New safety features are among the 2001 changes for Fords front-drive minivan, which saw a modest sales hike during 2000 and is second only to Dodge in popularity. AdvanceTrac is said to be the minivans first lateral skid-control system; it became available during the 2001 model year. Sensors can detect oversteer and understeer in extreme situations, applying appropriate braking force and reducing engine power to regain control as needed in turns. A strobe light in the drivers outside mirror now warns approaching traffic that the left-side sliding door is open. In addition, sensors now deploy airbags based on crash severity and the positions of the driver and front passenger.
The Windstar debuted in 1995 and comes in a single size. Five passenger models are offered: LX, SE, SE Sport, SEL and Limited. The SE Sport is a brand-new model for 2001 and features a black grille. Cargo versions of the Windstar also are available.
Ford dropped the 3.0-liter V-6 engine, so all Windstars now are fitted with the 3.8-liter engine. Windstars have been slightly restyled up front, with a fresh chrome grille for the SE and SEL. Passenger models have a new standard low-tire-pressure warning system. The SE and SE Sport models gain 16-inch wheels, just like the SEL and Limited.
With a 120.7-inch wheelbase and an overall length of 200.9 inches, the Windstar is comparable to extended-size versions of other minivans, such as the Dodge Grand Caravan and Chevrolet Venture. Dual sliding doors are standard, except on the base LX model. Power operation for both side doors is available.
Except for the cargo van, the minivan seats seven. A center console is included with optional second-row bucket seats. Other options include power-adjustable gas and brake pedals, Fords reverse sensing system that detects obstacles while backing up, and a rear-seat video entertainment setup that includes a removable VCR unit and a screen in an overhead console.
Stepping up from the base LX to an SE Sport adds privacy glass, a brushed aluminum roof rack, leather-wrapped steering wheel and 16-inch five-spoke aluminum wheels. Features on the SE include cornering lamps, second-row buckets, a six-way power drivers seat, lighted vanity mirrors and power heated signal mirrors. Leather seating surfaces are used in the SEL, which has power driver and passenger seats, as well as Tu-Tone body cladding. Topping the line, the Limited features heated seats, a full-size spare tire, a premium stereo system, and a memory feature for its drivers seat, outside mirrors and power pedals.
Under the Hood
All Windstars use the same 200-horsepower, 3.8-liter V-6 engine and a four-speed-automatic transmission, which promises improved shift points this year. Windstars have earned an emissions designation rating of ULEV.
Side-impact airbags are standard on the Limited and optional on other models. In addition, antilock brakes are standard, and traction control is standard on most models. Ford is promoting the fact that the Windstar was the first minivan to earn five-star crash-test ratings.
Windstars feel less carlike than most of their competitors, including the newly redesigned Dodge Caravan and Grand Caravan. They also feel a bit tauter and firmer on the road good for stability but this adds to the trucklike sensation, which some minivan owners favor but others would rather avoid. While other minivans have moved toward a carlike ride in the past few years, the Windstar appears to have stood pat in comparison.
For a while, Fords V-6 engine was among the most powerful in a minivan, but this year its about in the middle. Though eager, the V-6 doesnt exactly cause this minivan to lunge forward when a quick burst of energy is needed. Automatic-transmission shifts are reasonably smooth but noticeable again, a trifle trucklike. Windstars also emit a throatier engine sound when pushed hard. The front seats are acceptable but not quite as comfortable as those in some rival minivans.