Vehicle Overview
Ford introduced its new Five Hundred sedan as a 2005 model, and shortly thereafter Mercury launched the closely related Montego.

With its nearly full-size dimensions, the Five Hundred is considered Ford's flagship. Ford called the four-door its first crossover-based car; it has a high seating position like that found in sport utility vehicles. Ford's Freestyle wagon is related to the Five Hundred sedan.

Powertrain choices with the Duratec 3.0-liter V-6 include either a continuously variable transmission or a six-speed automatic. Optional safety technology includes rollover protection.

Base SE, midrange SEL and upscale Limited trim levels are offered. The Five Hundred can have front- or all-wheel drive, which can automatically distribute nearly all of the engine's torque to the rear wheels.

A Family Entertainment System is available in SEL and Limited editions for 2006. Leather-trimmed seats are offered for SE sedans, and the Limited can have a navigation system.

Ford promotes the "clean geometric lines and stately proportions" of the Five Hundred sedan. Clear headlights flank a trapezoidal grille that contains a diamond-mesh pattern. Fog lamps sit below the integrated front bumper.

Built on a 112.9-inch wheelbase, the Five Hundred is almost a foot shorter than the full-size Crown Victoria and features a fully independent suspension. All-wheel-drive models have rear self-leveling. Low-profile windshield wipers use a strip of spring steel to press the rubber blade evenly against the glass. A power moonroof is available. Standard wheels measure 17 inches in diameter, but Limited models get 18-inch tires on alloy wheels.

Five occupants enjoy tall, upright seating positions. The slightly elevated 60/40-split second-row seat folds down.

Dual-zone air conditioning, a flat-folding front passenger seat, an electronic message center and a leather-wrapped steering wheel are included in the SEL. Limited models get an Audiophile sound system and leather seating surfaces that are heated in the front.

Front windows offer express-up/down operation. A storage compartment with a pop-up cover sits at the top of the dashboard. The trunk holds 21.2 cubic feet of cargo — more than the full-size Crown Victoria.

Under the Hood
A Duratec 3.0-liter V-6 engine produces 203 horsepower and 207 pounds-feet of torque. A CVT is standard on all-wheel-drive models and also comes on select front-drive Five Hundreds. The gearless CVT unit uses two variable-size pulleys, connected by a metal chain, to transfer engine power to the drive wheels. The other available transmission for front-drive models is a six-speed automatic.

All-disc antilock brakes are standard. Rear parking assist and a Safety Canopy with rollover sensing are optional.

Driving Impressions
Acceleration in a CVT-equipped Five Hundred isn't a strong point, but this sensible sedan performs adequately. Response is a bit sluggish at start-up, but speed rises steadily. Some engine noise is evident during hard acceleration.

Although largely similar to Ford's Freestyle wagon, the Five Hundred is a little quieter. The sedan responds better to bumps and holes, which means there's less commotion to affect ride comfort. The Five Hundred feels confident and secure. Body lean in curves isn't bad, but it's present.

Backseat riders get plenty of headroom, legroom and foot space on firm but amply cushioned seats. The firm front seats are comfortable.