Ford Five Hundred is First Produced

The Ford Five Hundred (code name D258) is a full-size sedan that was produced by the Ford Motor Company during the 2005 to 2007 model years in North America.

In North America, the name evoked the classic Fairlane 500 and Galaxie 500 models of the 1950s through 1970s.
The Five Hundred was introduced at the 2004 North American International Auto Show in Detroit. It entered production on July 12, 2004 in Chicago, which previously produced the fourth-generation midsize Taurus, and it became available to the public in September 2004. While the Taurus's direct replacement in the midsize classification was the Ford Fusion, introduced in 2005, the Five Hundred was also considered by some[who?] to be a successor as well, since it replaced the Taurus on the Chicago Assembly line.
The Five Hundred, along with the Ford Freestyle and the Mercury Montego, ended production in April 2007. The mid-generational refresh for the 2008 model year debuted during the 2007 North American International Auto Show, with the Five Hundred being rebranded as the 2008 Ford Taurus, which returned that name to the Ford retail lineup after a short absence. The previous Taurus—which used a different chassis and was slotted in the smaller category of midsize cars—was available in the 2007 model year for private fleet sale and in Canada.
The facelifted Five Hundred newly entered the Middle East market under that name starting from the 2008 model year.

The fullsize Five Hundred and the midsize Ford Fusion were part of Ford's initiatives of developing all-new passenger cars. This was a segment long neglected by the company, as their direct predecessors, the Ford Crown Victoria and Ford Taurus had not seen a platform change for nearly a decade, relying instead on cosmetic and mechanical changes, and as such were no longer competitive with Japanese rivals whose offerings were updated more frequently. During the preceding ten years, Ford had relied too much on SUVs and light trucks, whose sales had dropped as a result of rising crude oil prices. In particular, the Taurus was planned to be discontinued as the company believed that the nameplate's brand equity had declined with a lack of development, though the Crown Victoria would remain in production for fleet sales.
The Five Hundred is based on the Ford D3 platform (also known as the Volvo P2 platform), which also supports the Volvo S60, S80, XC70, and XC90 SUVs. This platform underpins the similar Mercury Montego and is also the basis for the Ford Freestyle crossover SUV. Befitting its Volvo roots, the Five Hundred has garnered class leading results in crash tests conducted by the IIHS as well as NHTSA.
The Five Hundred is classified as a full-sized passenger car. It is longer than its competitors (such as the Chevrolet Impala and Toyota Avalon) but still a foot shorter than the rear-wheel drive V8 Crown Victoria. The Five Hundred was designed to match the large car interior volume, but at the same time still have manageable outside dimensions, while delivering a lower than average fuel use. Its design is also notably tall for a sedan, giving drivers an SUV or minivan-like command of the road. The Five Hundred's trunk is also larger than those of its competitors, so it can hold 8 full-sized loaded golf bags.
Interior room was emphasized in the Five Hundred's development, and interior materials include imitation carbon fiber as well as traditional woodgrain.

The Five Hundred was praised for its interior volume, design functionality, amenities for its price point, and safety features. However, it was criticized for its bland styling (which was similar in basic appearance to the 1986-1995 Taurus and 1992-1997 Crown Victoria) and weak 203 hp (151 kW) engine. These deficiencies are considered by the automotive press to have hurt the Five Hundred's potential appeal, especially in comparison to the Chrysler 300, another new full-sized sedan introducted around the same time, though the 300 is more upmarket and designed to be more sporty.
Consequently, the Five Hundred received a lukewarm reception from customers. Sales of the Five Hundred were very slow in Canada, with many Ford dealerships not even stocking the car on their lots. August 2006 sales were down by half compared to 2005, with the Taurus outselling the Five Hundred by two to one. 2006 sales were down month over month since its launch including 22% in 2006 over 2005 as a whole. (The 2006 Taurus was produced primarily for the fleet market.)

If you remember the Taurus when it was brand-new in 1986, you'll likely remember that it quickly became the turnaround trendsetter that changed Ford's fortunes forever. From that debut year through July 2004, Ford has sold 6.5 million of them, and the Taurus was the bestselling family sedan in the U.S. from 1992 through 1996. No small accomplishment in view of the slick competition from Japanese automakers.

Now comes the car that will inherit the flagship mantle and bear the enormous pressure of at least coming close to the popularity of the Taurus: the Ford Five Hundred.

The importance of this vehicle has caused Ford to rethink offering the traditional sedan/wagon formula of the past. The company has long been aware that the family-car market has moved from traditional wagons to SUVs—indeed, Ford's Explorer is the bestselling sport-ute in the country, and a highly profitable one at that. So the traditional wagon is out, and instead of a Five Hundred wagon, Ford is offering a car-based SUV—the Freestyle.

Ford is also hedging its bet, as the current Taurus will be sold side by side with this new Five Hundred. Just one of two factories where the Taurus was built gets the assignment for the Five Hundred.

A new car begins with a chassis, and instead of using the Taurus platform, Ford went upscale and plucked the P2 platform from Volvo, the Swedish automaker Ford has owned since 1999. This is the same front-drive, transverse-engine layout with struts up front and a multilink setup in the back that's used in all the bigger Volvos, from the S60 sedan to the XC90 sport-ute. Pulling such a premium platform down-market is most unusual.

This P2 platform uses the electronically controlled Haldex system that provides all-wheel drive on various Volvos, and Ford has carried this option over to the Five Hundred. This is a first for a Ford sedan, and on the Five Hundred, it's offered on any trim level as a stand-alone $1700 option.

With a meager engine cupboard, Ford finds itself in the unenviable position of offering only one engine for this family hauler: a not particularly powerful Duratec DOHC 3.0-liter V-6 (also the only engine for the Freestyle) that makes 203 horsepower, originally introduced in 1996 as a 2.5-liter in the Contour. In this iteration, the Duratec V-6 gets an electronic throttle and reduced LEV II emissions, managing three horsepower more than the 3.0-liter currently used in the Taurus and Escape.

Transferring power to the wheels are two transmissions. A first for Ford is a "gearless" continually variable transmission (CVT), which is found on entry-level SE front-drive models as well as on any all-wheel-drive Five Hundred. The other is a traditional six-speed automatic purchased from Aisin-Warner, longtime Toyota supplier, that is standard equipment on up-level two-wheel-drive SEL and Limited sedans.

When questioned about CVT durability—that issue killed GM's CVT—Ford engineers assured us that has been adequately addressed, and they expressed no additional concerns about having a CVT with all-wheel drive. The engineers point to the belt in GM's unit as the weak point and claim the Luk chain (the same supplier of Audi's chains) used in Ford's version will not cause problems. We hope they're right, because with every all-wheel-drive Five Hundred and all Freestyles teamed with the gearless box, Ford will soon be building more CVTs than anyone else. Any problems could turn off the public's acceptance of the CVT and spell disaster for Ford.

On the plus side, the CVT (and the six-speed) has a broad ratio span (highest gear ratio divided by lowest gear ratio, which is six for both transmissions), which can offset the lack of power. But we're not sure the driving public is prepared to accept wringing this engine out at its noisy power peak to achieve the so-so performance we experienced behind the wheel in a brief drive at the preview.

At 200.7 inches long, 74.5 inches wide, and 60.1 inches tall, the Five Hundred is 3.1 inches longer, 4.5 inches taller, and 1.5 inches wider than the Taurus. These also exceed the respective dimensions of Chrysler's 300 sedans and the largest P2 platform buddy, the Volvo S80.

Interior space is quite good. At 55 cubic feet, the room up front is slightly less than you'll find in the Taurus and 300, each by just one cubic foot. But 53 cubic feet in the back seat is more spacious than in either car. There is enough space for over-six-footers to find comfort, in front or in the rear. The Five Hundred's trunk is vast, with 21 cubic feet of storage. Ford says you can put eight golf bags in the trunk, but the company makes no claim to being able to accommodate that many golfers in the cabin.

We find the big Five Hundred's look a bit uninspired; this is not a car that will draw a lot of attention. But history tells us that's not necessarily a disqualifier in this segment.

From behind the wheel, the controls appear well laid out, but the interior materials are a disappointment. The plastic looks bargain-basement, not up to par with the competition. On the other hand, the many standard features are welcome. All Five Hundreds come with a power driver's seat, fold-down rear seats, 17-inch aluminum wheels (18-inchers are optional), four-wheel anti-lock brakes, brake-based traction control, remote keyless entry, air conditioning, and a CD player.

With an estimated base price of $23,000—roughly $1000 less than a Taurus with the same Duratec V-6, and similar to the 300's $23,595 base—Ford is hoping to sell 125,000 Five Hundreds in the first year. If you value space over power, this new sedan is worth a serious look.

On the plus side, the CVT (and the six-speed) has a broad ratio span (highest gear ratio divided by lowest gear ratio, which is six for both transmissions), which can offset the lack of power. But we're not sure the driving public is prepared to accept wringing this engine out at its noisy power peak to achieve the so-so performance we experienced behind the wheel in a brief drive at the preview.

At 200.7 inches long, 74.5 inches wide, and 60.1 inches tall, the Five Hundred is 3.1 inches longer, 4.5 inches taller, and 1.5 inches wider than the Taurus. These also exceed the respective dimensions of Chrysler's 300 sedans and the largest P2 platform buddy, the Volvo S80.

The Ford Five Hundred (code name D258) was a full-size sedan produced by the Ford Motor Company from 2005 - 2007, succeeding the aging Ford Taurus program (which was phased out for 2007). In North America, the name is intended to recall the Fairlane 500 and Galaxie 500 models of the 1950s through 1970s. The car slotted between the Ford Fusion and the Crown Victoria. Final assembly takes place at Ford's Chicago Assembly plant.
2007 was the Ford Five Hundred's last year due to declining sales and unknown nameplate and was replaced by the 2008 Ford Taurus, which is a refreshed and restyled Five Hundred with more power and additional refinements 'under the skin'.