Ford Freestyle is First Produced

The Ford Taurus X is a 6- or 7-passenger full-size crossover SUV that was produced by Ford Motor Company in the United States.

It was originally introduced in 2005 as the Ford Freestyle, before being renamed Taurus X for the 2008 model year. In Ford's lineup, it replaced the Ford Taurus station wagon. The Taurus X ended production on February 27, 2009, as it was slotted between the Flex (to whom it made direct competition on the market) and the upcoming fifth generation Explorer starting 2011 sales year. It is sold in the United States and Canada, as well as South Korea and the U.S. territories of Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, and Guam.

Initially going to be called the Ford CrossTrainer in development before adopting the Freestyle name as part of Ford's then-naming strategy of naming all cars with the letter F, the Freestyle was previewed at the 2003 Detroit Auto Show with a Freestyle Concept before entering production for the 2005 model year. The vehicle was assembled at Chicago Assembly.
The vehicle used the Ford D3 platform, which it shared with the Ford Five Hundred, Mercury Montego, and various Volvos including the XC90. Although it shared its platform with the XC90, the two vehicles were significantly different. The Freestyle had three rows of seats with seating for seven, like many large SUVs (e.g. Ford Explorer, Ford Expedition) and minivans. The Freestyle featured what Ford describes as "command seating," seating with a higher H-point, to increase driver visibility and ease of entry and exit. Power came from a 3.0 L (181 cu in) Duratec V6, with an output of 203 hp (151 kW) at 5750 rpm.
The Freestyle, along with the Five Hundred, Mercury Montego, and the Ford Escape Hybrid, were the first American Ford vehicles to use a continuously variable transmission (CVT). All Freestyles were equipped with the CVT, but only all-wheel drive (AWD) Five Hundred and Montego models used the CVT (FWD versions used an Aisin F21++ six speed automatic). To Ford's surprise, 55% of buyers selected the Haldex Traction-equipped all-wheel drive model rather than the expected 40%. However, initial Freestyle sales were below Ford's original projections, though sales were showing steady improvement. Some buyers selected the Freestyle as an alternative to the best selling Ford Explorer.
The Freestyle was nominated for the North American Truck of the Year award for 2005 (second behind Escape Hybrid).

This vehicle was initially unveiled at the 2007 Chicago Auto Show as a 2008 model, alongside its siblings the Ford Taurus and Mercury Sable, re-badged, restyled versions of the Ford Five Hundred and Mercury Montego.
Ford CEO Alan Mulally said that Ford's scheme to make all its cars names start with the letter F was a bad move, as it made Ford's new cars easily forgettable. As a result of this issue being addressed, the Ford Freestyle was renamed the Taurus X, the Ford Five Hundred was renamed the Ford Taurus, and the Mercury Montego was renamed the Mercury Sable.
The design of the Taurus X closely resembled that of its former sibling, the Ford Edge, creating a family face for its crossover segment. The Taurus X made the use of Ford's new corporate grille, featuring three horizontal, chrome bars with center mounted blue oval. At the time, the Taurus X also offered an Eddie Bauer trim-line, similar to that of the Ford Explorer. The vehicle, like its predecessor, features three rows of seats with seating for seven, like many large SUVs.
The Taurus X used the Ford D3 platform and an updated powertrain, which included the discontinuation of the CVT transmission previously used by the Freestyle, as well as the 3.0 L V6 in favor of the newly developed six-speed 6F automatic as well as the all-new 3.5 L Duratec 35 V6 which put out 263 hp (196 kW) at 6250 rpm. The vehicle also received new power options, including power-folded seats and a power lift gate.
The Taurus X featured what Ford describes as "command seating," seating with a higher H-point, to increase driver visibility and ease of entry and exit.

has the maneuverability of a wagon, the versatility of a minivan and the all-weather capability of an SUV. In a world in which the crossover moniker is perhaps used a bit too generously, the Ford Freestyle is the real deal: a crossover that gives you all the flexibility you'd expect from a vehicle in this category.

This Ford's resourcefulness comes via a spacious cabin that offers lots of cargo room and seating for up to seven passengers. Buyers are also rewarded with an even ride and capable handling, as well as a decent list of safety features. But the picture isn't flawless. Get the Freestyle on the highway and you'll find its engine lacking in oomph and refinement relative to the competition. Also, some of the materials used in its cabin fail to make the grade, and stability control isn't offered.

Were it not for these reasons, the Ford Freestyle would be one of our top recommendations to parents who don't want to drive a minivan. In fact, there's an updated model -- renamed the Ford Taurus X -- that addresses many of the Freestyle's faults. But in regards to the Freestyle, this large wagon is merely one candidate to consider among the many six-, seven- and eight-seat vehicles.

Most Recent Ford Freestyle

The Ford Freestyle was produced for the 2005-'07 model years. It was a crossover with traces of SUV, wagon and minivan in its gene pool. The wagon gene is most dominant, though, as is evidenced by the vehicle's low-slung profile. Mechanically, it was based on the same platform used for a variety of Volvo products of the same time period, including the S60 sedan and XC90 SUV. With three rows of seating, it was capable of seating six or seven passengers, depending on how you equipped it.

Beneath the Freestyle's hood was a 3.0-liter V6 good for 203 horsepower and 207 pound-feet of torque. All models came with a continuously variable transmission (CVT). Buyers could opt for a front-wheel-drive Freestyle for the best fuel economy, but those living in rough weather will be glad to learn that an all-wheel-drive version of the wagon was also available.

Initially, there were three trim levels available: SE, SEL and Limited. The SE came decently equipped and had air-conditioning, a CD player, second-row captain's chairs (resulting in a total passenger capacity of six), a power driver seat and full power accessories as standard. The midgrade SEL added an in-dash CD changer, automatic headlights, heated side mirrors, an auto-dimming rearview mirror and a trip computer. For the Limited, look for its 18-inch wheels, leather upholstery in the first and second rows, dual-zone automatic climate control, upgraded sound system, power passenger seat and driver-side memory, front-seat heaters and 50/50-split capability for the third-row bench.

Antilock brakes were standard, and side-impact airbags (for the front) and head curtain airbags (for all three rows) were optional. Also optional were power-adjustable pedals, a second-row bench (increasing seating capacity to seven), rear parking sensors and, for 2006 and '07 models, a navigation system. For the Freestyle's final model year, Ford realigned the trim levels and discontinued the SE.

Functionality was the guiding principle behind the Ford Freestyle's cabin. There was abundant storage throughout and enough room in both the second and third rows to seat both adults and children in comfort. Nor was it lacking in terms of cargo space thanks to its boxy shape, low floor and the fold-flat capability of both the second- and third-row seats. In back, there was useful cargo area of nearly 16 cubic feet even when all three rows of seating were occupied. With the third row folded flat, capacity swelled to 48 cubic feet. Dropping both rear rows opened up a cavernous 85 cubic feet.

Materials quality was hit-or-miss in the Ford Freestyle, however. The Limited's leather upholstery looked and felt good to the touch, but the cloth upholstery in SEL models was unimpressive, as were some of the interior plastics.

In editorial reviews at the time, our editors praised the Ford Freestyle for its ride quality. The wagon easily smoothed over rough pavement while also providing respectable handling when driven around corners. However, this Ford took considerable criticism when it came to acceleration. When executing high-speed passing moves on the freeway, the 3.0-liter V6's lack of horsepower and noisy operation were immediately apparent. That comment was also a theme in consumer reviews. Owners praise the Freestyle for its fold-flat seats and mid-20s fuel economy, but often take issue with its noisy acceleration.

The Ford Freestyle is what has become known as a crossover vehicle. More than a station wagon, but not quite a sport utility, the Freestyle is a successful example of a crossover. The Freestyle combines space-conscious and people-friendly packaging with a modern powertrain that delivers performance and efficiency.

Three rows of seats yield six-passenger, or even seven-passenger capacity. Its 3.0-liter V6 delivers good performance, while its continuously variable transmission eases engine load and smoothes the drive. All-wheel drive is available for owners who want all-weather capability. The other models use front-wheel drive.

Critics have said that the Freestyle is simply the station wagon version of the new Ford Five Hundred sedan. Technically, they're right. Yet many have found the Freestyle inexplicably offers a better driving experience than the Five Hundred, and it's certainly more practical.

The Freestyle is well worth a look for shoppers tired of the everyday vehicle, yet also tired of climbing up into and jumping down out of today's SUVs, and willing to explore something new and slightly different.

The Freestyle was launched as a 2005 model so there are relatively few changes for '06. An optional navigation system is now available for the Limited model.

Model Lineup

The 2006 Ford Freestyle comes in three trim levels, SE, SEL and Limited. Each is available with all-wheel drive. All have the same 3.0-liter V6 engine rated at 203 horsepower. All are equipped with a continuously variable transmission, or CVT.

The SE ($25,105) and SE AWD ($26,955) come with features not normally expected in a base model. These include a six-way power driver's seat, cruise control, tilt steering wheel, four-wheel disc brakes with ABS and traction control, all on top of the usual air conditioning; power windows, outside mirrors and central locking; and AM/FM/CD stereo.

SE options include: a Safety and Security package with front seat side airbags and full-coverage side air curtains plus anti-theft alarm and exterior convenience lighting ($795); a Convenience package with automatic headlamps and dual-zone automatic climate control with outside temperature display ($295); an auxiliary rear-seat climate control ($650); a middle-seat floor console ($95); and no-charge substitution of a three-passenger middle bench seat in place of the standard bucket seats that seat two.

The SEL ($26,505) and SEL AWD ($28,355) includes a six-disc in-dash CD changer with MP3 capability; auto headlamps; heated and folding outside mirrors; electrochromic rearview mirror; leather-wrapped shift knob and steering wheel with audio controls; programmable, three-frequency remote garage door opener; the exterior convenience lighting; extra sound insulation; fog lamps; and sundry exterior trim enhancements, including bright aluminum wheels in lieu of the SE's painted wheels.

Options for the SEL: leather seating ($895); a Comfort package with eight-way driver and four-way passenger power seats and dual-zone automatic climate control and outside temperature display ($495); a DVD-based entertainment system, including two wireless headphones and wireless remote ($995); power moonroof ($895); reverse sensing system ($295); and a split-fold third row seat ($115). Some of the SE options are available, including the Safety and Security package ($695).

The Limited ($28,530) and Limited AWD ($30,580) add an upgraded sound system with subwoofer, memory settings for driver's seat and outside mirrors, heated front seats, two-way adjustable second row seats, woodgrain dash trim, cargo net and, on the AWD model, 18-inch bright aluminum wheels.

Options other than those available on the SE and SEL are a programmable, three-frequency remote opener system ($115) and adjustable pedals with memory ($195).

The Ford Freestyle is built on the same platform as the Ford Five Hundred sedan and share much of the same hardware. Both were launched as all-new models for 2005.

Styling cues make the Freestyle look more like a Ford Escape, however. From all angles, the styling suggests a sport utility: the upright front end, the tall side glass, the hefty C-pillar, the fender blisters, the rear liftgate, and the big rear bumper cover.

The Freestyle's similarities to the Five Hundred become more apparent when the two are parked together. The Freestyle is just an inch shorter in overall length than the Five Hundred and the wheelbase, the distance between the front and rear wheels, is identical. Only in height is there a marked difference. The Freestyle is eight inches taller, at 68.3 inches, than the Five Hundred, part of which is a result of the Freestyle's added ground clearance. The Freestyle has eight inches of ground clearance versus five inches for the Five Hundred.

The Freestyle may not offer the space of a minivan, but it offers more space than a compact SUV. It falls between the two in terms of size. The Freestyle is two feet longer than a Ford Escape, and has a 10-inch longer wheelbase. And the Escape is only about an inch taller. The Freestyle is seven inches longer than the popular Ford Explorer, though its wheelbase is about the same. The Explorer is taller by four inches, which helps explain why the Freestyle's seating position is 5.5 inches lower than the Explorer's seating position.

Interior Features

The Ford Freestyle offers lots of cargo space and seats up to six passengers, seven if the second-row bench seat is ordered. Fitting three rows of seats in a vehicle this size required some compromises, of course, but the good outweighs the bad.

The front seats are decently bolstered, with adequate thigh support. However, the lower back and rear bottom portions didn't offer enough support on a drive from Milwaukee along primarily rural roads down the western shore of Lake Michigan to Chicago.

The Freestyle offers roomy accommodations for passengers in the second row, especially with the available twin bucket seats in the second row. The second-row seats tend more toward utilitarian than coddling, with flat seat bottoms and backs. With the second-row bench alternative, the center seat bottom and back cushions are above grade, but there's even less lateral support than what's provided by the bucket seats.

Ford says the third-row seat was designed to comfortably accommodate a 6-foot, 1-inch male. Indeed, headroom back there is commendable, thanks to a roofline that's several inches higher over the rear seats than at the windshield, a styling feat deftly masked by the angular C-pillar and roof rack. But tall third-row passengers will find their legs quite a bit more articulated and their knees closer to their chests than elsewhere in the Freestyle's cabin.

The Freestyle offers great versatility with split-folding third-row seats, an available 60/40 second-row bench seat and a fold-flat front passenger seatback. That fold-flat front passenger seat allows hauling objects up to 10 feet long, like a surf board or a ladder, depending on the weekend's activities, while hauling passengers on the left side.

Freestyle offers lots of cargo space. Fold the seats down and the Freestyle offers 85.2 cubic feet of cargo room, more than a Grand Cherokee (67.4) or a six-passenger Pacifica (79.5), though a five-passenger Pacifica offers slightly more space (92.7). Caesar the 170-pound mastiff discovered he had more headroom in the Freestyle than he had in a Jeep Grand Cherokee, and getting in and out was easier.

Storage is plentiful, including as many as a dozen cup holders, map pockets on all four doors and rear quarter panels, magazine pouches on the back side of the front seatbacks, the usual center console and a modest glove box. There's a deep well behind the third row of seats, which the seats occupy when collapsed. And there's a sunglasses holder incorporated into the overhead console. That overhead unit also houses the conversation mirror, a.k.a. the kid spy glass, although this combo feature gets displaced by the optional moonroof. Second- and third-row seats get reading lights.

The dash design is quiet and uncluttered, assembled from few bits and pieces, promising minimal squeaks and rattles as the Freestyle ages. Framed by the steering wheel are large, round, easy-to-scan, white-on-black (the Limited gets black-on-white) tachometer and speedometer, between which are the fuel and engine water temperature gauges and, on the SEL and Limited, a digital information display, all beneath a hood shading them from midday glare. At the far ends of the dash are two round air conditioning registers, identical to two atop the center stack. Although all four vents look as if they rotate in their receptacles, they don't, adjusting only side-to-side and up-and-down, and only the two outboard registers close completely. To the left of the steering column are the headlight and dash light controls, and when ordered the rocker switch for the adjustable pedals. The high-beam, turn indicator and windshield/backlight wiper/washer levers sprout from the left and right side of the column, respectively.

At finger-tip level in the center stack is the stereo control head, for the most part ergonomic, except for the tuning function, which requires either enduring an interminable scan/seek process or depressing one or the other end of a smallish bar until the desired station is reached. Beneath this is a delightfully legible and manageable climate control panel, and below that are switches for the emergency hazard flasher and, when ordered, the traction control; a receptacle that can be converted to an ash tray if necessary; and one of three power points (another is in the center console, the lip of which is notched to allow a power cord to pass beneath the latched cover, the other in the cargo area). On the SE and SEL, the center stack surround is a pleasant, satin-finish metallic, on the Limited, a burl-grain applique. Above the glove box on the passenger side a towel bar-like hand grip is recessed into the dash. Door panels are gracefully uncluttered, with high-mounted opening levers and child-friendly power window switches embedded in the tops of wide arm rests.

The rear park-assist system works well, an audible beeper increasing in frequency as you back closer to objects behind, useful for parallel parking and for alerting the driver to objects (or children) that can't be easily seen. The radio mutes when the park-assist beeps, a nice feature. Another nice touch is the subdued, wood-like, turn indicator click/click sound apparently borrowed from Jaguar.

Driving Impressions

Driving a car with a continuously variable transmission, or CVT, takes some getting used to. There are no shifts, no gear changes, up or down. Instead, the driver steps on the gas, the engine speeds up, and a moment later the car begins to move. The engine then maintains about the same, seemingly elevated rpm while the car accelerates to the desired speed, at which point the driver eases off the gas to let the engine slow to where the car keeps moving at that speed. Of course, as elevations change and traffic ebbs and flows, the car's speed changes, as does the engine's, but not always to the same degree, and definitely not as expected with a traditional automatic transmission.

All of this is exactly as planned. The goal of a CVT is to allow the engine to spend as much of its operating time as possible in a rev range that maintains optimum fuel efficiency and generates minimum emissions. The Freestyle certainly delivers in terms of usable power and fuel economy.

In fuel economy, the Freestyle rates an EPA-estimated 20/27 City/Highway mpg with front-wheel drive, 19/24 mpg with all-wheel drive. By comparison, a front-drive Pacifica gets 17/23 mpg with its 250-horsepower 3.5-liter V6.

Stand on the throttle and you may experience some torque steer in the Freestyle, a slight, side-to-side tugging of the steering wheel. This occurs not only in the front-wheel-drive Freestyle, which is not uncommon, but also in the all-wheel-drive variation, which is a little disappointing. Passing is more relaxed with a CVT, as there's no immediate kickdown to a lower, more aggressive gear.

The Freestyle does a reasonably good job of keeping noise out of the cabin. At steady-state cruise, powertrain sounds fade to a whisper, but pavement slap from the tires is clearly audible and some wind noise leaks in around the side windows at freeway speeds.

Commendably, the Freestyle's wide stance gives it reassuring stability around high speed curves and on winding roads. And there's little of the body lean and occupant head toss associated with SUVs. There's a noticeable susceptibility to cross winds, however, which is no surprise given the Freestyle's uprightness.

Ride and handling are reasonably good. The steering returns good on-center feel and turn-in is responsive. Braking is solid, although not entirely linear.

The Ford Freestyle offers many of the advantages of a sport-utility, with lots of cargo room and a roomy cabin capable of seating six or seven passengers. Getting in and out is easier than it is with an SUV, yet the Freestyle's elevated position gives the driver a good view of the road ahead. And because it's based on a car, the Freestyle rides smoother and handles better than an SUV, and gets better fuel economy. correspondent Tom Lankard filed this report from the Great Lakes area.