This car is Ford’s latest take on the traditional American sedan – the equivalent of our Mondeo, but bigger. It won’t be sold over here, although the car it’s based on is – that’s the executive-class Volvo S80.
Amazing to think that a heartland product from Ford North America should be based on a Volvo – even if Henry owns the Swedish company – but that’s a measure of how the epicentre of the US market has shifted towards the SUV, and how Ford has struggled to find a way to replace the Taurus (the US Mondeo equivalent). In fact, the Taurus lives on alongside the Five Hundred, but Ford will be making less of them, hedging its bets with the traditionally styled new car, and the more unusual, bulbous look of the older model.
The Five Hundred is an attempt to take back more of the market lost by the Taurus in the ’90s, and it’s part of a mild rejuvenation of the company’s car line-up. A shame, then, that the design conservatism sweeping through the European arm of Ford appears rampant in Detroit, too, this big saloon looking almost dated before it hits the showroom. It doesn’t help that it is going wheel-to-wheel with Chrysler’s imposing 300C, which has taken the country’s forecourts by storm.
But the Ford is at least tidily styled, and unlike the boat-like American saloons of the past, the wheels appear in the right place relative to the bodywork. More than this, conservatively styled cars – and the best-selling Honda Accord and Toyota Camry are just that – are what this market often wants. Better then, to judge the Five Hundred on how well it functions.