All-new for 2005, The Ford Five Hundred represents what may be a new direction for automakers: a car that thinks it’s an SUV.

Intended as Ford’s new flagship sedan, the Five Hundred is larger than the Taurus it will eventually replace, but smaller than the Grand Marquis. Based on a platform similar to that of the Volvo S80 and also used by the Ford Freestyle, the Five Hundred features SUV-like upright seating, wide doors, a tall roofline, best-in-class legroom, numerous storage cubbies, fold-flat seats and the largest trunk currently offered on a sedan. A Volvo-sourced on-demand all-wheel-drive system is available, and comes exclusively with a chain-driven continuously variably transmission (CVT). Both FWD and AWD models use a 3.0-litre Duratec V6 engine, and come in three trim lines.

The base SE comes with four-wheel disc brakes with ABS, 17-inch aluminum wheels, air conditioning, power mirrors, power locks with keyless entry and driver’s door entry keypad, fixed intermittent wipers, CD player, cruise control and six-way power driver’s seat. On the SE line only, the front-wheel-drive model can be optioned with the CVT.

The mid-line SEL adds automatic headlamps, dual-zone automatic climate control, heated mirrors, six-CD/MP3 system, auto-dimming rearview mirror, leather-wrapped wheel, eight-way power driver’s seat, and a two-way power passenger’s seat that also folds flat to carry long cargo.

The top-line Limited adds 18-inch wheels, reverse sensing system, upgraded stereo, Homelink garage door opener, memory seat, power-adjustable pedals, power sunroof, and heated leather seats with four-way power passenger controls.

The configuration of the sedan market is up in the air right now, with the popularity of DaimlerChrysler’s 300 proving that many buyers are ready to move back to rear-wheel-drive. Ford hedged its bets with the AWD and it turned out to be a shrewd move: an expected 30 per cent split of AWD-to-FWD sales has turned out to be over 40 per cent. With gas prices rising and city cores becoming increasingly crowded, a roomy sedan makes even more sense than an SUV.

The Five Hundred is built in Chicago, Illinois.

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