Full 2006 Ford Freestyle Review
What's New for 2006
For 2006, a navigation system is now optional on the Ford Freestyle.
Think of the Ford Freestyle as a tall station wagon that has taken on useful traits from the SUV and minivan genres. It successfully combines numerous family-friendly vehicle attributes. For instance, it has three rows of functional seating to accommodate six or seven passengers. Those passengers benefit from ample legroom and headroom, and the third-row rear seat can be folded flat to create a sizable cargo area.
Like a minivan, the Ford Freestyle has a low step-in height that enables little ones to climb in and out easily and spares parents the back-straining exercise of stooping down to load the kids and their car seats. It also features a high seating position for a better view of the road and optional all-wheel drive -- two of the most popular reasons cited for driving an SUV. What it doesn't have are sliding doors (as on a minivan), but unlike its closest crossover competitor, the Pacifica, its rear doors swing open wide enough so that loading passengers and their stuff doesn't feel laborious.
Well-rounded as it is, the Freestyle has one major weakness: power. With only a 203-horsepower, 3.0-liter V6 providing power to this 4,000-pound vehicle, acceleration is adequate around town but lethargic on the highway. A larger, more powerful engine would do wonders for this wagon's overall appeal with buyers. But if you can get past this drawback, the safe and roomy 2006 Ford Freestyle is definitely worth a look if your family numbers four or more and you have little interest in driving a minivan.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The Ford Freestyle wagon comes in three trims -- SE, SEL and Limited. The SE comes with 17-inch alloy wheels, privacy glass, seating for six, air conditioning, a CD player, a six-way power driver seat, full power accessories and cruise control. The midgrade SEL adds an MP3-compatible in-dash CD changer, a leather-wrapped steering wheel with auxiliary audio controls, automatic headlights, foglights, heated side mirrors, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a trip computer and body-color door handles and mirrors. If you go for the Limited, you'll get 18-inch wheels, leather upholstery in the first and second rows, wood grain interior trim, dual-zone automatic climate control, an upgraded sound system, power adjustments for both front seats (along with memory for the driver), front-seat heaters, 50/50-split capability for the third-row bench and a cargo net. Note that SE and SEL models come with two-tone exterior paint, while the Limited AWD gets a monochromatic paint job. Options include power-adjustable pedals, a three-person bench seat for the second row (providing seven-passenger capacity), a navigation system and reverse-parking sensors.
Powertrains and Performance
All Freestyle models come with a 3.0-liter V6. Horsepower comes in at 203, while torque measures 207 pound-feet. A continuously variable transmission (CVT) is standard. Buyers can choose between front-wheel drive and all-wheel drive.
Four-wheel antilock disc brakes with Electronic Brakeforce Distribution are standard, as is traction control. Stability control is not available. On the options list, you'll find both side-impact airbags (for the front) and head curtain airbags (for all three rows). The 2006 Ford Freestyle earned a perfect five stars in all frontal- and side-impact crash tests conducted by the NHTSA. In IIHS frontal offset testing, the Freestyle got a rating of "Good," the highest possible.
Interior Design and Special Features
The Freestyle's cabin is simple and functional with lots of convenient storage nooks and bins. Depending on whether you select captain's chairs or a 60/40 bench seat in the second row, the Ford Freestyle can seat six or seven passengers. The second and third rows offer enough legroom to seat both adults and children comfortably. The captain's chairs can be adjusted fore and aft to provide more legroom for third-row passengers, while the 60/40 bench seat is nonadjustable. Total cupholder count is 14, which should keep everyone happy on long trips. A deep cargo well provides a good deal of space for groceries, even when all three rows of seating are in use. When you need more room, both the second- and third-row seats fold flat into the floor, providing up to 85 cubic feet of cargo capacity.
Acceleration is adequate around town, but the engine quickly runs out of steam during highway passing maneuvers, especially when the vehicle is loaded up with passengers and gear. Power delivery is noisy and refined, which can grate on occupants' nerves. Ride dynamics, on the other hand, are impressive, as the wagon's fully independent suspension delivers a smooth, refined ride quality and responsive handling around corners.