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2006 Ford Freestyle Wagon

New Car Review Of The 2006 Ford Freestyle Wagon

Base MSRP Range: $25,105 - $30,580

Base Invoice Range: $23,159 - $28,087

MSRP As Tested: $35,405

Versions: SE, SEL, Limited.

Vehicle Category: Wagon

Engine Location: Front Engine

Drive Wheels: Rear-Wheel Drive.

Standard Engine: 3.0-liter, Dual Overhead Cam, 24-valves, V-6, 203 - horsepower at 5750 rpm and 207 lb-ft torque at 4500 rpm.

Transmission: Six-speed automatic with overdrive.

Fuel Economy (city/hwy): 20/28.

Standard Safety Features: Dual front airbags, Four wheel power disc brakes, 4-channel ">anti-lock braking system (ABS) and electronic brakeforce distribution (EBD).

Competition: Cadillac Escalade, Infiniti QX56, Toyota Land Cruiser.

Most cars, if they inspire any emotion at all, are polarizing. People either love 'em or hate 'em.

Take Chrysler's PT Cruiser. The people who buy PTs are passionate about them, talking about their car like they'd talk about their loyal golden retriever that died in 1974. They absolutely love their car and want everyone to know it.

On the other hand, you've probably met people who hate the PT just as passionately, saying it ought to be tossed in the compost pile with raunchy bananas and moldy grass clippings. They think it's the ugliest car on the road.

Rarely, though, do you find a vehicle that's wildly contradictory within itself.

That's the problem I faced while driving the Ford Freestyle, a so-called "crossover" vehicle that's half SUV and half station wagon.

As an SUV, I absolutely love it because of its smooth ride, refined handling, good gas mileage, practical interior and ease of entry and exit. It's an SUV that doesn't behave like one.

At the same time, I hate the Freestyle whenever I think of it as a station wagon. It feels bloated and sloppy compared with other unibody cars, and the ride and handling that I think are so great compared to SUVs seem downright mediocre -- if not disappointing -- compared to most passenger cars.

The overall experience left me lukewarm, but not in an "I really don't care" kind of way like you experience behind the wheel of a boring family sedan. It was an odd sort of thing where I'd go from elation one moment to loathing the next, never deciding if I ought to lust after the Freestyle as a terrific SUV or toss it on the trash heap as a cruddy car.

This Ford simply has an identity crisis.

If you can look beyond the nebulous emotions inspired by the Freestyle, though, you'll see it's actually a wonderful vehicle for anybody with a family. While it can't do serious off-road driving or heavy-duty towing -- things most SUV drivers don't do anyway -- it's a downright perfect vehicle for fulfilling its primary mission of moving people and their masses of stuff in relative comfort.

Inside, the Freestyle is configured like an SUV with three rows of roomy seats and a nice size cargo area in the back. The back seats easily fold flat for hauling really big stuff, and the overall appearance is much more like a sedan than an SUV, complete with high-quality materials and tight construction tolerances. Also, thanks to its low ride height, getting in and out is a breeze.

Driving the Freestyle is remarkably similar to driving a regular family sedan, albeit one that's a couple of years old. There's nothing truly spectacular about its performance other than its totally smooth, continuously variable transmission that never shifts.

My only complaint is that it lacks the crispness and sense of being attached to the asphalt like today's best new sedans offer, instead settling for a fairly mushy, uninspiring ride. It's great as an SUV but lackluster as a car.

Only one engine is offered in the Freestyle. It's a 203-horsepower V6, which is a good compromise between performance and efficiency as it gets up to 27 miles per gallon on the highway according to EPA ratings. It doesn't have the grunt of a V8 or the utter efficiency of a wheezy four-banger, but it does its job well enough to scoot the Freestyle comfortably though city traffic.

Pricing starts at $25,105 for the SE model with front-wheel drive or $26,955 with all-wheel drive. This includes more standard equipment than you'd expect, including a six-way power driver's seat, tilt steering wheel, cruise control, four-wheel antilock disc brakes and traction control, along with the regular goodies like power windows, power locks and air conditioning. That's a lot of car for the money.

Add about $1,500 for the SEL model, and you get a six-disc CD changer, automatic headlights, heated mirrors, a leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls, built-in garage door opener, extra sound insulation and a few other luxuries.

At the top of the range, the Limited ($28,530) and Limited AWD ($30,580) add a better stereo system, heated front seats with memory, adjustable rear seats and woodgrain trim. Options include leather seats, dual-zone climate control, a rear-seat DVD player, power moonroof, reverse sensing system and adjustable pedals, all of which can combine to make it feel more like a full-blown luxury car than a simple family hauler.

All in all, despite my mixed emotions, I wouldn't hesitate to recommend the Freestyle to anybody who wants an SUV but doesn't want to live with the downsides of them. While it's not quite as refined as you'd expect a station wagon to be, it does offer a great alternative to the big, lumbering SUVs and is a great value for the money.

Pros: It offers the advantages of an SUV without many downsides. It gets decent gas mileage, handles well and has a wonderful, versatile, high-quality interior.

Cons: In terms of ride and drive, it's not as refined as you'd expect a station wagon to be. Uninspired design will date quickly. Ford quality.

Ratings (1-10)

  • Style: 6
  • Performance: 3
  • Price: 4
  • Handling: 4
  • Ride: 4
  • Comfort: 6
  • Quality: 6
  • Overall: 4.7

More Data

Where Built: USA

Major Options: Safety and Security Package, Convenience Group, Comfort Package. Traction control, Power sunroof, 2nd-row 3-passenger split folding seat, Chrome exhaust tips, Auxiliary climate control with heat ($650), Navigation system ($1,995), Reverse sensing system ($295), Safety package ($695), Memory adjustable pedals ($195), DVD player ($995).

Seating: 7

Number of Rows: 3

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: 3649 lbs - 3825 lbs.

Cargo Capacity in Pounds: Not available.

Gross Maximum Vehicle Weight in Pounds: Not available.

Towing Capacity in Pounds: 1000 lbs - 2000 lbs.

Gas Tank Capacity in Gallons: 19.0

Destination Charge: $700