This sedan's a sedative
Richard Bremner Autocar
27 October 2004

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.

It gets off to a good start by offering plenty of space, especially in the rear and in the boot, which will swallow eight golf bags, apparently. The cabin is a pleasant enough place to be as a result, especially since the ample seats are well upholstered. The Five Hundred’s controls are very clearly arranged, and the cabin’s design has a considered air about it, even if it’s ultimately bland and constructed to standards that fall short of the new Focus’s.

There’s more of interest under the bonnet, where Ford offers just one engine – a transversely mounted 3.0-litre Duratec V6 of 203bhp – attached to a CVT automatic. Which could be risky. Not only might buyers dislike its unusual CVT-style whirrings – though these are well-suppressed – but they could also be put off by GM’s recent US experience with CVTs, which proved so troublesome that it withdrew the transmission.


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In practice, though, this gearbox works very well, and there’s no uncertain jerking as the car comes to a rest, the bane of earlier CVTs. The engine is smooth enough, but the Five Hundred is not the vehicle of choice for a cops-and-robbers role – it simply can’t muster the necessary rumble and screech. That’s especially true if it comes with Haldex four-wheel drive, making it almost impossible to break traction. At £950 this is an option that’s strikingly good value.

The Five Hundred doesn’t ride like American saloons of old, although it is noticeably more pillowy than the S80 and tends to dive more when you brake. But the S80 isn’t a great-riding car, and the Ford’s stiff-leggedness shows through when the bumps turn more testing. The softer suspension means more initial roll, too, but there are far fewer bends in the US.

The Five Hundred is a carefully designed, anonymous saloon that is smooth, quiet, comfortable, and will likely prove dependable. It’s not exciting and it’s no advance, but if you had to drive it 250 American miles, it would be a fine device.

Join the debate


19 April 2009

We do not need an American cast off ,we have a fine car in the current Mondeo all it needs is a high performance range topper to take on the new Insignia VXR which should not be that hard, should it'?

19 April 2009

I've never understood why Autocar reports on driving impressions of cars that are never going to be on sale in the UK. I could perhaps bend the rules for something really special, like a Ferrari or something that uses new technology but something mediocre like this is of no relevance to the UK market at all.

19 April 2009

So we have a road test of an American car which is the US equivalent of a Mondeo, a car that we will never see here, to tell us that its a ford based on a Volvo (who are owned by Ford)S80 chassis, which in its self is based on the Euro Mondeo chassis. Its got a low power 3litre V6 engine that we will never get, CVT gearbox that might not sell very well but could because its good. Oh and it swallows golf clubs. So to sum up we have a ugly US Ford 500, which is the US equivalent of a Euro Mondeo, and its built on a Mondeo chassis but doesn't handle very well, its not built very well, but its got a big boot. Why didn't Ford save themselves time and money and give the US a Euro Mondeo? So why actually does the car industry need help again?

19 April 2009

The Ford Five Hundred was actually based on the last generation S80, which itself was based on the Volvo P2 platform. This platform and the original S80 were developed and launched before Ford ever took over or had any involvement in the company. The current S80 is based on the Mondeo's EUCD platform, but it hasn't been used in any American market Ford yet to my knowledge.

19 April 2009

[quote Volvophile]The current S80 is based on the Mondeo's EUCD platform, but it hasn't been used in any American market Ford yet to my knowledge.[/quote] I drive a current S80 and think its a great car, the handling is not as bad as some of these journalist make it out to be, and best of all its not a BMW, Merc or Audi.

19 April 2009

The current S80 is a great car and I would be unbiased in saying that. The fact that journalists say its handling is bad and the Mondeo's is excellent makes me wonder about their credibility sometimes. They are both based on the same platform and may be set up differently, but they can't be as far apart in handling terms as motoring journalists make out to be.

19 April 2009

Are you all mental?? This is a 5 year old review of a car which has since been discontinued and isn't coming to the UK and is based on the old S80 chassis, so whats all the fuss about 5 years down the line?!?

19 April 2009

[quote Citytiger]the handling is not as bad as some of these journalist make it out to be, and best of all its not a BMW, Merc or Audi.[/quote]

I went on holiday to Moldova - the people weren't as gloomy as the news makes it out to be and best of all it wasn't France, Italy or Spain. There's a celebration of mediocrity if ever I saw one.

19 April 2009

LOL- its a 5yr old article- the same thing happened when i was googling somthing completly different and came across an article on a Bentley SUV last week- somehow by looking on google it must generate a refreshed thread on autocar- because by time id come back to autocar website, even tho the bentley article was also 4 or so yrs old. It had come up on here and somone had already responded in the forum!

19 April 2009

[quote ordinary bloke]I've never understood why Autocar reports on driving impressions of cars that are never going to be on sale in the UK.[/quote]

This is 2009 and you can buy ANY car in the UK if you're determined enough (tho it might not get to the UK until after you've bought it)

I was very pissed-off the first time I saw an Almera coupe because Autocar had never disclosed the existence of such a car. Ditto the 4-door Integra Type R


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