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So we've shown you the exterior and the interior. We've hinted at how it drives, but we all know what everyone really wants. It's the driving impression that matters most to us. Let's get down to business.
First of all, this is a quiet car. The road and wind noise are well subdued. The ride is smooth and well controlled. We already commented about the comfort of the interior, and the way Ford has attempted to squash NVH makes it even more comfortable. Not only is it quiet, but you feel like you?re riding in a bank vault. There is a solid feeling to the car, and it?s enhanced by the quiet interior. The whole dynamic contributes to make the Freestyle feel extremely safe.
It feels safe and it appears to be so. Our tester came with side curtain air bags, as well as torso airbags for the front row. Despite not having side airbags, the Freestyle tested by the NTHSA still received a five-star rating for the side impact test. It is very impressive.
So, all this safety and comfort must come at a cost. From a handling perspective, the limitation of this vehicle clearly is the tire selection and slightly taller ride height. However, the Freestyle?s chassis is extremely capable. The feedback and assist on the steering is well balanced. It will not offend the non-enthusiast, but it will not bore the driver in the family. The Freestyle is a solid performer. It was surprising to see how sharp this large vehicle is. While the Freestyle is not meant for the track, we can see how this particular platform could produce a high performance version.
That leads me to the main beef I have with the Freestyle. You?ve heard it time and time again that is feels down on power. Well, the Freestyle is relatively quick for such a big vehicle. It is surprising when you consider the 203 HP Duratec V6 under the hood. The Freestyle will do 0-60 in 8.65 seconds according to Ford. That is not bad from a numbers perspective. So it will move out of its own way. The saving grace in this respect is the CVT transmission. The CVT basically behaves in some respects like a person with a manual transmission would. While slow off the line, once up to speed the CVT keeps the Freestyles V6 on boil at its peak power point. If the car had a manual transmission, I would end up working my right hand a whole lot to keep the power on tap, but the CVT does an admirable job. With the transmission providing the performance edge, you can still feel like the V6 is a little strained with the mass of this vehicle.
Based on what we?ve seen so far, there is hope here. Ford has indeed indicated, as our audience has so poignantly expressed, that the Freestyle will be dropped from their line-up. However, the platform will live on through Ford Motor Company?s upcoming models. The Freestyle will actually be reassigned to Mercury, like the META One concept. They have decided to do this because of the influx of sport wagons into the Ford line. One of these will be a vehicle based on the Fairlane concept, which will be built on the same D3 platform that underpins the Freestyle. The Freestyle name will also be reassigned to a new CD3, the Mazda6 platform, sport wagon variant.
Now that we?ve cleared that up, there are rumors that Ford will replace the Lincoln Towncar with an AWD V8 version of the D3 platform. We believe based on what we?ve seen from this platform, that this is particularly wise. The Freestyle approaches the NVH (noise vibration harshness) isolation beyond what Lexus was doing a few short years ago. At it is still a Ford, so you can expect a Lincoln version to have even higher levels of refinement. Also, the capability of the D3 platform would still give any potential Lincoln variant an edge in chassis dynamics.
The whole package could be brought to life with more power. Even taking the current V6 and adding a hybrid powertrain would help tremendously. We can also foresee bringing the Yamaha SHO-V8 back from the Volvo stable into the D3 vehicles. Either option would certainly be a definite improvement over the current powertrain. There are also rumors about a 3.5-liter V6, which is also a welcome addition. The additional power combined with all-wheel drive would make a very enticing combination.