- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 7, 2005

The Blue Oval team has come up with what it is calling “the reinvention of the family car” in its all-new Five Hundred sedan. Simply put, it combines a contemporary sedan body on an all-new platform. I’m not sure I would refer to it as a “reinvention” of the family car necessarily, but as Ford’s new flagship sedan in terms of sales (intended to replace the successful but aged Taurus), it does present an innovative blend of technology that results in an attractive, upscale midsize four-door sedan. An all-wheel-drive version is available.

The Five Hundred, which is built in Ford’s Chicago plant, is available in three trim levels. First is the base, or value-leading SE, followed by the midrange SEL. The top-of-the-line model is the Limited. All are powered by an improved 3.0-liter Duratec30 DOHC, 24-valve V-6 engine that makes 203 horsepower at 5,750 rpm and 207 foot-pounds of torque at 4,500 rpm. The engine mates to either a six-speed automatic (FWD), or a chain-driven ZF-Batavia Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) that provides power to all four wheels in the optional all-wheel-drive version.

The Five Hundred is an exceptionally attractive sedan from my perspective, offering a contemporary profile in an overall, understated wedge form, with its sloping hood, raked windshield and arched greenhouse that slopes equally at the backlight, dipping gracefully to the raised rear deck. It actually appears to be much larger than it really is.

The cabin arch is accented by a bright surround, with the blacked-out “B” pillar lending a coupelike appearance to the four-door sedan. Front and rear fascias are executed in smooth fashion.

Inside, perhaps the most prominent feature is the upright Command Seating, which affords both front and rear seat occupants a clear view forward.

Seating is actually up to 4 inches higher than in other midsize sedans. There is an even higher rear seat, which folds flat, as does the front passenger seat.

Versatility is amplified by the 21 cubic feet of trunk space that Ford claims can hold eight full-size golf bags. An 8-foot ladder will fit inside with the front passenger seat folded flat.

The Five Hundred is roughly 3 inches longer than a Taurus, and nearly a foot shorter than the Crown Victoria.

The test Five Hundred was in Limited trim, finished outside in Black, and inside in Black leather.

The base sticker was $26,145, with the total reaching $28,710 after adding a power moonroof, Safety Package, Traction Control, Reverse Sensing System, memory adjustable pedal and destination and delivery charges.

The Five Hundred Limited rides on 18-inch wheels and tires as standard, while other models are shod with 17-inchers. The improved 3.0-liter Duratec30 V-6 provides adequate power, though I certainly wouldn’t object to more, particularly with the CVT transmission, which provides no noticeable transition in gearing.

A programmed shift-point pattern would likely seem more familiar to the majority of motorists. The six-speed automatic transmission, which is available in front-wheel-drive applications, provides conventional step gear progressions.

Seating accommodates five comfortably, delivering a smooth ride quality.

All-wheel-drive models feature innovative, self-leveling shocks that sense ride height. Trim levels include the base SE, upscale SEL, and the top-of-the-line Limited. Safety and security features are an integral part of the new Ford Five Hundred’s architecture.

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