The Freestyle's superior ride, handling, packaging, and ingress/egress give it a leg up on most conventional SUVs for daily use. Look for the Freestyle and other vehicles like it to steal more and more sales from truck-based SUVs, as families realize they're a better solution to their driving needs. Conventional SUVs are still superior for those looking to tow a heavy trailer--the Freestyle tows only 2,000 pounds as compared with the Explorer's 7,000. They're also more capable off road, and by off road we mean terrain tougher than dirt two-tracks, which the Freestyle can easily handle. Compared with a station wagon, the Freestyle offers better passenger accommodations, with a higher seating position, and a standard--and usable--third-row seat. Fuel economy is much better than that of Ford's own Explorer, with 20/27 city/highway mpg as compared with the heavier SUV's 15/21.
The well-composed Freestyle is the crossover vehicle that most Explorer intenders should consider, with better road manners, interior packaging, fuel economy, and sticker price.
The Freestyle was brand new for 2005, so the changes for 2006 are relatively minor. A navigation system is a new option, and leather upholstery and power-adjustable pedals are more widely available.
We strongly recommend the side and curtain airbags for safety. Snow-state residents likely will want the Haldex full-time four-wheel-drive system, despite its attendant weight and fuel-economy penalties. Parents will almost certainly want the rear-seat DVD player. The reverse-parking aide is good for those who need some assistance when parking. And for those who need guidance on the open road, there's an optional navigation system.