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After years of focusing most of its attention on light trucks, Ford realized it needed a stronger lineup of passenger cars. In particular, the company needed a car that would appeal to families of four and five. The Ford Five Hundred was the result, a large sedan designed to appeal both to ex-SUV owners and traditional full-size-car buyers.
The Ford Five Hundred's biggest advantage was space, as it offered more than 40 inches of legroom front and rear as well as a massive 21-cubic-foot trunk. In addition, the seating position up front was higher than normal to provide a commanding view of the road.
Sales were never particularly strong, however, and Ford decided to rename the Five Hundred as the Taurus starting with the 2008 model year.
Most Recent Ford Five Hundred
Introduced for 2005, the Ford Five Hundred received minimal changes during its brief three-year run. This sedan is based on the previous-generation Volvo S80 platform, and made use of that car's all-wheel drive and safety technology. The Five Hundred's Swedish origins were immediately apparent when you drove it, as it provided both a comfortable ride and competent handling, with nicely weighted steering. Braking performance was mediocre, though, and Volvo's stability control system wasn't included in the package.
Passive safety was excellent in this large sedan. Originally optional, front seat side airbags and full-length side curtain airbags became standard for 2007. Additionally, the Ford Five Hundred aced crash tests by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, earning the highest possible rating in every category.
Three trim levels -- SE, SEL and Limited -- were offered initially, though for its last year the SE was dropped. Front-wheel drive was standard on both trims, with all-wheel drive available as an option. Choosing a front-drive Five Hundred paired the 203-horsepower V6 engine with a six-speed automatic transmission, while opting for AWD mandated a continuously variable transmission (CVT). Key options included rear parking sensors, a navigation system and a rear DVD entertainment system, the latter a rarity in a mid-priced sedan.
Mediocre acceleration was the main drawback to the Five Hundred. Its standard 3.0-liter Duratec V6 was not as powerful or refined as most competitors' engines. Still, the Five Hundred's low pricing and top-notch crash test scores made it a reasonable family car pick. Consumers should know that the Ford Five Hundred was revamped and renamed the Taurus for 2008, and boasted a number of key improvements. The latter included much stronger performance courtesy of a potent new V6, upgraded cabin trim and available stability control.