A sharp body on Ford's Freestyle crossover vehicle looks too tall to be
a station wagon but too squatty to be an SUV. Just like the rest of the
vehicle, the styling is a compromise. The 2006 Freestyle's cabin is laid
out like an SUV with three rows of roomy seats, but it has the
high-quality materials and construction you'd normally expect in a nice
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
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
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
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. 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
What was tested: a 2006 Ford Freestyle
Limited AWD ($30,580). Options: auxiliary climate control with heat
($650), navigation system ($1,995), reverse sensing system ($295),
safety package ($695), memory adjustable pedals ($195) and a DVD player
($995). Price as tested: $35,405.
Why buy it? 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. By
James E. Bryson © AutoWire.Net - San Francisco
Ford Home Page
Byline: Syndicated content provided by Tony Leopardo ©
crossover is great as an SUV
Ford Freestyle Limited AWD
Ford Freestyle Limited AWD
Ford Internet Media
2006 - 02
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2006 Ford Freestyle