FORD FREESTYLE FX: THE WORLD’S FIRST PURPOSE-BUILT CROSSOVER VEHICLE
Car-pooling. Gardening. Mountain biking. Going to the theater. Activities as disparate as these typically require a fleet of vehicles, or the acceptance of a few compromises when matching a vehicle and active lifestyles. Enter the Ford Freestyle FX concept.
The Freestyle FX concept is a unique, purpose-built crossover vehicle. Introduced at the 2003 North American International Auto Show, the Freestyle FX concept is Ford’s answer to consumers who demand nothing less than a perfect fit for their transportation needs.
The Freestyle FX concept is a new kind of vehicle that transcends boundaries and can’t be pigeonholed. In the world of crossovers, it is like nothing else because it is based on nothing else. Purpose-built for consumers with active lifestyles, the vehicle was conceptualized as an all-things-to-all-people, no-excuses concept version of the production Ford Freestyle, scheduled to make its debut in 2004.
“The Freestyle FX is a thinking person’s vehicle, a complete surprise box when you open it up,” says Chris Theodore, Ford vice president, North America Product Development. “It offers the aspirational looks of an SUV, great driving dynamics with the quiet and refined ride of a sedan, the capacity and flexibility of a minivan and the security of all-wheel drive. It will truly transform consumers’ notion of how a crossover vehicle should perform.”
The Freestyle FX is not based on a car, with a traditional flat floor, low seating position and inherently limited seating flexibility. It’s not based on a minivan, which typically feature flat, rising floors and elevated seating positions but compromised dynamic capabilities. And it’s not like other crossovers that are typically based on other platforms, like those of minivans. They feature poor third-row headroom and legroom, sub-par driving dynamics, and even aesthetic compromises.
The concept vehicle, like the production Ford Freestyle, which debuts in 2004, features an all-new, purpose-built crossover architecture with unitized body construction. Unibody construction eliminates the need for a separate structural frame by designing the supporting structure into the body parts, thus saving weight and adding much desired rigidity, in turn delivering better ride and handling qualities.
Driving All Roads, For All Walks Of Life
No matter where the road leads, Freestyle FX can adapt to accommodate a hectic lifestyle by transforming into three different vehicle configurations. The Freestyle FX can convert from a 6-passenger sportwagon to either a 4-passenger sedan or a 4-passenger SportTrac-like vehicle with a cargo bed.
The vehicle’s transformation, which occurs in less time than it takes to put the top down on a convertible, begins with the press of a button on the hand-held remote key fob. First, the rear-most side windows, between the ‘C’ and ‘D’ pillars, retract into the recesses of the side cargo hold. The back portion of the roof and rear backlight move forward with the roof rails telescoping into their forward portions. When complete, the ‘D’ pillar joins the ‘C’ pillar. The result is a two-row SportTrac-like vehicle with a rugged cargo bed that can accommodate everything from fichus trees to snow boards.
The tonneau, made of a durable plastic, can be installed fitting flush with the side rails and forming a seamless decklid-appearance at the rear of the Freestyle FX. In this configuration the vehicle displays the profile of a traditional sedan.
The roof, made of amber-colored tempered glass, offers a unique view of the sky and achieves the freedom of a top-down convertible with the quietness of a sedan.
Sporty Tough Design
Starting with a typical “two-box” people mover design and long 114-inch wheelbase, Ford designers opted to give the Freestyle FX a short front overhang and a roof profile which falls approximately mid-way in height between many utility vehicles and traditional station wagons. They then combined the best attributes of sedans, like seamless body panels, refined surfaces and low-to-the ground silhouette, with the imagery and rugged good looks of a sport utility vehicle.
The collective result is a sporty, tough design that draws second looks from both truck lovers and car aficionados.
“The Freestyle FX is one of those vehicles that incites debate as to its lineage, but customers are in full agreement that it’s great to look at,” says Scott Strong, director of design for Ford’s Family and Lifestyles Group. “Its purposeful stance, refined surfaces and rugged good looks transcend traditional notions of how people movers are viewed. The Freestyle FX’s proportions are always at one with its mission, even when the rear roof is retracted to imitate a SportTrac or sedan.”
At the front, the Freestyle FX uses large, trapezoidal high-intensity discharge headlamps with integrated turn signals and a grille design reminiscent of the Ford Escape, Explorer and Expedition. The grille design ties the vehicle firmly into the Ford family. Integrated driving lights reside on opposite ends of a bar that horizontally intersects the large air intake in the bottom portion of the front bumper.
Large taillamps housing bright, LED lights grace the liftgate and wrap around to the rear fenders to provide tremendous visibility from the back and sides of the vehicle. The rear tailgate opens downward in a traditional fashion while the backlight can be opened up and independent of it, adding to flexibility. Twin exhaust pipes exit the rear diffuser at a central position through large, chrome-plated rectangular tailpipes.
Flared wheel lip moldings give a rugged, anchored look and conceal aggressive 20-inch aluminum wheels on Goodyear run-flat tires. An all-aluminum cargo rack graces the roofline of the vehicle. Side repeater lamps are neatly integrated into the forward face of the sideview mirrors and amber accent light strips run the width of the door handles, providing instant visibility at night.
Aluminum skid plates are mounted directly beneath the front and rear bumper valences and alongside the Freestyle’s rocker panels, providing a distinctive visual bridge to the vehicle’s Ford family SUV lineage.
The key to any motor vehicle is its ability to adapt to increasingly demanding lifestyles. The Freestyle FX takes that idea one step further by providing the inspiration for new or different lifestyles. That concept is best demonstrated by the outstanding flexibility of the Freestyle FX’s interior, a trait that will be shared with the production vehicle.
In addition to its flexibility, the Freestyle FX concept’s interior design shows Ford’s commitment to triple the investment for interior design on future products. The use of high-quality interior materials, seamless integration of door and instrument panels and attractive seat and trim fabrics is evident throughout the concept vehicle.
Accommodating up to six passengers in three rows of seating, the Freestyle FX allows multiple seating combinations to fit any need. The vehicle’s second and third row seats can be power folded into the floor for more cargo space, providing a fully flat load floor.
With all seats in their folded position, the Freestyle FX provides cavernous cargo space, large enough to fit a four-by-eight sheet of plywood inside the vehicle with the tailgate fully closed.
The all-leather seats match the leather door inserts and include supplemental side air bag protection for front-seat passengers. Amber-colored lighting found in the center console and on the interior door handles matches the amber-colored glass from the roof and rear windows, casting a glow on the interior.
First row passengers are treated to a high-resolution satellite and navigation system housed in the instrument panel’s center stack. Brushed chrome bezels with tactile dimples surround the air registers, while the front seat passenger has an assist handle directly above the glove box, assisting ingress and egress
The second row of seating incorporates a DVD entertainment center perfect for long trips, with each seat folding independently of the other for loading flexibility.
Power for All Conditions
The Freestyle FX features a 3.0-liter 24-valve Duratec V-6 engine and new continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT). The CVT provides exceptionally smooth operation and delivers up to a 10-percent fuel economy improvement over a traditional transmission.
Coupled with Freestyle’s all-wheel-drive and dynamic stability and traction control systems, the concept car features safety and security typical of an SUV, all in a car-like package.