The federal government has opened an investigation over reports of Ford Freestyle crossover utility vehicles surging or lunging unexpectedly.
In a defect investigation document filed last week, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) describes a "throttle body malfunction," potentially linked to hundreds of complaints about Ford Freestyle vehicles "lunging" forward—when the idle speed suddenly increases, causing the vehicle to suddenly surge farther or faster if the driver is creeping forward with foot not on the accelerator, or if the driver's foot is only lightly on the brake.
According to reports, the vehicles have moved as far as ten feet before the driver has pressed harder on the brake; the behavior is alleged to have a role in 18 minor crashes—with only one of those involving injury (a pedestrian).
NHTSA notes that if the behavior occurs when the driver's foot is firmly on the brake, it would result in slightly higher engine revs but no vehicle movement. The unintended movement has been noted in both forward and reverse gears, and it could be made worse during air-conditioning operation or when the steering wheel is turned significantly to one side.
The issue potentially affects up to 170,000 vehicles—all 2005-2007 Ford Freestyle crossover wagons. During that time, all Freestyle models were powered by a 3.0-liter V-6 and continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT). In more recent models, Ford has dropped that powertrain and no longer uses the CVT.