See Also: 1998.5 Ford Windstar

1998.5 Ford Windstar

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1998.5 Ford Windstar
Available in 5 styles:  2001 Ford Windstar 4dr Wagon shown
Asking Price Range
$429–$5,353
Estimated MPG

17–18 city / 24–25 hwy

Expert Reviews

    Expert Reviews 2 of 4

By 

The Miami Herald

Imagine the dismay of Ford engineers and marketers when they saw the 1996 Chrysler minivans debut with a convenient sliding door on the driver's side.

There must have been a lot of smacking of foreheads, and mutters of "why didn't we think of that."

The four-door minivan has since become the industry standard, and Ford -- though sales of Windstars have been brisk -- has been shut out. Basically, the overall chassis design won't accommodate a sliding driver's side door, and it will be several more years before Ford will be investing hundreds of millions of dollars in an overhaul of the Windstar.

In the interim, Ford has come up with what it hopes is a better idea:

An enlarged driver's side door and a flip-forward driver's seat that provides access to the rear seats. Dubbed the King Door by automotive reporters, Ford marketers prefer to call it the "Family Entry System."

"We've provided customers with an affordable alternative [to a fourth door]," Ford spokesman Dan Bedore said.

The enlarged door is standard on all Windstar models, and the tilt-up driver's seat is a $150 option on the base and GL versions, and standard on the LX and Limited.

The new door is six inches longer than last year's standard driver's side opening. That gives greater access to the rear seats, especially with the optional driver's seat, which moves forward and tilts, giving even easier access.

In truth, a fourth door is much more convenient for hauling people in and out of a minivan, but the Windstar's big door is a viable alternative until Ford can re-engineer the vehicle.

The Family Entry System I tested was on a Windstar Limited, a top-of-the-line, open-your-wallet-wide model. In addition to the big door and flip seat, the Limited was decked out with leather seats, power everything, rear seat stereo and air-conditioning controls, traction control -- even a special mirror in the overhead console that allows mom and dad to keep eyes on the urchins in the back.

The price for all of this is more than $30,000 -- a pricey neighborhood for a minivan.

"The Limited, which is new this year, is really for a very small segment of the market," Bedore says. "It represents about 5 percent of overall Windstar sales.

"The average Windstar sticker price is closer to $23,000, which is in line for the Dodge Grand Caravan."

Although it runs behind the Caravan, Windstar sales have been up seven of the last eight months, and the Ford ranks as the No. 9 best-selling truck, the category into which minivans fall. The Dodge, at No. 5, is the only other minivan in the Top 10.

Aside from the new big door, the 1998 Windstar (it debuted at the Detroit auto show in January) has a new nose treatment that helps improve the droopy snout look of the original Windstar, which came out in 1994.

Windstar also boasts the most powerful engine of any minivan, a 200-horsepower 3.8-liter V-6. Standard is a 150-horsepower three-liter V-6 that is slightly anemic on anything but the basic $19,665 Windstar. Both engines come with four-speed automatic transmissions.

Equipped with the 200-horsepower V-6, the Windstar can take on a roll that eludes many front-wheel-drive minivans -- trailering.

Ford rates the 3.8-liter V-6 as being capable of towing 3,500 pounds, which is about the weight of a small speedboat.

On the road, the Windstar drives like a car, which is what makes the minivan concept so appealing.

In Limited trim, it is as luxurious as a Lincoln, but can comfortably carry seven people and their luggage.

Its long wheelbase and exceptional use of sound-deadening material give the Windstar a very quiet, smooth ride.

On the downside, the Windstar can be pushed around by its namesake -- the wind. It's a problem shared by virtually all minivans -- as well as sport-utility vehicles: High crosswinds encountered at freeway speeds can require a driver to pay close attention to avoid being pushed into another lane.

In reality, most drivers of minivans adapt to crosswinds, but it is one way in which driving a minivan is still different from piloting a sedan.

That said, the Windstar is a good ride, especially for families that need a lot of room but don't want to sacrifice comfort.




    Expert Reviews 2 of 4

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