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2005 Ford Five Hundred

Sedan of Elderly Leisure

    Just two years ago this sedan would have been revolutionary in the family sedan market. Its extra-large proportions, elevated ride height, spacious interior and availability of all-wheel drive put this sedan into an SUV-like category when you consider all of these features’ marketability. Perhaps this is why the Five Hundred just doesn’t get the heart racing; we expect these niceties in all too many vehicular categories in this day and age.
     With all-wheel drive fast becoming the preferred drivetrain, and fuel prices on the rise, efficiency is the key to the game. Thus, our Five Hundred came duly equipped for both counts. Not that there are many choices, as the only engine currently available is the aged 3.0-liter DuraTec V6. Desperately in need of refinement, the engine manages to pick up only three extra horses when transplanted from its Taurus donor. Not that it really makes a difference, as having only 203hp on tap in a sedan tipping the scales at 3977-pounds make for a placid jaunt. Two new transmissions, however, are available to make the most of what the engine offers little of. On front-wheel drive models, buyers can choose between a 6-speed automatic and a continuously variable transmission (CVT). The CVT, however, is the sole option on all-wheel drive models, such as ours. Continuously variable means just that, rather than having a fixed set of gears from which to choose from, the transmission can decide from an infinite amount of ratios within the high and low ranges of the gear set. In theory, this tranny is capable of maximizing torque transmission and fuel efficiency in far greater precision than any other geared transmission. In practice this works, albeit with no emotion. Unlike a conventional gearbox, the CVT works seamlessly without the rise and fall of engine rpms between gears. The tranny finds the optimal rpm location for the power required and stays there, which ultimately is the best match for this engine, but it just feels and sounds uncanny. And the engine noise in general was rough no matter where it was in the rpm band; more like a dying buffalo than anything mechanical. Like the tranny, the all-wheel drive system worked seamlessly to find grip, even when there was little to find. Body motions were controlled and easy to anticipate for such a large sedan, having much to do with its competent Volvo S80 underpinnings.
     Unlike its Chrysler counterpart, Ford chose the cautious road in downplaying the styling. In fact, when parked next to the Chrysler 300, the Five Hundred looks downright complacent. In light of a few economical woes and the state of the market in general, the blue oval team just wasn’t quite ready to make any bold risky moves. Surfaces are flat and wide with only modest style lines in the front and rear fascias. The front end is highly reserved with large headlights surrounding the typical crosshatch grille. The greenhouse bubble is large and drops as smoothly as it rises. It isn’t hard to see a hint of Passat coming through the profile lines. The visual cues may not excite, but they certainly won’t insult either.
     What the Five Hundred doesn’t lack, however, is room. The interior, or more appropriately, the living room, is spacious in all directions. Driver and passenger never feel crowded, and neither will all three of your rear-seat guests. The elevated roofline allows for a more upright seating position, and a view midway between that of your typical sedan and a compact SUV. Even Editor Vloet, who has to duck to walk under most archways, found plenty of real estate for both ends. Interior styling draws heavily off of lessons learned from the F-150. The layout and styling is unique, but the textures, shapes, and materials are all borrowed. HVAC and radio are typical Ford parts bin, but the gauges are truck inspired, with bezels and the shifter gate looking as though they were milled from chunks of aluminum. Planning a trip with the family? No problem, with 21cu. Ft. of cargo space bettering that of some SUVs, the trunk easily swallows luggage for a family traveling cross-country. In fact, Editor Dye and I can personally vouch for seeing eight fully loaded golf bags stuffed into the trunk.
     Though the Five Hundred has its boring attributes, particularly in the styling and get-up-and-go departments, no one will contest its comforts. Seating five people and carrying their stuff is a non-issue, with generous gaps to fill in all directions. The elevated ride height takes a bit of getting used to, but like the seamless transmission, it is just accepted and expected after awhile. With all-wheel drive and a solid chassis to boot, this car begs for a smoother powerplant and another 50 horsepower. Judging from whispers in the pipeline, we may get our wish. But either way, the Five Hundred is all around a solid choice for your family’s next sedan.

The Good:
Lots of room, clever transmission, interior inspired by F-150.
The Bad:
Boring styling, not enough power, engine in desperate need of refining.
The Verdict:
Makes for a good family sedan, but lacking in the inspiration departments.


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