In today's market, the traditional body-on-frame SUV is seeing a definite decline in popularity. Where once the SUV was king, now it is the crossover or, as we like to call it, the 'fat wagon' that rules the market. As pointed out by Subaru's new commercial, the market for the body-on-frame SUV is beginning to dry up and some automakers have been caught off guard.
Take GM for instance. Sure, they have a few mini-vans that they?ve ported to psuedo-crossover variants, but they are not a strong presence in the segment. Their Equinox crossover has been popular, but it does not hit the segment at that luxury level that is becoming increasingly popular. Toyota, Honda, Nissan, and even Subaru have crossover products that sit in that entry-level luxury bracket. Chrysler has their Pacifica, but we can?t help but feel like it is a chopped and channeled minivan with sing out door. Sure, Honda?s Pilot and Acura MD-X are based on the Odysessy, but they come across better differentiated from their minivan cousin.
Last year, Ford introduced the Ford Five Hundred and Freestyle based on a new platform derived from the Volvo S80. While often dismissed for their bland styling and low engine output, we thought we would look deeper into how the Freestyle fits into the crossover market.
So, what is our initial impression? This thing is huge. All the pictures in the world will not tell you how big this vehicle really is. Not only that, but we feel this is definitely styled more like a wagon than a ?crossover.? This is a deceiving, because the Five Hundred is such a big car that a wagon version would seriously eclipse many SUVs and crossovers in size.
From an exterior standpoint, we feel that the Freestyle would look better with larger diameter wheels. Also, we?re uncertain whether we like the stepped roof. That said, the rest of the exterior packaging is tasteful. It is a very safe vehicle from a styling standpoint. There is little here to find offensive, but it does not really stand out. It?s no Subaru B9 Tribeca, that?s for sure. This low key demeanor may appear more to some than others.
Tomorrow we?ll get more into the interior details, but we are very impressed initially. The overall aura of this car is significantly different from something a Taurus or even Expedition would have. There is definitely a European feel to the Freestyle. We understand Ford is moving the model to Mercury soon, but it may prove to be a good value now in Ford guise. Like we said, tomorrow we?ll go over the interior, with the following days devoted to other sides of the car, such as ride and handling.