by Clint Burgess

Certain auto manufacturers exude a sense of presence and style. For the most part, it has been European vehicles that conjure images of comfort, engineering excellence and a bit of panache. U.S. companies, however, are now in the running for vehicles that combine just the right amount of luxury with good old American ingenuity. The Ford Five Hundred sedan is one of those cars, and it's taking the wide-open automobile market by storm.

For over a decade the Ford Taurus was Ford's flagship sedan. Now the company that brought the world the Model T is moving in a new direction with a fresh focus for mature vehicle owners. The Five Hundred is more than traditional Ford owners may be ready for, but at the same time, it's more of what consumers are looking for in a mid-priced sedan with attractive options. With an MSRP of $22,000-plus, this sedan looks even better. Its classic styling recalls the Lincoln Town Car, but with a more robust build and tighter shaping. With an impressive look and top-notch credentials in hand, this new flagship in Ford's fleet will make you consider a Five Hundred when making the decision to buy.

There isn't very much flash to this car, but it does make you look again, as it doesn't look like anything else Ford offers. Alloy wheels and a chrome grill add a slick touch to a quietly noticeable exterior. Once inside the car, the driver will notice features that bring the vehicle into a new category of sedan. One particularly noteworthy feature is the multiple storage areas that allow for stashing all the bits and pieces of your lifestyle, still leaving room for a latte. Faux wood trimming and digital readouts give a relaxing feel to the cabin and a deluxe CD sound system put the driver at ease. A few touches that make the Five Hundred more than an average sedan are a power adjustable driver's seat, a split-folding rear bench seat, and lighted mirrors in the overhead sun shades.

It's refreshing to see that Ford implemented a 203-hp V6 engine with a double overhead cam under the hood, empowering drivers when cruising in this car. Although Fords have a reputation for stiff suspensions and poor handling, none of those issues are present with the Five Hundred. Steering response is optimal. The ride is further complimented by standard front-wheel drive but is also available in all-wheel.

So far, the public reception for this model has been mostly positive; however, there are a few critiques coming from consumers. One shortfall is the lack of upgrades available, but when a vehicle comes equipped with the necessities and then some, it shouldn't leave much room for discontent.

With its affordability and dashing good looks, the Five Hundred is clearly Ford's effort to win back some its stray customer base. And while it may still need a little fine tuning, the overall concept is solid: The car is affordable and offers numerous safety features that include but are not limited to antilock brakes, dual front airbags and high ratings on crash test evaluations. The new Ford Five Hundred is attractive from many different angles and offers something for the discerning driver.

Publication date: 06/09/05

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