Full 2006 Ford Five Hundred Review
What's New for 2006
New options for the Ford Five Hundred in 2006 include a rear-seat DVD entertainment system and a navigation system. Leather seating is now available on the SE.
Although there's still room for basic, economical transportation in the family sedan segment, many consumers now expect their sensible rides to incorporate liberal doses of style, power, convenience items and safety measures. Some buyers even go looking for luxury ambience and sporty handling in a segment once written off for its blandness and lack of originality.
With the thoroughly mediocre Taurus out of the spotlight, Ford is now waging a two-pronged attack on the import-brand leaders: For buyers seeking athleticism, there's the midsize Fusion. For buyers seeking maximum comfort, space and value, there's the full-size Ford Five Hundred. Based on a platform shared with Volvo's S80, the Five Hundred makes extensive use of Volvo safety and all-wheel-drive technology. This roomy Ford car offers an airy cabin with eight cupholders, a full menu of airbags and one of the world's largest trunks (21 cubic feet). A tall seating position helps wean SUV groupies off the habit, while providing excellent visibility and easy entry for passengers.
The power source for every Five Hundred is a 3.0-liter V6. Output is only 203 horsepower, putting the car at a disadvantage when compared to the powerhouse V6s offered by many competitors. A continuously variable transmission (CVT) and a six-speed automatic are available, and buyers have a choice of front- or all-wheel drive. Ride and handling is a strong point for the Five Hundred, as Volvo genes give it a pleasant blend of comfort and agility. However, the brakes could use a little more power when it comes time to stop this 3,600-pound sedan. Although weak acceleration limits the appeal of the 2006 Ford Five Hundred, its spacious and functional cabin makes it a solid bet for families. Add in a sophisticated all-wheel-drive system and you've got a bona fide SUV alternative.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The Ford Five Hundred sedan is available in one of three trims: SE, SEL and Limited. The SE starts you out with 17-inch wheels, a six-way power driver seat, full power accessories, air conditioning, a CD player and cruise control. The SEL adds an eight-way power driver seat, dual-zone automatic climate control, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, wood interior trim, an MP3-compatible in-dash CD changer, a fold-flat front-passenger seat and an auto-dimming rearview mirror. Step up to the Limited and you'll get 18-inch wheels, leather upholstery, a four-way power passenger seat, seat memory, an upgraded audio system, heated seats and an analog clock. Options include a moonroof, adjustable pedals, a navigation system, a rear-seat DVD entertainment system and a reverse-sensing system.
Powertrains and Performance
Every Ford Five Hundred comes with a 3.0-liter V6 rated for 203 horsepower and 207 pound-feet of torque. Buyers have two transmission choices. The first of these is a continuously variable transmission (CVT), which has an infinite number of ratios and chooses whichever one best fits a given situation. The other option is a six-speed automatic. Buyers can decide between front-wheel drive and all-wheel drive. Front-drive SE models and all AWD models come with the CVT. Front-drive SELs and Limiteds get the six-speed automatic.
All Five Hundred models come with a full set of disc brakes, ABS and Electronic Brakeforce Distribution. Optional on all models are side-impact airbags that protect front occupants' torsos and side curtain airbags that protect the heads of outboard front and rear occupants. Traction control is standard, but stability control is not available. Front- and side-impact testing by the NHTSA returned a perfect five-star rating across the board. The IIHS named the Ford Five Hundred a "Best Pick" after conducting its frontal-offset crash test.
Interior Design and Special Features
Scrutinize the cabin and it's apparent that designers put a lot of thought into creating an attractive and functional environment. In lieu of the shapeless dash and seats found in the Taurus, the Ford Five Hundred has the crisp, clean lines popularized by the Passat. Rear passengers are treated to equally spacious quarters, making this Ford car a good bet for families with teenagers. The rear seats fold flat in a 60/40-split and this, along with the fold-flat front-passenger seat, allows owners to transport items up to 9 feet in length. Trunk capacity is an impressive 21 cubic feet.
The V6 provides adequate power for easy city driving, but buyers will wish for extra midrange torque for passing at highway speeds and climbing grades. Power delivery is less refined than in most competitors. Of the two transmissions, our preference is the CVT, which is smoother and does a better job of keeping the engine in its power band. Thanks to its Volvo-engineered chassis, the 2006 Ford Five Hundred offers a pleasant balance between smooth ride quality and responsive handling.