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Expert Reviews 1 of 6
By Warren Brown
November 27, 1998
Sparks, that little voice that resides somewhere between my heart and my brain, wouldn't shut up. "How could you?" she asked. "How could you possibly rank DaimlerChrysler's Town & Country minivan number one?" The question arose during a
long run in Ford Motor Co.'s 1999 Windstar LX minivan. A year ago, the answer would've been simple. "That's easy," I would've said then. "The Town & Country has everything the Windstar doesn't -- performance, comfort, utility, looks." But that was
then. Today, maneuvering through New York City's murderous traffic, it was a different story. The new Windstar seemed especially well equipped for that contest -- more so, in fact, than the Town & Country. The Windstar was nimble, which is no
small thing for a minivan. Many minivans, because of their high walls and long bodies, seem to move in sections, especially in sharp turns. It's as if their front sections turn first and the rear portions sort of follow -- like driving an articulated bus
that has never quite learned the language of the road. Anyway, there was none of that shimmy-shammy stuff with the Windstar. It was tight! It ran with the best of New York's cabs, and usually came out ahead. I was impressed. But there was more to
come. Tranquilizers should be included as standard equipment for parking on the streets of New York City, and the dose should be tripled for trying to park something as large as a minivan. First, you have to find a space. Then you have to pray
that the driver in your rearview mirror allows you to back into that space. And when you're backing in, you have to be certain you aren't bumping someone else's car, which is where the new Windstar's optional Reverse Sensing System (RSS) comes in. RSS
uses sonar to deliver proximity warnings, in the form of beeps, when an object is within 5.9 feet of the Windstar's rear bumper. The beeps increase in frequency as the Windstar moves closer to the object, and they become a steady, high-pitched whistle
when the object is within 10 inches of the minivan's rear bumper. If RSS saves you once in this city, it could be the save of a lifetime. There are numerous other features, such as optional, seat-mounted side-impact air bags for front-seat
occupants. And Ford has cleverly designed the mounts for the Windstar's middle bench seat to allow it to be moved to the left or right side of the vehicle. Also, the Windstar now comes with sliding doors on both sides -- something the Town &
Country and other minivans offered earlier. Ford adds the optional spiff of power sliding doors on both sides, which can be opened and closed with an electronic key fob. On top of all this good stuff is an exceptionally smooth 3.8-liter V-6 designed
to produce 200 horsepower at 5,000 rpm and 180 pound-feet of torque at 3,250 rpm. The engine is mated to a standard, electronically controlled four-speed automatic transmission. How can I rate DaimlerChrysler's Town & Country number one? I can't,
Sparks, not after driving the new Windstar. Advantage, Ford. 1999 Ford Windstar LX Complaints: Okay, so Ford has snatched DaimlerChrysler's idea of putting rollers on its middle and rear seats for easy removal. But taking them out still ain't
easy. Those seats are heavy as heck. And to make matters worse, there is no convenient way to grip 'em and lug 'em, not even with two people doing the heavy lifting. If DaimlerChrysler wants to take Warren's No. 1 Minivan ranking back from Ford, it
has to come up with middle and rear seats that are light enough to be removed by one person, yet strong enough to seat five people comfortably and safely. If Ford wants to keep that ranking, it ought to beat DaimlerChrysler to the punch. Praise: Don't
just take my word for it. Drive the 1999 Windstar against any minivan out there, and that includes Honda's bigger, new Odyssey and Toyota's Sienna. I think you'll agree, in this case, that it's more than a sl ogan: Ford has a better idea
. Head-turning quotient: DaimlerChrysler still makes the prettiest minivans on the market. If this were just a beauty contest, the Town & Country and its minivan siblings would win hands down. Ride, acceleration and handling: Easily among the
best in class in all three categories. I couldn't believe how well the new Windstar handled, both loaded and unloaded, in some pretty dicey driving situations. Bravo! Also, excellent braking both loaded and unloaded. Brakes include power front discs/rear
drums with antilock. Capacities: Seats seven in tested, four-door wagon configuration. Cargo volume is 148.5 cubic feet. Holds 26 gallons of regular unleaded gasoline. Product mix: Windstars are available as two-door vans or three- or four-door
wagons. There is a base 147-horsepower, 3-liter V-6 engine. Trim levels include L, LX, SE and SEL models, with the SEL version being the most expensive. Sound system: Four-speaker AM-FM stereo radio and cassette with single-disc in-dash CD player.
Okay. Price: Base price on the tested Windstar LX is $23,660. Price as tested is $26,425, including $2,185 in options and a $580 destination charge. Dealer invoice on base model is $21,361. Purse-strings note: Compare with any minivan available in
the U.S. market. Windstar prices start at $18,375. Control pricing by controlling lust for options.