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By Jim Flammang
March 4, 2002
Vehicle Overview Fords minivan, in its volume-leading LX form, has a fresh look for 2002. The Windstar LX now comes equipped with standard driving lamps and body-colored front and rear bumpers. The previous LX minivan came with a single sliding side door, but that feature has been dropped and replaced by a base LX model that sports dual-sliding side doors. Sixteen-inch, machined-aluminum wheels are standard on Deluxe versions of the Windstar LX. Ford previously announced that its AdvanceTrac electronic stability system would become available, but that feature has not appeared.
Ford launched the Windstar in 1995, and the minivan comes in a single size with a single powertrain. Four trim levels are available for the passenger minivan: LX (Standard or Deluxe), sporty SE and SEL models, and the luxury Limited. Last years SE Sport model is gone. A cargo van is offered for commercial applications.
Like most minivans in 2001, the Windstar saw a notable sales drop down 19 percent, to 179,595 units, according to Automotive News. The Windstar again ranked second in the sales race behind the Dodge Caravan/Grand Caravan duo and comfortably ahead of the Honda Odyssey. The Windstar has been selling twice as well as the Chevrolet Venture and Toyota Sienna.
Exterior The Windstar rides a 120.7-inch wheelbase and measures 201.5 inches long overall. These dimensions make Fords minivan comparable to extended-length versions of other minivans, such as the Grand Caravan and Venture. Dual-sliding side doors are standard. Power operation for both side doors is available, and the dual sliders come as a standard feature on the SEL and Limited.
The LX comes with standard 15-inch steel wheels, while all other Windstar models are equipped with 16-inch wheels. Passenger models include a pressure-based tire monitor warning system. A strobe light in the drivers outside mirror warns approaching traffic that the left-side sliding door is open.
Interior The cargo model in the Windstar lineup is equipped with front seats only, for the driver and a passenger. The passenger versions seat seven occupants. Two rear bench seats are installed in the Windstar LX.
Privacy glass and a roof rack go on the LX Deluxe. Stepping up from the LX to the SE adds such extras as cornering lamps, second-row bucket seats, a six-way power drivers seat, lighted vanity mirrors and power heated signal mirrors. Leather seating surfaces are used in the SEL, which has powered driver and passenger seats, as well as Tu-Tone body cladding. The top-of-the-line 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.
A center console is included with models equipped with the 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 an Autovision rear-seat video entertainment setup that includes a removable VCR unit and a 6.4-inch screen that pulls down from an overhead console.
Under the Hood All Windstar models use the same 200-horsepower, 3.8-liter V-6 engine and four-speed-automatic transmission. The Windstar earned an Ultra Low Emissions Vehicle (ULEV) rating.
Safety Side-impact airbags and traction control are standard on the Limited and optional on other models. In addition, antilock brakes are a standard feature across the board. Ford has long been promoting the fact that the Windstar was the first minivan to earn five-star crash-test ratings in government testing.
Fords Personal Safety System works with dual-stage front airbags that deploy with less force, or not at all, according to crash severity. A weight sensor for the front passenger seat is part of the system.
Driving Impressions The Windstar feels less carlike than most of its competitors, including the league-leading Dodge Caravan and Grand Caravan. Fords model also feels a bit tauter and firmer on the road thats good for stability but adds to the trucklike sensation, which some minivan owners favor while others prefer to avoid. While other minivans in the past few years have moved toward a carlike ride, the Windstar appears to have stood its ground.
For a while, Fords V-6 engine was among the most powerful in a minivan; nowadays, its about in the middle. The V-6 is eager, but it doesnt 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. When the Windstar is pushed hard, it also emits a throatier engine sound than some of its competitors. The front seats are acceptable, but theyre not quite as comfortable as those in some rival minivans.