All-new in 2005, the Ford Five Hundred undergoes only a few changes to its option packages for 2006. There’s a new DVD entertainment system available on SEL and Limited models with flip-down LCD colour screen, wireless remote control, two sets of wireless headphones and inputs for video game consoles; a combination navigation/Audiophile sound system for the Limited, featuring GPS navigation, six-CD/MP3 player and touch-screen; and on the Limited, the power moonroof is now an option, so that the DVD can be ordered. Bodyside moldings are scheduled to be dropped sometime during the model year. Prices rise $200 over 2005 on the two lower trim lines, but drop $800 on the top-of-the-line Limited, no doubt because of the missing moonroof.

Placed between the Taurus and the Grand Marquis, the Five Hundred uses a platform similar to that of the Volvo S80, and which it shares with 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.

There are three trim lines (SE, SEL and Limited), all of which use a 3.0-litre Duratec V6 engine. All three lines come in front-wheel-drive; a Volvo-sourced, on-demand, all-wheel-drive system is available on the SEL and Limited. The FWD SE, and AWD versions of the SEL and Limited use a chain-driven, continuously variable transmission (CVT). The FWD versions of the SEL and Limited use a six-speed automatic transmission.

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.

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, heated power folding mirrors with memory, upgraded stereo, Homelink garage door opener, memory seat, power-adjustable pedals with memory, reverse sensing system, universal garage door opener, and heated leather seats with four-way power passenger controls.

The Five Hundred deserves to sell better than it does; it’s roomy and comfortable, it’s powerful enough for the job, it’s well-priced, and its SUV-style seating works well for shorter drivers, giving a commanding view of the road. Its styling isn’t drop-dead gorgeous, but it’s pleasing and uncluttered, and its trunk space can accommodate pretty much anything you want to haul. Perhaps it was just a case of bad timing: it was released the same year Ford presented the stunning Mustang, and Chrysler correctly gambled that when it came to chunky, full-size sedans, many buyers preferred theirs with rear-wheel-drive.

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