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York's Ford Five Hundred Long-Term Test

The York Regional Police, surrounding greater Toronto, Canada, was among the first to use the Ford Five Hundred as a detective pool car. Some of these units went into service in February 2005. The Five Hundreds are used on a two-shift basis in heavily urban and city driving. These detective pool cars are typically two-officer units.

After more than a year of service with the baseline SE model, the results are in. According to Lloyd Dow, fleet manager, the full-size sedans are quite impressive and a good value for the money.


The York fleet management does not do much upfitting to the Five Hundreds. They simply install radio gear and a dash-mounted emergency light.

As of 21,000 miles, the first three Five Hundreds have had no unscheduled maintenance and just one warranty repair. (An alternator went out at 90 miles.) The scheduled maintenance for the first 20,000 miles has been limited to simply a “lube, oil and filter.” The York Regional Police typically runs 6,000 to 7,000 miles between oil changes. Such was the case for these detective units with the first change at between 7,000 to 7,200 miles.

Per department policy, each time any vehicle comes into the shop for an oil change, both the front and rear brake pads are measured. As of 21,000 miles, 6 mm (0.24-inches) remain on the front pads and 5 mm (0.20 inches) remain on the rear pads. Pads are replaced on these detective-class sedans when they have 3 mm (0.12 inches) remaining, so these Five Hundreds should go about 40,000 miles between brake pad changes, i.e., about six scheduled oil changes.

York does not keep track of fuel mileage on an individual vehicle basis. As such, no mileage results are available for these Five Hundred detective cars. The 3.0L V-6 Five Hundred with 6-speed trans has an EPA city rating of 21 mpg. During 700 miles with the Five Hundred SE, under detective-type use, staffers with Police Fleet Manager magazine averaged 20.3 mpg.

6-speed Trans

The early-model year Five Hundreds were available with two different transmissions. The base line SE model came with a Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) while the midlevel SEL came with a 6-speed automatic overdrive trans. In mid-2005, all of the Five Hundreds with FWD began using the 6-speed, while all of the All Wheel Drive versions of the Five Hundred got the CVT.

While both the Five Hundred SE and SEL are available with AWD, just 10% to 15% of the cars were so equipped. The Five Hundred comes standard with traction control.

The new-fangled CVT is a wonder of electronics and mechanics. A transmission that is always in the correct gear for the engine torque has been a virtually elusive goal for decades. At the same time, automatic transmissions have gone from 3-speed to 4-speed to 5-speed to 6-speed.

The CVT still holds a slight advantage in both fuel economy and performance over the 4-speed. However, even the staunchest supporter of this modern marvel agrees that today’s 6-speed does everything the CVT does. The CVT is extremely compact, and with the exotic link belt, is fairly expensive. For both packaging reasons and costs, the CVT is used only on the AWD versions where space is at a premium.

As of mid-2005, all FWD Five Hundreds come with the 6-speed. This should alleviate fleet management concerns over the durability and reliability of the CVT in police use. As for the 6-speed trans, Ford Fleet Service guru Scott Clark indicates that this relatively new transmission is holding up fine. There are no significant or systemic service issues. Fleet managers should now feel at ease putting the low trim level Five Hundred SE into detective and admin roles. In extensive urban use, York has had no problems with the Five Hundred’s 6-speed transmission.

Crash Rating Verified

The Five Hundred is one of the very few vehicles of any size with the highest IIHS crash rating (Good) in all four crash tests: frontal, angled frontal, side and rear. It also carries the U.S. government’s multiple five-star crash rating. These Five Hundreds all are equipped with seat-mounted, side (thorax) air bags.

After six months of service, this excellent crashworthiness was put to the ultimate test. A vehicle pulled out in front of one of the Five Hundreds, and the results was a 50 mph angled frontal impact with (of course) air bag deployment. While the car was totaled and the engine itself moved backward 6 inches, the York detective literally walked away from the collision.

Driving Impressions

The Five Hundred is bigger than the Taurus, and the visibility is better because the driver sits up higher. According to York detectives, the Five Hundred handles well and has plenty of power. Brake-wise, the Five Hundreds have plenty of stopping power. No complaints. ABS is standard.

The cars are very easy to enter and exit. The high seating position gives excellent visibility. The front seat is very roomy. Both the rear seat AND the trunk are larger than the Ford CVPI.

The bottom line? In service with the York Regional Police, the Five Hundred has proved to be good and a reasonably priced sedan. Any down sides at all? Just one. Visually, they are not so good for undercover work. But then, neither are any of the sedans typically used for law enforcement!

Sgt. Lloyd Dow is the Fleet Manager with the York Regional Police and may be reached at

Cpl. Ed Sanow is the Editorial Director of Police Fleet Manager and may be reached at

Published in Police Fleet Manager, May/Jun 2006

Rating : 10.0

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