2006 Freestar New Car Test Drive
The Ford Freestar is a capable minivan that performs well and offers all the latest safety features. Packages and pricing have been simplified for 2006 models, and prices have been lowered.
The Freestar is a solid performer, but it isn't the sharpest saw in the shed. It's now in its third year since being redesigned and is outclassed by newer entries. However, the J.D. Power and Associates research firm has rated Freestar's overall quality and mechanical quality better than most. It's better than any previous Ford minivan, so if you liked the Windstar, you'll love the Freestar.
Freestar is well-equipped to do minivan things. It can haul seven passengers and has a deep well behind the third row that's perfect for securely stowing a week's worth of groceries. Fold the third-row seat into the floor, and the Freestar holds four passengers and offers a big, flat cargo area behind the seats. Also, the third row can flip around to function as a tailgate seat, a neat trick for parking lot parties. A power rear liftgate and dual power sliding doors are available. Tow ratings of up to 3,500 pounds are possible, enough to handle personal watercraft, motorcycles, or other trailer toys.
On the highway, the Freestar is smooth and quiet. It glides over rough pavement. It's easy to drive, with responsive handling and a big, powerful V6 engine. It doesn't feel as refined as the best and newest of the minivans, however.
Freestar's strongest suit is safety: Freestar earned five stars in the government's (NHTSA's) frontal impact crash testing, and is a 'Best Pick' for frontal offset crashes by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Freestar received a five-star rating from NHTSA in driver and passenger front impact as well as passenger side impact. It received a four-star rating in driver side impact and roll-over resistance.
Dual-stage driver and front-passenger air bags come standard and are designed to deploy at full or partial power depending on the severity of the crash. Ford's optional Safety Canopy can help protect against head injuries in a rollover or side impact; Ford's system is designed to offer protection to passengers sitting on the outboard sides of all three rows. Freestar's seat belts use pretensioners and energy-management retractors to improve their effectiveness and reduce the chance of belt-related injuries.
To help drivers avoid crashing in the first place, the Freestar comes standard with anti-lock brakes with Electronic Brake-force Distribution. A tire-pressure monitor is standard and self-sealing tires are available. The optional AdvanceTrac electronic stability control helps drivers maintain control when swerving to avoid something or when entering a slippery corner too fast.
Freestar is offered in three trim levels: the value-oriented SE, the mid-level SEL, and the top-of-the-line Limited. All models are front-wheel drive; all-wheel drive is not available. All Freestars come with dual sliding side doors with child-proof locks.
Freestar SE ($23,655) comes standard with a 3.9-liter V6 engine, four-speed automatic transmission, cruise control, air conditioning, AM/FM/CD stereo, power windows, locks and mirrors, tire pressure monitor, remote keyless entry, anti-lock (ABS) four-wheel disc brakes with Electronic Brake-force Distribution (EBD), privacy glass, roof rack longitudinal rails, and 225/60 all-season tires on 16-inch steel wheels. A cleverly designed third-row bench seat folds flat into the floor or flips backward to form a tailgate bench seat.
Freestar SEL ($26,615) boosts performance with a 4.2-liter V6 engine. SEL also gets six-way power driver's seat, fold-and-tumble second-row captain's chairs, tri-zone (right, left, and rear) auxiliary climate control, automatic headlights, an illuminated entry keypad on the driver's door, illuminated visors, and leather-wrapped steering wheel with built-in audio controls. Exterior upgrades include 16-inch five-spoke aluminum wheels, cornering lamps. The SEL grille is chrome, and the bumpers are body color. The SE and SEL can be upgraded with a premium appearance package.
The Limited ($29,575) adds leather upholstery for the front seats, dual power sliding doors, automatic climate control, power-adjustable brake and accelerator pedals, power heated mirrors with turn signals and puddle lamps, message center, analog clock, and contrasting-color bumpers for a two-tone effect.
Options include a DVD rear-seat entertainment system with wireless headphones ($1,395), and a six-disc CD changer ($255), as well as 17-inch alloy wheels ($245), self-sealing tires ($280), trailer-towing package ($335), power liftgate ($400), rear spoiler ($290). A Memory Package ($425) stores settings for the mirrors, driver's seat, and pedals. A navigation system is not available on the Freestar.
The AdvanceTrac package ($335) combines panic Brake Assist, traction control, and Ford's AdvanceTrac stability control. The package is available with a reverse-sensing system ($730). Ford's optional Safety Canopy ($695) side-curtain airbag system runs the length of the minivan on both sides and includes sensors that monitor for a rollover. If a rollover is detected, the air bags deploy from the headliner and stay inflated for up to six seconds to protect the heads of occupants in all three rows. Seat-mounted side-impact airbags for the front passengers complement the Safety Canopy. We suggest getting both the AdvanceTrac and the Safety Canopy, but keep in mind that air bags work effectively only if all passengers are belted in and children are properly secured. So order all the stuff mentioned in this paragraph and buckle up.
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