Don't have Five Hundred but do have a Freestyle
I have a new 2006 Freestyle with the CVT. I got it on January 21st and have almost 9000 miles on it. I drive about 170 miles a day. I really like the CVT. I drive almost all highways but I go through a major traffic jam every morning and afternoon and end up driving in downtown DC for just little bit too. The CVT is perfect on the highway if you need to pass a truck, the RPMs change instantly and away you go. It's also great in traffic because there's no hunting of the transmission or shifting up and down, just a really smooth ride. It didn't snow much in VA since January so I can't comment on traction in the snow. As much as I like it, I don't really trust the CVT myself so I purchased the 3 year 100,000 mile bumper to bumper ESP (I'll have the standard 36,000 miles run out before the end of this year). As far as being underpowered, it feels fine to me. Most of my commute is at speeds above 70 MPH and the engine feels fine at higher RPMs. The engine IS noisy when it starts to spin. Ford could have done a better job of cutting down on engine noise. Also with the CVT you can sort of control how fast you want it to get up and go when passing. Once you're used to the CVT you can sort of manually shift it with your foot. If you mash the pedal a little bit the RPMs will jump up to 4,000 if you floor it they will jump right up to 5700, depending on how much you mash it. Then you just watch the RPMs drift down as the speed goes up. It does shift almost instantly. I believe I read that the CVT responds in something like 50 milliseconds. As far as ford not making the CVT much longer I can't give a definite answer, but the only plant that makes them in Batavia Ohio is on Ford's list to be closed in 2008. They also make other transmissions there. The Five Hundred weighs less than the Freestyle also so that should help with acceleration and fuel mileage. The AWD Freestyle weighs in at over 4000 Lbs. I get gas almost every day and have been averaging 21MPG. Once or twice 19, and once or twice 23, no more and no less. I'm sure you could get a bit better mileage if you drive slower than me and don't have to drive thru the kind of hills that I do. Overall I really like the car. It feels really solid and rides well.