Ford Motor Company relies on its broad line of sport utility vehicles to
generate profits. The problem is that sales of big SUVS are dropping
rapidly, as much from changing consumer tastes as the rising price of
gasoline. For 2005 the all-new Freestyle represents Fordís foray into
the crossover market.
With the looks of an SUV, the comforts of a sedan,
and generous hauling capacity, crossovers address the needs of families,
but they are lower than tippy SUVs and offer more car like handling and
comfort. The Freestyle sits on a proven platform adapted from corporate
cousin Volvo, and its refined 3.0-liter powerplant puts out better
mileage and lower emissions than a big SUV.
The Freestyle looks like an Explorer left too long
in the oven. It mirrors the Explorerís aggressive, rugged style, with
upright proportions, an offroad-ready face, large wheels with bulging
fenders, and a squared-off tail.
The Freestyle stands four inches lower than the
Explorer. Conversely, it is more than ten inches taller than a Ford
Taurus station wagon. Thatís what Ford refers to as Command Seating.
Freestyles are marketed in three familiar lines - SE, SEL, and Limited
and come with or without all-wheel-drive. My Silver Frost test unit was
an SEL with all-wheel drive.
The SE is pretty well loaded, with 17-inch wheels,
AM/FM/CD player, air conditioning, antilock brakes, an anti-theft alarm,
and power driverís seat, windows, locks, and mirrors. The SEL brings
dual-zone air conditioning, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift
knob, a premium sound system, an electronic message center, and some
appearance enhancements. The Limited adds heated outside mirrors, a
super audio system, and heated leather chairs.
With todayís taller vehicles, you can slip right in
without dipping down and hurting your back. Once you climb in, you will
notice that the Freestyleís interior looks an awful lot like an SUVís,
with big, shiny vent outlets, a front passenger grab handle, and a
massive center console. The new Ford design template is clean and easy
on the eyes.
In the SE and SEL models Ford gives you artificial
carbon fiber trim, and with the Limited you get a sincere copy of wood
burl. The design is first rate, but the materials are just OK and not
truly luxurious. There is a pop-up bin on the dash top that would be
perfect for melting a Milky Way bar into an amorphous blob on a summer
With the third row seat, you can accommodate seven
in the Freestyle. A pushed-up roofline gives third row passengers some
extra headroom. The seats fold down easily for cargo hauling duty. All
Freestyles use a refined version of Fords trusty 3.0-liter Duratec V6
engine, which generates 203
Horsepower and 207 lb.-ft. of torque. Performance
is greatly enhanced by connecting it to a continuously variable
transmission (CVT). This type of automatic keeps an engine at its most
efficient rpm at all times, compared to a standard automatic.
The Freestyleís CVT transmission uses two
variable-size pulleys connected by a metal chain. The system produces
torque in a continuously variable ratio, depending on driving demands.
The benefits include more power when you need it and better fuel economy
The Freestyle earns ratings of 20 mpg City, 27 mpg
Highway with the front-wheel-drive model, 19/24 with all-wheel drive, on
regular gas. My AWD tester averaged 17.3 mpg, still a significant
improvement over an Explorer. The Duratec is extremely clean running,
meeting especially tough federal pollution standards. And you donít need
an engine tune-up for the first 100,000 miles.
In daily use, the CVT doesnít make the familiar
sounds of a conventional automatic transmission, but it works just fine.
I might have liked a little more grunt on major uphill freeway
stretches, but around town, even on steep hills, the car sailed along
Being based on a Volvo platform, the Freestyle gets
some distinct safety advantages, including the Safety Canopy, which
gives all three rows of passengerís head protection during side impacts
and rollovers. Volvoís Side Impact Protection System (SIPS) dissipates
crash forces under the seats and away from the passengers. The front
passenger seat airbag deployment varies depending on the weight of the
person sitting there, and the drivers airbag goes off differently based
on the position of the seat track and whether the belt is buckled or
The SE starts at $25,715, including destination
charges. The SEL model is $1,400 more, and the Limited jumps $2,000 over
the SEL. All-wheel-drive adds $1,800, and any options further increase
the sticker price. My test car included leather seats ($795), a power
moonroof ($895), the Front Row Comfort Package ($495), the Family
Entertainment DVD system ($995) and more, topping out at $33,530.
If the Freestyle gets families out of SUVs and into
tall wagons, then Ford will be doing the world and itself a favor. I got
very comfortable driving the 2005 Ford Freestyle over its test week, and
probably you will too. By
Steve Schaefer © AutoWire.Net - San Francisco
To see the 2005 Ford Freestyle click on
www.ford.com or call them at 1-800-392-FORD (1.800.392.3673) for
Ford Home Page
Byline: Syndicated content provided by Tony Leopardo ©
first crossover tall wagon
2005 Ford Freestyle
2005 Ford Freestyle
Ford Internet Media
2005 - 36
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