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By Jim Flammang
April 20, 2005
Vehicle Overview Ford introduced a brand-new minivan for 2004 named the Freestar, which replaced Ford's Windstar minivan. Mercury's Monterey is related to the Freestar.
Five trim levels are available: S, SE, SES, SEL and top-of-the-line Limited. The third-row seat can be positioned to face the rear for tailgate parties, and it can fold flat into the floor. A power liftgate became optional after the start of the 2004 model year.
For 2005, a new liftgate spoiler is available on the SES model. Ford indicated that it could stop making minivans after 2005.
Exterior The Freestar's appearance is similar to the previous Windstar. Distinctive front-end styling themes differentiate the models. S and SE models have a body-color treatment. The SEL and Limited get a chrome grille, and the SES displays a black grille. Limited models have color-coordinated two-tone lower body paint.
Large upright headlights and an eggcrate grille integrate with the hood and front fenders. Contoured rear bumpers promise a low liftover height.
Standard tires measure 16 inches in diameter, but 17-inch tires on aluminum wheels are optional. Measuring 201 inches long overall, the Freestar rides a 120.8-inch wheelbase.
Interior The Freestar will seat up to seven occupants. In S, SE and SES models, the standard second-row bench seat can slide horizontally. Second-row captain's chairs in upper-end models include a fold-and-tumble feature.
Overhead consoles contain readouts for outside temperature, a compass and auxiliary buttons for the power sliding doors, if installed. Front-door cupholders can hold 20-ounce beverages. Ford's Conversation Mirror lets drivers watch children in the rear. Adjustable pedals, a DVD entertainment system and Ford's Reverse Sensing System are optional.
Under the Hood A 193-horsepower, 3.9-liter V-6 is standard in S, SE and SES models. A 4.2-liter V-6 in the SEL and Limited generates 201 hp and 263 pounds-feet of torque. Both engines team with a four-speed-automatic transmission.
Safety All-disc antilock brakes with electronic brake-force distribution are standard. On Freestars equipped with Ford's AdvanceTrac electronic stability system, panic brake assist � which applies added pressure in an emergency � is included. Side-impact and side curtain-type airbags are optional.
Driving Impressions Like its Windstar predecessor, the Freestar seems a little more trucklike than most minivans. When parking, this minivan seems unusually wide.
Performance with the 4.2-liter V-6 is energetic, and the automatic transmission yields prompt, smooth shifts. Moderate engine noise during acceleration is present. The Freestar is fairly easy to drive, and it maneuvers with acceptable agility. The ride is sufficiently smooth on good surfaces.
The seat bottoms are short but offer good support. Front headroom is abundant, and elbowroom is adequate. Second-row occupants get plenty of space when bucket seats are installed. Squeezing into the third row isn't too difficult.