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CROSSOVER DONE RIGHT

This article is from our archives and has not been updated and integrated with our "new" site yet... Even so, it's still awesome - so keep reading!

Published on Sun, Feb 6, 2005

By: The LACar Editorial Staff

© All photos by Harvey Schwartz

CROSSOVER DONE RIGHT By HARVEY SCHWARTZ

The Ford Freestyle is an innovative, purpose-built crossover vehicle designed to change the automotive market with the right package, the right powertrain and the right price. The Freestyle blends the bold looks of a sport utility, the versatility of a minivan and the driving confidence of an all-wheel drive sedan. The all-new Freestyle sets an impressive benchmark for comfort, versatility and safety. It can carry up to seven adults in comfort, its fully functional, fold-in-floor third-row seating provides flexible cargo-carrying capacity and Freestyle is packed with industry-leading safety technology, including an exclusive three-row Safety Canopy side curtain airbag system. With attributes of a sport utility vehicle, minivan and sedan, Freestyle's flexibility makes it ideal for active families. This purpose built crossover has the versatility it takes to be the first choice for typically varied lifestyle scenarios, from a trip to the do-it-yourself warehouse, to a weekend of skiing.

Freestyle's strengths include: the right package with crossover flexibility (dozens of seating configurations) for hauling people, cargo or any combination of both, plus the cargo capacity of a full-size sport utility with its seats folded. The front seatback of the Freestyle folds forward to enable a 10-foot piece of cargo to fit into the vehicle. Natural, upright command seating in all three rows for easy entry and exit, long-range comfort and maximum visibility. Best-in-class second-and third-row legroom and third-row knee clearance thanks to purpose-built crossover architecture. No competitive vehicle offers as much combined passenger room in three rows of seating. The right powertrain with a standard 3.0 liter V6, continuously variable transmission and available all-wheel-drive for assured all-weather traction and smooth torque delivery. Crisp, assured handling, thanks to Freestyle's innovative, Volvo-inspired architecture, with MacPherson struts, coil-over rear shocks, aluminum dual-piston front brake calipers, rack and pinion steering and carefully optimized suspension geometry. Energy-channeling frame and body structures (also inspired by Volvo) help protect occupants in a collision. Finally, there's a new level of interior craftsmanship - consistent with an increased investment in interior design. The all-new Freestyle is available in three levels of comfort and luxury-from the base SE, to the mid-level SEL and top-of-the-line Limited. Flexibility is at the heart of the all-new Freestyle, which was designed from the inside out with occupants clearly in mind. Freestyle offers innovative storage solutions and dozens of seating configurations to accommodate various combinations of passengers and cargo.

Up front, Freestyle's instrument panel gives the driver and passenger the look, feel and attitude of an off-road-ready sport utility complete with a robust grab-handle mounted on the passenger side. The contrasting center stack contains all climate and audio controls and is topped with two round air registers reminiscent of the rugged yet refined Ford Expedition design. The flow-through center console houses the floor shifter, two ample cup holders, and roomy center storage console. The front bucket seats provide excellent lumbar and lateral support, have adjustable head restraints and are covered in high-quality fabric or optional leather surfaces. Freestyle provides best-in-class legroom in the second and third rows. The second row is the place to be for long trips, with reclining captain's chairs or 60/40 split-fold seatbacks for added comfort. When captain's chairs are selected, second-row seats are mounted on optional adjustable tracks to increase legroom. The third row is uncharacteristically comfortable for a crossover vehicle thanks to an innovative package design that includes a raised greenhouse over the third row, combined with a well-packaged independent rear suspension below the floor. Additionally, engineers designed the back of the second-row seats and optional console to accommodate foot space for third-row passengers. No other vehicle in the segment offers as much total legroom in the first, second and third rows.

The Freestyle bears a resemblance to Ford's Explorer sport utility, the best selling sport utility in the world. Yet Freestyle's design is more sculpted than chiseled, more 'capable' than rugged. It was designed to set it apart from minivans with its long hood, high beltline, large wheels and tires, aggressive grille guard-styled lower fascia, flared wheel arches, large side mirrors and hefty strap-style door handles. A result of designing the Freestyle around its users is its abundance of clever storage solutions, like a recessed lid atop the dashboard that pops open at the touch of a finger to reveal a convenient storage bin. An optional overhead console in the front row provides room for sunglasses and a garage door opener, and includes a convex conversation mirror, a popular feature borrowed from the Ford minivan that lets driver's direct an eye toward rear-seat passengers. The second-row seats fold down and then flip forward to provide easier access to the third row. The third-row seat folds, flips toward the rear, (tailgate style), and stows in the cargo floor, creating a level load surface. Levers and straps are clearly labeled for intuitive operation of the folding rear seat, which is available as a full bench or 50/50 split. With an innovative and comfortable interior, how does the new Freestyle drive? Like a sedan - because of its Volvo inspired architecture with class leading torsional rigidity and fully independent suspension hooked up to a power-assisted rack & pinion steering system. The ride is smooth, quiet with very good response to your input. Power comes from Ford's proven Duratec 30 3.0 liter V6 engine making 203 hp at 5,750 rpm and 207 lb.ft. of torque at 4,500 rpm. The V6 engine is mated to an all-new continuously variable transmission (CVT) produced through Ford's joint venture with ZF-Batavia. Freestyle's CVT offers advantages not found in traditional automatic transmissions. It uses two variable-size pulleys-one for input from the engine, the other for output to the drive wheels-connected by a metal chain, and constantly varies the effective size of the two pulleys to meet the driving demands of the moment. Electronic powertrain controls, including a sensor on the electronic throttle, constantly monitor the demand for power. When more torque is needed for acceleration or to maintain speed up a steep hill, the transmission seamlessly responds by creating the right gear ratio from an infinite number of possibilities, allowing the Duratec 30 engine to operate at optimum speed. 

The Duratec 30 doesn't need a tune-up for 100,000 miles of operation and the CVT doesn't require maintenance for its first 60,000 miles. Freestyle is available with an all-wheel-drive system using an electronically controlled, electro-hydraulic Haldex limited-slip coupling positioned just ahead of the rear differential to transfer virtually all available torque to the rear wheels whenever the front wheels slip. Electronic controls that gather information from the anti-lock braking system and other sensors allow the all-wheel-drive system to react within 50 milliseconds-much faster and more seamless than systems that rely on viscous coupling. Traction control is also available, providing more torque transfer from side-to-side. When all-wheel-drive isn't needed, Freestyle functions as a front-wheel-drive vehicle. Quickly and safely slowing the new Freestyle down from speed are big, steel disc brakes. Up front, they measure 12.5 inches and are vented, with a dual-piston calipers. In the rear are 13-inch solid discs with a single piston caliper. Enhancing braking are ABS and electronic brake force distribution. The Freestyle SE and SEL ride on 17x7-inch aluminum wheels wrapped by 215/65R17 all-season radial tires, while the Limited rides on 18x8-inch aluminum wheels wrapped with 225/60R18 all-season radial tires.

Keeping all occupants safe in the new Freestyle was a priority for Ford and they did a fantastic job borrowing technology from Volvo. Freestyle is available with Ford's innovative Safety Canopy, an industry exclusive that offers head protection for all three rows of occupants in side impact and rollovers. Freestyle pays particular attention to side-impact protection, thanks in part to extensive computer crash modeling that allowed safety engineers to optimize the vehicle's energy-management structures. That included using laser-welding techniques to build side pillars that redirect crash forces underneath the vehicle's seats. This energy is further channeled through a cross-car tube derived from Volvo's side impact protection system. Other safety features include front airbags, three-point safety belts for all seating positions with pre-tensioners and load-limiters up front. The all-new Ford Freestyle is a complete package for any type of consumer, whether the consumer is looking for a four-door sedan, five-door liftback, minivan, or sport utility. The Freestyle can take care of any need that can arise from everyday needs that a modern vehicle is used for. It is especially good to see that Ford is paying special attention to interior ergonomics and quality of parts in this most important place, where you spend your time when behind the wheel. The Freestyle is definitely worth a test drive to find out if it fits your needs.

© All text and photos by Harvey Schwartz

For more information on Ford products, go to www.fordvehicles.com.  More photos from Harvey Schwartz can be found at www.autofotos.com SPECIFICATIONS Name of vehicle: 2005 Ford Freestyle Price of vehicle: $25,000.00-$32,000.00 Engine type: 3.0-liter DOHC V6, aluminum block/heads Horsepower: 203 hp at 5,750 rpm Torque: 204 lb.ft. At 4,500 rpm Drive configuration: Front engine, front-wheel-drive or optional all-wheel-drive Transmission type: Continuously variable transmission Front suspension: Independent MacPherson strut, rearward-facing lower L-arms, stabilizer bar Rear suspension: Independent, multi-link coil-over-shock, stabilizer bar Wheels/tires: 17x7-inch aluminum 215/65R17 all-season radials standard, optional 18x8-inch 225/60R18 all-season radial tires Brakes: Front - 12.5-inch vented disc, dual-piston aluminum caliper Rear - 13-inch solid disc ABS and electronic brake force distribution Overall length: 199.8 in. Overall width: 74.4 in. Overall height: 68.2 in. Curb weight: 3,959 lbs.-front-wheel-drive/4,112 lbs. all-wheel-drive EPA mileage: 20 mpg/city, 27 mpg/highway

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