Produced from 2005 until 2007, the Ford Five Hundred brings to mind a simpler time when the Fairline 500 and Galaxie 500 models of the 1950s ruled the roadways. Codenamed D258, the Five Hundred was a full size sedan produced by the Ford Motor Company. Debuting at the 2004 North American International Auto Show in Detroit, the sedan entered official production on July 12, 2004 in Chicago and was ready for the public in September. The Five Hundred replaced the Taurus on the Chicago Assembly line, though the Taurus was technically replaced by the 2005 Ford Fusion.
Ford was hoping to rebrand itself with some new eye candy in the form of all-new passenger cars. The Five Hundred and the Fusion helped them with that initiative. The 2000 Ford Prodigy concept car was the inspiration for the production vehicle. The Taurus and Crown Victoria hadn't had a platform refresh in almost ten years, and had almost been forgotten by Ford. Only minor updates had been made over the years on both models, and they were no longer considered competition with Japanese rivals. Ford had been counting on their SUVs and light trucks to carry their sales, and unfortunately when they dropped due to high rising crude oil prices, the company suffered. The Crown Victoria would remain in production for fleet sales, but the Taurus was scheduled for discontinuation.
Based on the Ford D3 platform, the Five Hundred and also the similar Mercury Montego used the same platform know as the Volvo P2 platform, which also supported the Volvo S60, S80, V70 and XC70 and XC90s. This is also the same platform used on the Ford Freestyle crossover SUV. The Five Hundred has earned high marks for its class leading results in crash tests by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, a testament to its Volvo heritage.
Longer in length than its competitors, the Impala and the Avalon, the Five Hundred is categorized as a full-sized passenger vehicle. The V8 Crown Victoria beats the Five Hundred by about a foot though in length. Designed to be fuel efficient while still featuring plenty of interior space, the Five Hundred was designed particularly tall for a sedan, which gave drivers almost an SUV feel when behind the wheel. The trunk was also bigger than average when compared to its competitors and can hold up to eight full size golf bags. On the inside traditional wood-grain was used along with imitation carbon fiber interior materials.
Everyone was a fan of the Five Hundreds roomy interior, organized easy-to-use design and features. The price was also quite popular too. What wasn't praised was the boring styling and underpowered 203 hp engine. The Automotive press considered this to be the kiss of death for the Five Hundred, especially when compared alongside to the Chrysler 300.
The Five Hundred was met with sluggish sales after its introduction and sales were very slow in Canada as some Ford dealerships didn't even stock the cars on their lots. Compared to 2005, 2006 sales were down by half as the Taurus outsold the Five Hundred by two to one. Since its introduction, sales for 2006 were down month after month. For 2004 a total of 14,106 Five Hundred models were produced, with the numbers jumping to 107,932 the following year. In 2006 the total production run was 84,218 units produced and fell to 35,146 the following year in 2007.
The Five Hundred came in three different trims; SE, SEL and Limited. Available throughout the range was an AWD system. The base Five Hundred started at $22,795 and ranged to $28,495 for an AWD Limited edition. Optional was the buyer's choice of a continuously variable transmission or six-speed auto and available powertrains included a 3.0 L Duratec 30 V7 engine rated at 203 hp and 207 lb/ft of torque. Based on the system used in the Volvo S80 and Volvo XC90 was the Haldex All Wheel Drive. In 2005 the Limited model had 18' wheels as standard equipment.
For 2006 the Five Hundred remained virtually the same from the previous year except with a few updates. Featuring Satellite Radio was a brand new optional Navigation Radio built by Pioneer for Ford. In the previous year Traction control had been standard but was no longer on front wheel drive models. Halfway through the year the exterior door-side trim molding on all trim levels was replaced with a small sill molding at the bottom edge of the door.
The following year minimal changes were once again made. The SE model was taken of the lineup because of the competition with the new Taurus debuting in 2008. All models constructed after September 4, 2006 featured standard front-seat-mounted side airbags along with Ford's innovative Safety Canopy side air curtain system. New for 2007 was a Chrome Package that offered 18-inch eight-spoke alloy wheels along with a chrome trim mesh grille. Ford also offered a 5-year / 60,000-mile powertrain warranty.
For the 2008 model year the restyled Five Hundred from the 2007 Detroit Auto Show was renamed Taurus. This rebadging announcement was made at Chicago Auto Show in 2007. The new model sported a brand new 263 hp 3.5 L V6 and all new updated front rear styling. A new Ford-assembled 6-speed replaced the CVT transmission, used with the AWD powertrain along with the Aisin 6-sped. Other big change for Ford was the Freestyle crossover becoming the Taurus X while the Mercury Montego became the Sable.
In Mexico the Five Hundred was no longer sold since Mexico became the first market in North American to receive the Fiat 500 to avoid confusion status. In the U.S. and Canada the revived Fiat 500 went on sale as a 2011 model. Available in Canada for private fleet sales was the previous Taurus, which used a different chassis and was placed in a smaller category of midsize cars. Beginning in the 2008 model year the updated Five Hundred entered the Middle East market.
By Jessica Donaldson