2005 Freestyle drive opinion (longish)

Hi Ford fans,
Had a chance today for a 20 minute local-road drive in a Freestyle SEL AWD, with about 1,000 miles on the clock. Speeds up to 50 mph. I didn't have time to check everything out, but this
is what I came away with within the limitations of my drive and inspection:
THE GOOD:
Comfortable drivers seat. Comfortable front passenger seat. Shifter glides when moved. Overall great ride. Flexible rear-seating: fold-down etc. Excellent front seat height: so easy to get into and out of: a joy. Great windshield washer spray pattern. Nary a rattle, squeak, or any other untoward noise. Overall impression was this rig was very well screwed together. Top notch, felt super-solid. The CVT seemed at home running the engine show. Handsome exterior. Owner reports mid-20's gas mileage overall so far.
Wonderful handling: lean well controlled, and seemed minimal; does not toss passengers around when pushed on curves; tracks like on rails, eats up curves uncannily well, seems to know its task and does it well; negligible understeer; a great feeling front end; great suspension overall; easy-to-drive overall walkaway impression.
THE NOT SO GOOD:
A bit too much road noise above 35 mph, making it difficult to clearly converse with rear seat passengers. (My recent lengthy ride in the new Lexus RX SUV as a rear seat passenger displayed unacceptable road and wind noise infiltration.)
Vast expanses of boring mono-colored plastic on dash: Kmart appearance very overwhelmingly a turnoff. "Budget" comes to mind. You will not want to try to impress your golf buddies with this plastic treatment. Grainy plastic used on dash and on doors screams "budget". (Or maybe "costcutters".) Same is used on Lincoln LS and looks poor there also. Come on Ford, even Nissan is upgrading interiors, as well as D-C. Probably appropriate for a family hauler, though.
Ride initially seemed adequately supple, but further along gave the impression of slightly harsh bump damping, like the tires were made of stiffened plastic instead of rubber. Maybe I'm getting too fussy in my old age, but I'm not sure I could be happy with that amount of "feedback" every day. I drive a Tundra standard suspension daily and the Freestyle felt less forgiving bump-wise. Checked tires for proper inflation. Rear seat passenger confirmed this slight but always present harshness.
Owner stated no load-leveling suspension in rear. If true, unforgivable for a family load-hauler of this configuration.
Drivetrain gets noisy when pressed; sounds are not refined, yet not offensive. The engine may be DOHC, but sounds like pushrod OHV: no sweet rhythmic high rev music invading the cabin, "muted-coarse" is more like it. CVT gets busy sounding as well, with some whining and other mechanical grey noise. Nothing frightening however, although it adds to the road noise din and dissipates after the push is over.
Engine power lacking at low speed: stepping on it (4 adults, one child onboard) created high engine rpm's with no equivalent forward thrust, lack of immediate sufficient torque very annoying. The promise is there but the delivery isn't, a real slushbox. Rapid acceleration is drawn out and is not rapid. Avoid dicey situations in this rig for safety's sake. If you are always a sedate driver it should be fine. Engine felt "choked", like an economy 1-barrel carb on a 4 cylinder Falcon. Ford, up the engine or provide a nitrous injection option. And don't wait so long that your potential customers walk away because of this glaring deficiency. They won't come back. A rig design to haul all these passengers and stuff in the back needs bottom-end torque. Highway merging is critical. If Ford can stuff 300 horses into the much lighter Mustang, it can sure stuff a more stout engine into this heavy rig. Rear-seat passenger confirmed drivetrain noise and lack of thrust. (This was downhill slope that I nailed it on - even that didn't help.) Vehicle is too heavy for this engine, at least at low speeds. Did not have opportunity to test high-speed acceleration performance. Upside: great fuel mileage for a near two-ton rig. I guess we can't have it both ways at this price level yet, from Ford anyway. A small eight cylinder would be great in this rig. With that almost magic suspension and handling, it would be a no-brainer to lease or buy with an eight tugging it around. And the fuel mileage would be acceptably close to what it is now I would wager. And mate the six-speed automatic to a V-8 in FWD and AWD as an option while you're at it.
OVERALL:
A screaming value for the money, incredibly well put together, plusses greatly outweigh the minuses. If engine power is not an issue for you (should be judged with a typical load), likely very difficult to beat this value monster.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
At the price point the Freestyle is a bargain. One can always chose to pay another $15,000 and buy it as a Volvo if they want a better looking interior.
The dealership personnel must make the effort to 'teach' prospective buyers how to use a CVT. Starting at part throttle as one does with a conventional tranny is NOT proper with a CVT. Part throttle in a convention tranny starts in the lowest gear. Part throttle in a CVT states the vehicle in a higher gear at at a less desirably portion of the torque curve, based on the RPM's The proper way to get a CVT equipped vehicle moving, or in overtaking another vehicle, is to floor the throttle to get the RPM's up into the maximum torque level and down into the lowest gear, in the case of starting out, or a lower gear in the case of overtaking. Several magazine and newspaper reports, by test driver who should know better, of the Ford vehicle with CVT's report a perceived lack of power. That is a misconception brought on by improper use of the CVT. I had the opportunity to participate in a ride and drive, at Pocono Raceway, of all of the 2005 Ford and Mercury vehicles including the CVT equipped vehicles and several competitive models. Both the six speed and CVT 500's, for instance, out performed several other manufactures V6's that have larger displacement and higher HP engines. The 500 CVT actually produces better 0 to 60, 40 to 80 and quarter mile times than the V6 Avalon, Camry and Chrysler 300 all of which are smaller lighter more expensive vehicles.
Just to make note. Why more auto mags do not pan the abysmal $38,000 Avalon is a mystery to me. The Avalon should be an embarrassment to Toyota. The Camry is a better vehicle and $8,000 less expensive
mike hunt
Bob H wrote:

Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
snipped-for-privacy@mailcity.com wrote:

I have two vehicles with CVT. A Honda Civic and a Ford Escape.

"Flooring" the pedal quickly while underway in the Civic produces an effect similar to downshifting. There is a sudden jump to about 5500 RPM. It'll stay there as long as you keep your foot on the floor. Starting from a stop doesn't have the same effect. The RPM climbs instead of jumping. Pushing the pedal slowly to the floor while underway raises the RPM, but seems to limit around 4500 RPM.
My typical residential acceleration consists of oozing away from a stop, maintaining about 1500 RPM up to 25-30mph. Rural acceleration is pressing the pedal until I get to about 3000 RPM, and holding it there until I reach the desired cruising speed, and backing off. 60mph is about 2100 RPM. A little more hurried is 4000RPM. This sounds wierd, and my wife wants it to "shift" as we're pulling up a hill from a stop, heavily loaded. It sounds like it's doing all it can (which it is) and can't do any more, but while the tach needle is sitting still, the speedometer is climbing.

One of the reviews noted that the poor 0-60 performance of the Escape Hybrid was caused by the fact that you couldn't "pre-load" and bring the engine up to stall speed. The CVT and computer controls just ignore the throttle request, which is fly-by-wire. I haven't tried that.
I do notice that the Ford likes to jump to 4000RPM pretty easily, giving the impression that there just isn't any more power. But a further press on the pedal produces more thrust. Any lack of thrust is more likely perception than reality anyway, as there is no rise in RPM as the road speed goes up.

As I noted, the Ford Escape likes to leap up to 4000 RPM, and is a bit noisy, but it easily passes 50mph cars, getting up to around 80 during the manuever, with four passengers and a Costco load.
Perception is not reality in this car. http://www.mpt.org/motorweek/reviews/rt2408.shtml "With all tires firmly planted, our all-wheel-drive Freestyle SEL managed a 0-to-60 time of 8.5 seconds. The quarter mile ticked off in a 16.6 seconds at 86 miles-per-hour. Quite respectable runs for a full-time people hauler. We liked the CVT transmission in our recent 500 sedan tester, but you could tell it was hauling more weight in the Freestyle."
<http://www.caranddriver.com/article.asp?section_id=3&article_id 97&page_number=1> "It's faster than at least one Porsche." 8.2 seconds 0-60. They note that the engine revs to 5800RPM and stays there during hard acceleration.

You will never see bottom end torque as a requirement in a CVT car. The engine is always free to run the RPM that is most efficient for the demanded load, from 2000 RPM at 60mph to 5000 RPM at 20 mph.
--
---
Clarence A Dold - Hidden Valley (Lake County) CA USA 38.8-122.5
  Click to see the full signature.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

In my book, lack of thrust is lack of thrust. You are correct, no bottom end torque because flooring it will most always pull high revs. Then it needs more high-end torque. I've driven enough vehicles in my lifetime to know what slow and gutless feels like. And this rig had it in spades under the carrying load stated. The 3.0 just doesn't have enough ooomph. IMHO. The rig clearly needs a small eight cylinder engine. Whoa, what a winner with that!
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

How many with CVT? Did you actually time any acceleration runs, or are you convinced that it didn't perform because it didn't feel right?
Maybe it is too slow for you, but you have to admit that a CVT is a different way to drive a car. It certainly sounds like it's not going.
--
---
Clarence A Dold - Hidden Valley (Lake County) CA USA 38.8-122.5
  Click to see the full signature.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

I can only repeat what I said: slow, gutless. An embarassment IMHO. Just not enough thrust for the weight of the vehicle. Perception problem? No, slushbox problem. And yes, maybe it is too slow for me, but I think its gonna be too slow for a lot of other people also. Like when they're merging onto a busy highway with a full load. Just because it's pokey doesn't mean it's safe.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
snip

The new Avalon is on the way as we speak. Hope its better.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

Motorsforum.com is a website by car enthusiasts for car enthusiasts. It is not affiliated with any of the car or spare part manufacturers or car dealers discussed here. All logos and trade names are the property of their respective owners.