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FORD'S NEW MIDSIZE SEDAN FOR THE 21ST CENTURY

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 Thu, Mar 17, 2005

By: The LACar Editorial Staff

© All photos by Harvey Schwartz

FORD'S NEW MIDSIZE SEDAN FOR THE 21ST CENTURY By HARVEY SCHWARTZ

The Ford Taurus is no more, having been replaced in 2005 with the all-new Five Hundred. When first introduced in the mid-1980s, the Taurus became the best-selling sedan in America. That all changed in the late 1990s when Ford updated the Taurus with a strange design theme of circular lines and shapes. Sales declined, and the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord took over as number one and number two for midsize sedans. The all-new Ford Five Hundred is Ford's response to help get the marque back on top in the hotly contested and lucrative midsize sedan market with over one million total vehicle sales in 2004. Can the Ford Five Hundred do it? Only time will tell, but the Five Hundred is a definite improvement. On the other hand, it can be looked at as somewhat conservative in design and power. It is larger, has more room inside than the Taurus, and has several advantages over the Camry and Accord. Ford's flagship-sedan delivers Command Seating, loads of cargo capability, versatility, and all-weather confidence. The fold-flat rear and front passenger seat (on SEL and Limited models) provides ample interior space from bumper to dashboard, allowing room to fit an eight-foot ladder. At 21 cubic feet, it has one of the largest sedan trunks. The Five Hundred comes standard with front-wheel-drive and optional all-wheel-drive for all-weather and road surface traction. The standard six-speed automatic is the only one available in a mid-size sedan priced under $35,000.00. An optional CVT (continuously variable transmission) is standard on the AWD model. The CVT optimizes performance, while promoting fuel efficiency and low emissions. A new energy-channeling frame and body structures protect occupants in the event of a collision. An optional safety package includes side airbags, and industry-leading Safety Canopy system for protection in side impacts and rollovers. The Five Hundred is available in three levels of comfort-the value leading SE, the midlevel SEL, and the top-of-the-line Limited. Let's take a closer look at the Five Hundred.| Classic Ford design cues include the trapezoidal, diamond-patterned grille, the widow graphic with elegant chrome surround, and the blue oval Ford badge centered on both the grille and the rear of the trunk lid. Five Hundred's authoritative exterior design, with its clean geometric lines and stately proportions, displays confidence and luxury.

Premium features include 17-inch wheels (18-inch wheels are standard on the Limited), entry keypad, one-touch up/down front power windows, plus other options such as all-wheel-drive, leather-trimmed seating with power adjustments, fold-flat front passenger seat, reverse parking assist and moonroof. The Five Hundred is about three inches longer than a Taurus, but roughly a foot shorter than the full-size Crown Victoria. On the inside, the Five Hundred's seating is one of the car's most impressive elements. The vehicle's interior brings SUV-like Command Seating to the premium sedan segment, giving drivers and passengers a clear view of the road, yet possessing the low step-in height of a car. Occupants sit up to four inches higher than in other midsize sedans. The distance is even greater for second-row passengers. Overall legroom is best in class for both front and rear occupants. I'd like to see better upholstered seats up front because the driver's seat felt like it needed more padding on the bottom and back for optimum comfort on long trips. The trunk, with 21 cubic feet of storage space, is the largest of any midsize sedan and can accommodate eight full-size golf bags. Other touches include a front-row, pop-up center console storage bin large enough for many items that you need on any journey, such as a purse, CDs, or hair brush. The center console easily holds a cell phone, or PDA. The center console includes dual cupholders, a storage slot, and a good looking and easy to use stick shifter. The seat backs can hold maps or magazines, and the rear seat has a pull-down center armrest with dual cupholders/pull-up storage space. All together there are eight beverage holders plus door panel storage on each door for umbrellas and other slim items. The interior styling includes soft materials and surface treatments-from smooth metal-plated door handles to soft-touch paint surfaces and high-quality fabrics or leather surfaces. SEL and Limited models have burled wood-pattern appliqués on the dashboard that lightens up the interior nicely but not on the door rest switch plates. The SE edition features appliqués that resemble metal mesh. The dashboard contains a premium analog, oval shaped clock in the middle with a nicely arranged center stack with easy to use buttons and dials for the audio system and electronic climate controls. The tilting and leather wrapped four-spoke steering wheel feels very good in your hands and there are control buttons for the audio system and cruise control giving you hands-free operation. The instrument cluster is straight-ahead and easy to see. The 120-mph speedometer and 7,000-rpm tachometer features aluminum bezels for another luxury touch. Smaller gauges in between for fuel and engine coolant temperature have bright LED displays below to warn of safety or system failure. Other features standard on the Limited include eight-way power driver's seat/four-way power passenger seat with lumbar control, dual-zone automatic climate control, outside temperature and compass direction readouts, leather seats, heated driver/passenger seats, remote keyless entry, engine immobilizer, variable-speed wipers/washer, and a 19-gallon fuel tank.

Ford Mustang Stamp

The Five Hundred combines technology under the hood to create a dynamic driving experience. An improved Duratec 30 3.0-liter DOHC, aluminum alloy V6 engine makes 203 horsepower and 207 pound feet of torque. While the numbers are okay, it is not enough to bring back consumers to the new Five Hundred. I would have liked to see a 3+ liter 240 horsepower V6, and an optional 300 horsepower V8 in this large, midsize sedan to really take the wind out of the 210 horsepower Camry and 240 horsepower Accord. It's just enough is not good enough anymore. Also, I didn't notice any improvement to the 3.0-liter Duratec - it still made noise that seeped into the cabin. This standard Duratec engine is hooked up to a CVT or six-speed front-wheel-drive transaxle. The CVT is standard on all all-wheel-drive and some front-drive versions of the Five Hundred. The CVT uses two variable-size pulleys-one for input from the engine, the other for output to the drive wheels-connected by a steel link belt. It varies the effective sizes 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 maintaining speed up a steep hill, the transmission seamlessly responds by creating the right drive ratio form an infinite number of possibilities, allowing the Duratec engine to operate at optimum performance. I'm glad that my test vehicle came with the six-speed automatic because it was smooth and gave lots of performance with smooth gear changes, while the CVT that I tested in the all-new Ford Freestyle sounded rough going up the gears under heavy throttle. All-speed traction control insures very litter torque steer when you put your foot down hard on the throttle. In any case, neither of these transmissions is available on Camry or Accord. Underpinning the all-new Five Hundred is a fully independent suspension. Up front is MacPherson struts, rearward-facing low l-arms, and a stabilizer bar. The rear setup includes multi-link, coil-over shocks and a stabilizer bar. On all-wheel-drive models, innovative, self-leveling shocks sense ride height and use energy from the vehicle's motion to raise the shock to the desired level. While not sport-tuned, the suspension system feels 'light on it's feet', with little body lean in turns because of front/rear stabilizer bars, and it has good response to your inputs thanks to power rack & pinion steering. My Five Hundred Limited rode on 225/55R18. all-season radial tires wrapped around with 18 x 7 inch painted aluminum wheels. Standard are 215/60R16. all-season radial tires wrapped with 17 x 7 inch painted or bright aluminum wheels. Weighing in at 3,664 pounds for the front-wheel-drive model, and 3,815 pounds for the all-wheel-drive model, acceleration could be better with a 0-60 mph time of eight seconds. This is too slow to turn heads away from the Camry or Accord and towards the Five Hundred. Slowing down the Five Hundred from speed are big brakes. Up front are 12.5-inch vented discs with a dual-piston aluminum calipers, while the rear brakes are 12-inch solid discs clamped with a single-piston aluminum caliper. Braking is enhanced with ABS. Safety and security is paramount at Ford, and the all-new Five Hundred's platform is engineered too offer stiffness with crush zones designed into impact areas. In frontal impacts, energy is absorbed by the frame rails. Excess energy is transferred around the passenger compartment into a high-strength safety cage. A patent-pending new design tailors the steering column's collapse to the driver's size and safety-belt use for optimum protection. Rear-impact performance is so advanced that it is designed to meet proposed future crash standards. Side-impact protection comes from a combination of available airbag technology and structural features that safeguard occupants from intrusion by channeling crash energy away from the passenger compartment. An innovative cross-car beam 'space architecture' under the front seats reinforces the structure between the B-pillars, while directing energy away from passengers to an engineered failure point under the center console. The two-row safety canopy system with rollover sensor and air curtain bags provides peace of mind. It provides protection not only in certain side collision, but in rollover events as well. I would like to see this new, advanced system standard on all new Five Hundred models because safety is a very key concern when making a new car purchase. Prices for the base SE model starts at $23,000.00, all the up to $28,000.00, for the loaded Limited model with CVT. The Five Hundred is a good start for Ford to reclaim its title as the best selling midsize sedan but significant work still has to be done on the styling and the all-important power game. Consumers spending over $23,000.00 want a good-looking vehicle and one that has good acceleration two areas that need improvement.

© All text supra and photos by Harvey Schwartz

SIDEBAR COMMENT: Ford has taken a few digs for the styling of the Five Hundred. Admittedly, it does seem all too familiar-looking (as in Audi A6 familiar). On the other hand, if you're going to copy a car design, an Audi A6 is not a bad one to copy - particularly if that A6 was actually designed by J Mays, who now heads Ford's design department. It's really the front and rear ends that could use a little more excitement. Word has it that a Ford Fusion-like facelift is in the works. The buff magazines have been heaping lots of praise on the Chrysler 300, with its in-your-face Bentley-esque styling, rear-wheel drive, and available HEMI V8 engine. Consumer magazines, on the other hand, have been giving higher marks to the Ford Five Hundred (see A Tale of Two 300Cs, in the February 6, 2005 LA Car Blog). That's because the Five Hundred scores high in the areas that count most for families: passenger space, trunk space, ride comfort, and outward visibility. The Five Hundred is really in a class by itself in the visibility department. In the Five Hundred, you sit up high - like in an SUV. Unlike an SUV, however, the slim, Audi-like sedan roof provides a great 360 degree view of the road. Ford has pulled off a great optical illusion here, because (from the outside) you don't notice that the car is any higher than your normal sedan. I suspect we have the makings of a trend-setter here - i.e., expect other automakers to follow Ford's lead in this department. We didn't have a Five Hundred available for our most recent Best Cars to Drive in Rush Hour Traffic survey. If it were, it would have easily made the list. - Roy Nakano 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 Five Hundred Limited Price of Vehicle: $27,280.00, as tested Engine type: 60-degree, V6, aluminum block/heads, DOHC, 24-valves Horsepower: 203 at 5,750 rpm Torque: 207 lb.ft. at 4,500 rpm Drive Configuration: Front engine/front-wheel-drive Transmission type: 6-speed manual; optional ZF-Batavia Continuously Variable Transmission Front suspension: Independent, MacPherson strut, rearward-facing lower L-arms, stabilizer bar Rear suspension: Independent, multi-link coil-over shocks, stabilizer bar Wheels/tires: 225/55R18 all-season radials/18X7 painted aluminum wheels Brakes: Front - 12.5-inch vented discs, dual-piston aluminum caliper Rear - 12-inch solid discs, single piston caliper ABS Overall length: 200.7 inches Overall width: 74.5 inches Overall height: 61.5 inches Curb weight: Front-wheel-drive, 3,664 lbs. All-wheel-drive, 3,815 lbs. EPA mileage stats: 21 mpg/city; 29 mpg/highway

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