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Car Review: 2005 Ford 500 Sedan

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SEE ALSO: New Car Buyer's Guide for Ford

MODEL: Ford Five Hundred SEL
ENGINE: 3.0-liter V6
HORSEPOWER/TORQUE: 203 hp @ 5,750 rpm/207 lb.-ft. @ 4,500 rpm
TRANSMISSION: ZF-Batavia Continuously Variable
WHEELBASE: 112.9 in.
LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT: 200.7 x 74.5 x 61.5 in.
TIRES: 215/60R17
ECONOMY: 19.0 mpg test
PRICE: $25,000 (est.)

Editor’s Note: CLICK HERE and rank the Ford 500’s specs against its competition, have fun!

Replacing a vehicle like the Ford Taurus is no easy task. The car caused an uproar when it was first introduced and it has continued to be a major seller, ranking usually in the top three among car sold in the US, with the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord.

The Ford Five Hundred is as good as any in a shot at changing people’s thoughts on Taurus. For example, the 500 (I’m going to go with the non-PC shorter version here) is three inches longer than the Taurus, but still is a foot shorter than the Crown Victoria. There are feelings of both cars when you’re inside. While there is a definite Taurus family inside décor, the feel is of a larger car.

We drove the high-option SEL with all-wheel drive. As such we had the standard 3.0-liter Duratec V6 engine, rated at 203 horsepower. I felt the engine was noisy for a V6, especially when asked to accelerate or on the highway. Under most circumstances it’s quiet enough, but it’s noisier than the standard 3.0-liter V6, and every manufacturer seems to have a 3.0-liter V6 these days.

The engine is mated to a continuously variable transmission, meaning that there are no set gear ratios. There’s a smooth transition between gears (although some “shift points” are programmed in so it doesn’t feel too weird). With the combination, in mostly urban and suburban driving, we averaged 19.0 mpg in the 500. I thought this was an excellent number.

A six-speed automatic is available for the front-wheel drive version of the 500.

When I first saw the 500 at last year’s Ford introduction, Ford executives bragged about how you could fit eight golf bags in the trunk. And yes, the trunk is that large, rated at 21.2 cubic feet. However, when we tried to put the box with the computer than Santa brought me in the trunk, the opening wasn’t wide enough to accommodate a big box. And the rear door didn’t open wide enough to put it in the back. So we borrowed a truck. The interior is designed for driver and passenger comfort. We had power seats for the driver and passenger, so we could set them to the ideal positions. Unfortunately, in early winter temperatures that dropped to 5 degrees F, there were no heated seats on our tester, and that made my wife very unhappy. Me, too.

The seating positions are up to four inches higher than in other midsize sedans, with the rear seats even higher. This is called “theatre seating” by most manufacturers. It allows the rear passengers to get a view of the road ahead without having to wait for the front passengers to bend down. This makes the 500 slightly higher than some other makes. It is six inches taller than a Taurus.

Instrumentation seemed to be lifted intact from the Taurus, which is a good thing. Large gauges hold the speedometer and tachometer, while smaller gauges held the water temperature and fuel level. There was an information center readout in the center of the dash by the odometer that gave oil life, fuel economy, and other salient information.

In the console between the seats there were two cupholders. There were also cupholders in the doors as well as good-sized cubby holes. There was a compartment at the top of the dash that was handy for large flat objects. It could handle cell phones, for example, or papers, maps, or a sandwich if you were hungry.

The 500 is not as aerodynamic as the Taurus. In fact, it looks downright boxy. But there was no wind noise around the car that translated into the compartment. And with the 19 mpg economy, the reduction in aerodynamics didn’t have a deleterious effect on performance. As a matter of fact, this design should find more fans than the redesign of the original aero Taurus did.

The 500 is available in three trim levels, SE, SEL and Limited. We had the middle-of-the-road version. Our tester had 17-inch wheels and tires, while the Limited gets 18 inch wheels and tires.

The Ford Five Hundred is an impressive vehicle. It won’t blow you away with its styling or performance. But it will please you with its normal styling and performance, that make it a very comfortable car to spend a lot of time inside.

© 2004 The Auto Page Syndicate