, Ford did not adapt a minivan platform to carry an SUV body. Instead Ford took Volvo’s P2 car platform, on which the S60 and S80 cars, V70 wagon, and the XC90 SUV are all built, and developed a very functional, all-new, crossover product.
The Freestyle is representative of Volvo’s ever-increasing influence over the Ford product line. We consider that a very good thing for Ford. Volvo provides safety features, quality engineering, and thus a better build than many cars that are designed and built in the US.
At first glance Freestyle looks a lot like the Ford Escape and appears to be about the same size. But it is actually much larger. It is longer than Explorer by almost 10 inches, and it is 2 inches wider. This allows for a great deal of interior space, and excellent cargo capacity.
The Freestyle shares its styling DNA with its sisters the Escape, Explorer and Expedition. Thus the overall exterior design is the standard one for a Ford SUV. And as Ford produces the best selling SUVs in the world, there was no need to make huge adjustments. The lines are simple, clean, and elegant. Freestyle’s design will look modern for a long time to come, which is important to its resale value. Ford did not want the Freestyle to look dated when it came off its original lease and entered the Certified Preowned Vehicle program, and sold as used.
Unlike the Chrysler Pacifica, Freestyle’s design is plain, or rather, devoid of useless design cues. Ford felt it better to start with a conservative design, leaving room for enhancements and customization in future versions. This is smart. Rather than go overboard at the start as GM did with the Aztek, giving it a wild design consumers could not accept, Ford made a product anyone would be proud, and happy, to own, and that could easily handle enhancements without making the product gaudy.
There are three trim levels available the SE, SEL and the Limited. And, no accessory for the Freestyle costs more than $1,000.
Compared to other crossover vehicles Freestyle has a lot more cargo room. With all seats folded flat (both rear rows and the front passenger seat) the Freestyle has 154.2 cubic feet of space. Compare that to Pacifica’s 79.5, Aztek’s 95.1, and Rendezvous’ 108.9.
The interior of the Freestyle, like its sister the Ford 500, is very European -- simple, clean and devoid silly design cues that will look outdated next week.
Under the cowl is an instrument cluster with a tachometer on the left, and a speedometer on the right. In the center are gauges for water temperature, and gas, and the odometer. The center stack begins on the top of the dash with a covered storage compartment - very useful. Below it are two large circular gauges followed by the interface for the entertainment system. The climate controls are below it. Perfect.
There is a large handle on the A pillar to help ingress and egress. It also provides something for the front passenger to hold onto when the driver is having fun on twisty roads.
Of the few problems we found with Freestyle, one was the location of the mirror adjustment knob. It is located at the base of the A pillar, a location that cannot be reached without leaning forward for most people. When we wanted to adjust the mirrors we had to lean forward to turn the knob, and sit back to see if the adjustment was correct. This really is a petty criticism of an otherwise very-well-planned product.
We spent a lot of time zig-zagging around lower Wisconsin and Illinois, on our way to Chicago -- a drive of several hundred miles. We found the seats comfortable and not at all fatiguing. The seats are made of good quality materials. The standard cloth seats are firm, giving plenty of support, and they appeared durable. Leather seating surfaces are available in as an option on the SEL, and come standard on the Limited model.
Optional in the SEL, and standard in the Limited, is the 50/50-split, third-row, bench seat. To prove to us that Freestyle resolves the 3rd row comfort issue, Ford forced the journalists - with good reason -- to ride in the back of a Chrysler Pacifica. This demonstrated to us just how uncomfortable, and impossible, it is for an adult to sit in the 3rd row of most crossover products. Our heads banged against Pacifica’s ceiling, making us warn the driver not to bounce the car around so that we wouldn’t hurt our necks. The Freestyle was much better. It had plenty of headroom, and enough legroom for an adult to be comfortable during a modest trip. But most importantly we didn’t fear a spinal injury.
The storage space behind Freestyle’s the third row is significantly better than that of all its competitors. There is a deep well to hold grocery bags in place, and to corral all the kids’ gear.
Carrying big items inside the Freestyle is easy. All the seats, including the front passenger, second, and third rows, fold completely flat, but not into the floor, creating an immense cargo area, large-enough to carry a canoe.
Freestyle’s third-row seat is exceptionally flexible. Not only does it fold flat, it can also be folded into the floor so that you can carry a big TV in a box. AND it can also be flipped backward to create a bench seat for tailgate parties, or a comfy place to snooze while waiting for soccer practice to end.
Power comes from Ford’s 3.0-liter, Duratec, V6 engine also found in the current Taurus, and other products. The engine is a good, reliable one delivering 203-horsepower at 5,750- rpms, and 207 lb-ft of torque at 4,500 rpm. The Freestyle accelerates well, and has plenty power for the kind of driving we did.
Freestyle’s horsepower is low when compared to the Pacifica, and the Rendezvous’ 3.6-liter, V6. However Freestyle has similar performance to the higher-horsepower products because of Ford’s new Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT.) Most people are unfamiliar with CVT technology, and we expect consumers will see the lower horsepower numbers of the Freestyle as a negative because they won’t know that CVT makes up for it.
For those unfamiliar with the Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT), it differs from conventional automatic transmissions that 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. A pulley on the drive line (power train, or engine delivering power to the transmission and thus the wheels) disseminates the power from the engine. The other pulley sends 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.
Ride and Handling
Freestyle rides like a Volvo, because it is one under the skin. Volvos are among the most comfortable, and confident, vehicles on the road, and Freestyle is no different. Unfortunately our test drive did not include twisting mountain roads, and as such we really cannot comment on Freestyle’s handling. However if the performance of the Volvos built on the same platform indicate handling quality, then Freestyle will surely be just as good.
Freestyle is available with the same all-wheel-drive system found in the Volvo XC90. The system is a good one providing confidence in bad weather, and when road conditions are poor. And, it is capable of more.
Ford prepared a man-made hill with a 35 degree slope - pretty steep - for a demonstration showing what happens on a steep hill with bad traction (dusty, dirty, ice, water, etc.) We stopped the cars half way up the hill, and then attempted to proceed to the top. Both the Chrysler Pacifica and the Buick Rendezvous had a hard time climbing the hill, and slid backwards after being stopped. This could be a frightening experience in a real-world situation. The Freestyle had no problem climbing the hill, even after starting from a complete stop.
Ford uses safety as a marketing tool like no other U.S. manufacturer, especially as they adopt more and more of Volvo’s technologies. Freestyle is equipped with dual-level driver, and front-passenger airbags. Front seat mounted, side-impact airbags are available as an option. Also optional is Ford’s Safety Canopy. These are side-curtain airbags protecting all three rows of seats during a side impact, or a rollover.
Ford launched an adaptive steering column on Freestyle. The adaptive steering column, collapses during a frontal impact. A pin in the steering column is pulled by the system when it senses particular kinds of impacts. This allows the steering column to collapse absorbing energy from a collision. It does this at two different speeds depending on whether the driver is belted, or not. It is ingenious.
The Freestyle is the best crossover yet from an American manufacturer, and it is built here too. It has more useable interior space than its competitors especially behind the third-row seat where it is needed to stow groceries, and other stuff. The third-row bench seat is the best in class given that it both folds flat, and can be tipped backward to create seating for tailgaters. There is enough head clearance for an adult to sit safely in the third row. The ride is quite good. The all-wheel-drive system provides more traction than most people will ever need -- and it is comforting to know that if you encounter bad weather the vehicle can handle it. Freestyle’s performance is good enough for everyday use. All this coupled with safety enhancements from Volvo, make Freestyle the best crossover package on the market.
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, 50/50 split third row seat, side impact airbags and Safety Canopy rollover airbags .
Number of Rows: 2/3
Length in Inches: 199.8
Warranties: 4 years/50,000 miles bumper to bumper, 4 years/50,000 miles corrosion protection, 4 years/50,000 miles free scheduled maintenance unlimited roadside assistance.
Weight in Pounds: two wheel drive 3,959, all-wheel-drive. lbs
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: $720