Mercury introduced a brand-new front-wheel-drive minivan for 2004 that was built on the same platform as the then-new Ford Freestar. As usual, the Mercury version is more upscale. Both are manufactured in Canada.
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.
The previously offered Convenience and Premier trim levels have been dropped for 2006, leaving just the Luxury model. Little has changed, except for a newly designed standard wood- and leather-trimmed steering wheel and new optional nine-spoke machined-aluminum 17-inch wheels. AdvanceTrac, Ford's electronic stability system, is optional.
Ford has suggested that both the Monterey and Ford Freestar may be discontinued soon.
Body-colored moldings decorate and help protect the bodyside panels on the Monterey, which features satin-aluminum accents. A signature Mercury waterfall grille made up of vertical bars is installed. Dual power-operated sliding side doors are installed, and a power liftgate is optional.
Machined wheels hold 16-inch tires, and self-sealing tires are available. Built on a 120.8-inch wheelbase, the Monterey stretches 201.1 inches long overall and stands 70.8 inches tall.
Woodgrain and chrome accent the Monterey's interior, which seats up to seven occupants. Standard second-row captain's chairs have a fold-and-tumble feature; they can be removed by pulling a lever, which provides access to the back row.
Dual-zone climate control, a power driver's seat and power-adjustable pedals that help shorter drivers properly adjust themselves in relation to the steering wheel are standard. Front and rear parking assist can be helpful when parking.
Leather seating surfaces with Preferred Suede inserts are optional. Heated and cooled front seats that direct air into both the cushions and seatbacks are also available. A DVD-based backseat 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 with a four-speed-automatic transmission.
All-disc antilock brakes with electronic brake-force distribution, side-impact airbags and a Safety Canopy side curtain-type airbag system with rollover sensors are standard.
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 very 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-placed.