first tested Ford's redesigned front-drive Freestar, and
Mercury Monterey cousin, in the best of venues, cruising
winding north country roads where the vastness of Lake Michigan
lent a Pacific Ocean-type glow to twilight. Later, in less
forgiving conditions, the Freestar ultimately would prove
its worth, dodging potholes, enduring rush hour jam-ups
and logging mile after mile through nasty winter weather.
had come to this minivan makeover loaded with expectations:
trendier styling, more storage and function, enhanced road
performance and feel, advanced technology for safety and
spunk and, despite its longtime Windstar heritage, a brand
new name. What we also found were some pleasing, unexpected
additions: adjustable pedals to give a boost to a shorter
driver, a failsafe cooling system if coolant is lost, self-sealing
tires and panic brake assist, plus signaling lights on the
side view mirrors.
was Freestar following its major revision last year. As
it enters its second season for '05, Ford has added some
finishing touches: new, fresh, clear coat metallic colors,
including Arizona beige, Matador red (for the high volume
S level version), and a silver birch/graphite combo for
the top-of-the-line Limited. The up market SES adds a sporty
lift gate spoiler in addition to black grille, lower fascia
and cladding trim.
says Ford, is its quietest minivan ever. We won't argue
after miles of easy conversation at steady highway speeds.
Freestar, with five trim levels, is powered by two V-6 engines
Ford describes as "high-torque" for more grunt
-- a 193-HP, 3.9-liter generating 245-lb. ft., and a 201-HP,
4.2-liter with 263-lb. ft., the only one available on the
three upper class Montereys. A smooth four-speed auto trans
features "fast acting" hydraulics.
keeps the safety bragging rights it had when its minivan
was called the Windstar, not surprising considering that's
still the foundation of the Freestar. The latest accolade:
the just-received "Best Pick" designation from
the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Ford has stressed
safety with an available side rollover air canopy system.
the Freestar is nicely done inside, a more tonal interior
and more amenities make the Monterey feel more upscale,
with front and rear parking assist, available cooled seats,
three zones of temperature control, leather trim and memory-adjustable
pedals. Inside, the redesign gives both vehicles more storage
nooks and indoor room crannies for those huge, 20-ounce
beverages, plus a nifty covered hiding place bin atop the
instrument panel. Third row seats stow flat in the floor
for expanded storage space, or flop over into rear facing
seats for tailgating parties. Push-down headrests make the
transition a breeze. An optional power lift gate was added
during the'04 model year for all but the base model.
list prices from the high $20,000 to mid $30,000 range,
both Freestar and Monterey models enjoyed some financing
incentives following launch. And like other automakers adopting
unique naming systems, (GM's growing use of alphanumeric
signatures, for example), Ford continues its penchant for
using the "F" words for essentially car-based
products. Freestar follows that trend, which might cause
an identity crisis with the upcoming crossover sport van
Freestyle if one isn't alert.