Ford's Aerostar minivan is unusually smooth, quiet, refined and comfortable. Our test Aerostar, a silver, all-wheel-drive model, proved a cut above most other minivans. Although it does not offer the seating versatility of the Mercury Villager or Nissan Quest - the best minivans on the market - the Aerostar's refined handling, performance and quality put it in a special class. According to Ford, the 1994 model year will be the Aerostar's swan song. In April Ford dealers will receive the Aerostar's replacement, a larger, front-wheel-drive minivan called the Windstar. But dealers are pleading with Ford to continue building the Aerostar because they are selling every one they get. Our test van was a '93 model, but the '94 model is virtually identical. PERFORMANCE The Aerostar is not one of those vehicles that impress you with their brute strength. Generally, it offers smooth and steady acceleration, but when the time comes to pass another vehicle or merge onto a busy interstate, you really have to put your foot into the accelerator to get the vehicle moving. The full-time, all-wheel-drive system saps some of the engine's power. But the tradeoff - better traction on wet roads - is worth it. Ford spokesman Woody Haines in Detroit said 60 percent of the power from the engine drives the rear wheels and 40 percent drives the front wheels. That changes if the wheels lose traction on slick pavement. Then the wheels that need more traction get it, Haines said. Our test vehicle came outfitted with a 155-horsepower, 4.0-liter V-6 and computer-controlled automatic. Some '93 and '94 models are available with a five-speed manual. HANDLING The Aerostar's ride is soft but firm. It's firm in that the body stays straight and poised while cornering. But it is soft in that the suspension system does a good job of muffling most bumps. A power-assisted rack-and-pinion steering system allows the Aerostar to be maneuvered easily into and out of tight spots. The front disc and rear drum brakes are powerful, but no four-wheel anti-lock system is available. ABS is active only on the rear wheels. I give the Aerostar high marks for its easy handling and all-round road manners. FIT AND FINISH There's only one area where the Aerostar shows its age: the seating arrangements. On the Villager and Quest minivans, the rear seats slide on a track, or they can be tilted forward to provide a flat surface. Or they can easily be lifted out to expose a flat area big enough to hold sheets of plywood. The Aerostar test vehicle, a seven-passenger version, featured two rows of bench seats that could fold into a bed. That's a nice touch, but it takes a little work to flip the levers and push the heavy seat cushions. Also removing the seats is a two-person job. They are heavy and a bit cumbersome. On the plus side of the ledger, the seats, front and rear, are v ery comfortable. Average-sized rear passengers should find plenty of shoulder room. And a rear air conditioner should keep them comfortable in hot weather. Computerized dashboards haven't gone over well with most buyers. In fact, they are all but gone from today's vehicles. Our test Aerostar had a computerized dash that displayed information in bright green characters. Yet this one works. Three buttons on the dash allow the driver to call up just about any piece of information he or she might need. For instance, you can switch from English to metric, get a readout of how many miles the Aerostar can travel before it runs out of fuel, or get an instant report on fuel economy. With a price of more than $25,000, you would expect the Aerostar to be well-equipped with accessories. It is. Its interior appointments include cruise control, power windows, door locks and mirrors, a high performance radio and automatic lights. For safety, there's a driver's side air b g and two built-in child safety seats in the middle bench seat. Smaller touches include numerous places to store small items and a compartment in the center console to store an automatic garage-door opener. Officially '94 is the last year for the Aerostar, but if it continues to sell as well, there's a chance Ford might continue to build it until demand is satisfied. Either way, the Aerostar is a superb minivan by any standard of measure. Truett's tip: Ford's Aerostar minivan has been improved every year that it has been on the market. The all-wheel-drive version is a vehicle designed for easy handling in bad weather.
|Richard Truett||Orlando Sentinel||December 16, 1993|
|Jim Mateja||chicagotribune.com||February 1, 1993|
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