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It has the maneuverability of a wagon, the versatility of a minivan and the all-weather capability of an SUV. In a world in which the crossover moniker is perhaps used a bit too generously, the Ford Freestyle is the real deal: a crossover that gives you all the flexibility you'd expect from a vehicle in this category.
This Ford's resourcefulness comes via a spacious cabin that offers lots of cargo room and seating for up to seven passengers. Buyers are also rewarded with an even ride and capable handling, as well as a decent list of safety features. But the picture isn't flawless. Get the Freestyle on the highway and you'll find its engine lacking in oomph and refinement relative to the competition. Also, some of the materials used in its cabin fail to make the grade, and stability control isn't offered.
Were it not for these reasons, the Ford Freestyle would be one of our top recommendations to parents who don't want to drive a minivan. In fact, there's an updated model -- renamed the Ford Taurus X -- that addresses many of the Freestyle's faults. But in regards to the Freestyle, this large wagon is merely one candidate to consider among the many six-, seven- and eight-seat vehicles.
Most Recent Ford Freestyle
The Ford Freestyle was produced for the 2005-'07 model years. It was a crossover with traces of SUV, wagon and minivan in its gene pool. The wagon gene is most dominant, though, as is evidenced by the vehicle's low-slung profile. Mechanically, it was based on the same platform used for a variety of Volvo products of the same time period, including the S60 sedan and XC90 SUV. With three rows of seating, it was capable of seating six or seven passengers, depending on how you equipped it.
Beneath the Freestyle's hood was a 3.0-liter V6 good for 203 horsepower and 207 pound-feet of torque. All models came with a continuously variable transmission (CVT). Buyers could opt for a front-wheel-drive Freestyle for the best fuel economy, but those living in rough weather will be glad to learn that an all-wheel-drive version of the wagon was also available.
Initially, there were three trim levels available: SE, SEL and Limited. The SE came decently equipped and had air-conditioning, a CD player, second-row captain's chairs (resulting in a total passenger capacity of six), a power driver seat and full power accessories as standard. The midgrade SEL added an in-dash CD changer, automatic headlights, heated side mirrors, an auto-dimming rearview mirror and a trip computer. For the Limited, look for its 18-inch wheels, leather upholstery in the first and second rows, dual-zone automatic climate control, upgraded sound system, power passenger seat and driver-side memory, front-seat heaters and 50/50-split capability for the third-row bench.
Antilock brakes were standard, and side-impact airbags (for the front) and head curtain airbags (for all three rows) were optional. Also optional were power-adjustable pedals, a second-row bench (increasing seating capacity to seven), rear parking sensors and, for 2006 and '07 models, a navigation system. For the Freestyle's final model year, Ford realigned the trim levels and discontinued the SE.
Functionality was the guiding principle behind the Ford Freestyle's cabin. There was abundant storage throughout and enough room in both the second and third rows to seat both adults and children in comfort. Nor was it lacking in terms of cargo space thanks to its boxy shape, low floor and the fold-flat capability of both the second- and third-row seats. In back, there was useful cargo area of nearly 16 cubic feet even when all three rows of seating were occupied. With the third row folded flat, capacity swelled to 48 cubic feet. Dropping both rear rows opened up a cavernous 85 cubic feet.
Materials quality was hit-or-miss in the Ford Freestyle, however. The Limited's leather upholstery looked and felt good to the touch, but the cloth upholstery in SEL models was unimpressive, as were some of the interior plastics.
In editorial reviews at the time, our editors praised the Ford Freestyle for its ride quality. The wagon easily smoothed over rough pavement while also providing respectable handling when driven around corners. However, this Ford took considerable criticism when it came to acceleration. When executing high-speed passing moves on the freeway, the 3.0-liter V6's lack of horsepower and noisy operation were immediately apparent. That comment was also a theme in consumer reviews. Owners praise the Freestyle for its fold-flat seats and mid-20s fuel economy, but often take issue with its noisy acceleration.