Minivan Makeover

2004, Ford, Freestar

If Madonna can change her identity, why can’t Ford? Take their award-winning minivan, the Windstar, which sold over 1 million over the last six years. For 2004, Ford did a major minivan redesign and came up with something better--the Freestar.

And like Madonna, who always looks to new markets, Ford is trying to expand its territory to snowbirds (because it’s easy to get in and out of and drive a long distance) and empty nesters.

Unlike Madonna, who transforms her clothes along with her identity, the Freestar’s change is mostly on the inside. Priced at $24,460 including destination ($705 more than the base price of a comparably equipped 2003 Windstar), the Freestar maintains the basic snub-nosed, long shape of the minivan but features some significant updates in safety, versatility, ride, handling, and interior design.

Some of those updates include:

An innovative third-row seat that folds FLAT into the floor and reverses into a rear-facing Tailgate Bench seat when parked. This tailgate bench is not only a brilliant idea but also easy to maneuver. The Freestar has plenty of legroom along with seating for up to seven passengers, with over 25 cubic feet of cargo room behind the third-row seat. The one-hand fold and tumble second-row seats can be removed entirely to create 134 cubic feet of storage space.

The Ford Freestar has the largest and highest torque engine in a minivan. The Freestar had all the power I needed to pass and merge. The standard engine, a 3.9-liter V6 with OHV and two valves per cylinder, delivers 193 horsepower at 4,750 rpm and 248 lb.-ft. of torque at 3,700 rpm. An optional 4.2-liter V6, which is standard on SE and Limited models, puts out 202 horses and 267 lb.-feet of torque. Both are matched to a four-speed automatic transmission with an overdrive that is two-wheel.

The maximum towing capacity for the Freestar is 2,000 lbs. Simultaneously the engines are efficient enough to classify the new minivan as an ultra-low-emissions vehicle.

The Freestar has an all-new interior with an easy-to-read instrument panel, tri-zone heating and cooling, and efficient controls (like the one for the sliding door to the left of the steering wheel). There are plenty of places to store your goods, including a handy rubberized bin on the top of the dash. There are 20-ounce bottle holders, along with double storage levels on the front doors, rear sliding doors with storage bins, and nine beverage holders. The magnifying mirror upfront works well for keeping your eyes on the back seat. To note: rear vents can be opened with a button in front. When you crack the front windows and open the rear, you can get a nice cross-breeze without a pounding noise.

Significantly reduced interior noise levels. The NVH (noise, vibration, harshness) team worked at improving the inner noise level. To do this they “excited’ the car and used vibrometry to scan where the panels were noisy. The improvements included changing the slant of the side mirrors and adding more foam cushioning to the roof. The result is a quiet ride that made it easy to carry on conversations with the front row.

Smarter airbag systems. The Available Safety Canopy side-curtain airbags with rollover sensor cover all three rows of seats. Ford’s Safety Canopy can detect an imminent rollover and deploy without a side-impact collision, then remain inflated for up to six seconds.

And to note: The Freestar can also drive 500 miles on a tank of gas that’s the longest driving range in its class.

The new Freestar is available in five trim levels: Freestar, LX, LX Sport, SE, and Limited. The base model comes with a 3.9-liter V6 engine, ABS, remote keyless entry, power locks, windows and mirrors, air conditioning, and a fold-in-floor rear seat.

Major standard equipment on Freestar includes a new 3.9-liter V-6 engine, four-speed automatic transmission, 16-inch wheels and tires, air conditioning, power windows, locks, and mirrors, remote keyless entry, four-wheel anti-lock disc brakes with electronic brake-force distribution, and the new fold into the floor Tailgate Bench seat.

LX adds privacy glass, a CD player, cruise control, and roof rails; the LX Sport version has dual-zone a/c, 16-inch five-spoke aluminum wheels, power driver’s seat, floor console, and body-color moldings.

By Holly Reich
30/11/2008 12:00 am

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Images of the 2004, Ford Freestar

2004 Ford Freestar
2004 Ford Freestar