2005 Ford Freestyle AWD Limited
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Review and photos by Paul Williams

When it comes to buying a new vehicle, today’s consumers want it all: the roominess of a minivan, the style of an SUV and the handling of a car, along with luxury, safety, power, fuel economy and, of course, a manageable price.

The Ford Freestyle “crossover” attempts to cover all of these bases. It’s a new model introduced by Ford for the 2005 model year, arriving in three levels of trim, the SE, SEL and Limited. In SE form, the Freestyle starts at $33,285; with options, my top-of-the-line Limited’s price rose to $43,395.

Roominess it has. The Freestyle comes standard with three-row seating for six, but an optional second-row, split-folding bench seat replaces the second-row buckets to increase seating to seven. Behind the third-row seat, 498 litres of cargo space is available, equivalent to a very large trunk in a sedan.

If you need more luggage space, the third row folds flat by simply pulling two tabs on the seat backs. The second row does likewise, which opens up an additional 1,299 litres of space. Finally, should you need to accommodate a three-metre ladder or similar item, the front passenger seat folds flat as well. Total interior volume is a vast 4,367 litres.

2005 Ford Freestyle AWD Limited
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And with all the seats up, legroom and headroom is generous throughout. Even the third row will fit a couple of adults without having them contort like circus performers to get in and out of the back. The excellent headroom is achieved by stepping up the roof toward the rear, a solution is not immediately apparent from the outside, as it’s cleverly hidden under the standard roof rails.

On to style. Despite their limitations, SUVs have emerged as one of the most popular vehicle styles in the last decade.

They offer a more rugged, individualistic alternative to the ubiquitous but practical minivan, while maintaining a level of usefulness enjoyed by van owners. They also supply a high seating position and the promise of increased traction from their all-wheel-drive systems and raised suspensions.

2005 Ford Freestyle AWD Limited
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But that SUV suspension can be choppy, and fuel consumption in truck-style SUVs is high. The design of the Freestyle borrows the look of an SUV and provides its raised seating position and optional all-wheel-drive, but is built on a “crossover” platform derived from Volvo’s P2 chassis.

This chassis delivers a much smoother ride than in most SUVs. The Freestyle’s long wheelbase and compliant suspension absorbs most road irregularities and quietens the cabin as well.

The rear suspension is housed within its own subframe, further isolating passengers from road noise while providing the driver with good control when cornering.

Consequently, even though the Freestyle is a big vehicle (it’s 5,075 millimetres long and 1,649 mm high), it drives commendably “small.”

The Haldex all-wheel-drive system, the same system used on Volvos, is optional on all Freestyle trim levels. If AWD is not selected, the Freestyle is a front-drive vehicle, but all trim levels come with traction control, anti-lock brakes and electronic brake force distribution.

2005 Ford Freestyle AWD Limited
Click image to enlarge

If you’re looking for luxury in your Freestyle, the Limited arrives with power heated front seats, and perforated leather seating for the first and second rows (third row is perforated leather-look vinyl).

Dual climate control with rear seat settings, sunroof, outside temperature gauge, a reverse sensing system, auto-dimming rearview mirror, power adjustable pedals, and an “audiophile” sound system with six-disc in-dash changer and MP3 player, among other amenities, are standard interior features for the Limited. A DVD entertainment system is available, but not a navigation system.

Unfortunately, some desirable features, such as heated seats and adjustable pedals, are not available on the SE and SEL models.

Outside, the Freestyle Limited is distinguished by its monotone body-colour cladding and 18-inch, five-spoke aluminum wheels with P225/60R-18 all-season tires (the SE and SEL get 17-inch wheels).

2005 Ford Freestyle AWD Limited
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The Freestyle’s SPACE architecture (Side Protection And Cabin Enhancement) is a notable feature that helps channel frontal, rear and side-impact collision forces away from occupants. Optional safety packages include a three-row safety “canopy” system of side curtain airbags and front side-impact air bags. These are available on SE and SEL Freestyles, but standard on the Limited.

Power comes from the 3.0 litre “Duratec” V6 engine that makes 203 horsepower and 207 lb-ft of torque. This engine is mated to a continuously variable transmission (CVT) “designed to provide optimal horsepower, torque and fuel efficiency thought the full range of driving speeds,” according to Ford. For most drivers, this transmission will operate just like an automatic: put it in Drive, and go.

On the road, the Freestyle delivers the practicality expected of it. The commodious interior accommodates whatever cargo you need to transport, and the fit and finish of the interior is very impressive. The seats are comfortable, and handling is very good for a vehicle of this type and size. It corners fairly flat and feels stable in crosswinds.

The Freestyle does have a rather large turning circle, however, which affects manoeuvrability, and the engine, while quiet when not being asked to work, gets noisy under load. Although I didn’t have the opportunity to drive the 1,865 kg Freestyle (FWD is 1,796 kg) with a full complement of passengers and their luggage, I would suspect that its engine would be working hard when accelerating and climbing hills. Even with two passengers and luggage, the engine is quite audible when ascending a modest highway incline. The Freestyle is rated to tow 2,000 pounds.

2005 Ford Freestyle AWD Limited
Click image to enlarge

Fuel economy, however, was good. I averaged about 12.0/9.5 L/100 km city/highway, which is noteworthy for a big vehicle like this, and much better than you could expect from a conventional SUV. Fuel tank capacity is a generous 72 litres, and the Freestyle uses regular grade gasoline.

Although the Freestyle Limited is technically a “crossover”, it will likely be referred to as an SUV, and because of its price and equipment, a luxury one. Direct competition is the Chrysler Pacifica and the Subaru B9 Tribeca. Other seven-passenger crossovers include the Honda Pilot and Toyota Highlander.

If you want the practicality but not the ubiquity of a minivan, and like the look and image of SUVs but worry about their fuel consumption, you may find the unassuming Ford Freestyle blends desirable characteristics of both vehicle types. The flexibility and size of its interior is especially praiseworthy.

Ford Freestyles are built in Chicago, Illinois.

Technical Data: 2005 Ford Freestyle AWD Limited

Base price $43,195
$200 (60/40 split three-passenger second row seating)
Freight $1,085
A/C tax $100
Price as tested $44,580
Type 4-door, 6/7-passenger wagon
Layout Front engine/AWD
Engine 3.0-litre V6, DOHC, 24 valves
Horsepower 203 @ 5750 rpm
Torque 207 @ 4500 rpm
Transmission Continuously-variable, chain-driven (CVT)
Tires P225/60R-18 all season
Curb weight 1865 kg (4112 lbs.)
Wheelbase 2867 mm (112.9 in.)
Length 5075 mm (199.8 in.)
Width 1905 mm (75.0 in.)
Height 1649 mm (64.9 in.)
Cargo capacity 498 litres (17.6 cu. ft.) behind rear seat
  1299 litres (45.9 cu. ft.) behind second seat
Fuel consumption City: 11.7 L/100 km (24 mpg)
  Hwy: 8.1 L/100 km (35 mpg)
Warranty 3 yrs/ 60,000 km
Powertrain warranty 5 yrs/100,000 km

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