Mercury introduced a brand-new front-wheel-drive minivan for 2004, which was built on the same platform as the then-new Ford Freestar. As usual, the Mercury version is more upscale.
Power comes from a 4.2-liter V-6. Notable features include a fold-into-the-floor third-row seat and an available parking-assist system that warns of obstacles in front or back of the vehicle while parking. Convenience, Luxury and Premier trim levels are offered.
For 2005, a new Comfort Package and a power liftgate are standard on the Premier and optional on the Luxury edition. A liftgate spoiler also is available. Heated and cooled leather seats with perforated suede inserts go into the Premier. AdvanceTrac, Ford's electronic stability system, is optional on Luxury and Premier models.
Ford has suggested that both the Ford Freestar and Monterey may be discontinued before long.
Monochromatic cladding decorates the bodysides of the Monterey, and satin-aluminum accents are used. A Mercury signature waterfall grille made up of vertical bars is installed. Dual power-operated sliding side doors are used on upscale models.
Machined wheels hold 16-inch tires, and self-sealing tires are offered on upper-end models. Built on a 120.8-inch wheelbase, the Monterey stretches 201 inches long overall and stands 70.8 inches tall.
The Monterey seats up to seven occupants. The second-row seats can be moved out of the way by pulling a lever, which provides access to the back row. Standard second-row captain's chairs have a fold-and-tumble feature; they can be removed without tools.
Dual-zone climate control is standard. Heated and cooled front seats in the Premier model direct air into both the cushions and seatbacks. Power-adjustable pedals in upper-end models can help drivers of shorter stature properly adjust themselves in relation to the steering wheel. A DVD-based video entertainment system is optional.
Under the Hood
The Monterey's 4.2-liter V-6 develops 201 horsepower and 263 pounds-feet of torque; it mates to a four-speed-automatic transmission.
All-disc antilock brakes with electronic brake-force distribution are standard. Side-impact airbags and three-row side curtain-type airbags with rollover sensing are available.
Though it's not as trucklike as the old Ford Windstar, the Monterey still leans further in that direction than most minivans. Acceleration is adequately energetic, and the automatic transmission operates well. Maneuverability isn't bad, either. Ride comfort trails some rivals but ranks as acceptable.
The Monterey has some minor annoyances, which center mostly on ergonomics. For instance, grabbing the handbrake lever is a long reach. The seat bottoms are a bit short, and the seats don't move too far rearward. Second-row space is good, but passengers' knees may be forced upward. It's possible to slip right past the desired gear when using the column-mounted shift lever. Parking-assist sensors may be overly sensitive.
A headrest impedes visibility over the left shoulder. The gauges are modest in size but well organized.