2004 Monterey New Car Test Drive
For the first time ever, Ford Motor Co.'s upscale Mercury Division has a full-size minivan to sell.
The 2004 Mercury Monterey replaces the Villager minivan, which was developed through a joint venture between Ford and Nissan and built at a Ford plant in Ohio. (Nissan's version of the van was the previous-generation Quest; it since has been replaced with a dramatically styled all-new minivan of the same name.) The Villager was never considered a full-fledged minivan. It was far smaller than traditional minivans and in earlier generations it was extremely underpowered and carried a hefty price for its smaller package.
Ford Motor Co. is trying to breath new life into the Mercury division. However, it is doing so by feeding it vehicles that are basically Ford Division models. Such is the case with the Monterey, which is essentially a rebadged Ford Freestar, which in turn, is an updated and renamed Windstar.
The Monterey is a highly competent minivan. It's extremely quiet underway, on par with the new Toyota Sienna. Its ride is smooth, and steering and handling are responsive. Its 4.2-liter V6 is the largest displacement engine for a minivan and delivers adequate power. It has an upscale interior loaded with features such as heated and cooled front seats, a third row that easily folds flat into the floor, and a park-assist system. Safety features abound, though some are optional, and the Monterey is expected to perform well in a crash.
The Monterey comes in a trio of versions: the Convenience, Luxury and Premier.
The Monterey Convenience ($29,310) comes standard with a 4.2-liter, V6 engine, four-speed automatic transmission, anti-lock brakes, tilt steering wheel with speed control, Securilock anti-theft system, dual-zone climate control, front console cup holders and storage, folding third-row bench seat with cloth upholstery and forward and reverse park assist.
The mid-level Monterey Luxury ($33,310) includes all of the standard fare of the Convenience model and adds: first- and second-row leather seats; driver and passenger heated seats; leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls; power-adjustable pedals; memory package for the driver's seat, pedals and mirrors; anti-theft system; side air bags and Safety Canopy; dual-zone electronic automatic temperature control; first-row floor console storage; third-row reading lamps; black roof rails; and power sliding doors.
The top-of-the line Monterey Premier ($34,840) includes everything on the Convenience and Luxury models plus: driver and passenger heated and cooled seats (the Monterey is the first minivan to offer cooled seats); front passenger lumbar adjustment; first- and second-row perforated leather seats; AdvanceTrac stability control; and unique split-spoke design aluminum roof rails.
Major options include: Safety Canopy side curtain air bags ($695); AdvanceTrac electronic stability control ($395); self-sealing tires ($195); and DVD rear-seat entertainment system ($1,395). A power liftgate will be available mid model year.
(Base prices do not include incentives that were offered at launch. These programs frequently change, but the initial offer gave customers the choice of a $2,000 cash rebate or financing rates as low as 2.9 percent for 60 months.)
Safety features include dual-stage front airbags that deploy or not with the amount of force required depending on the severity of the accident. Anti-lock brakes (ABS) are standard on all versions. Ford's Safety Canopy, available on all models, is a side curtain airbag that runs the length of the minivan on both sides. The system includes sensors that monitor a rollover. If a rollover is detected, it keeps the side curtain airbags inflated longer, up to six seconds. While the Monterey has not yet been crash tested by the federal government, Ford anticipates it to perform well as did the Windstar. The Windstar had two top five-star ratings for front passengers and two four-star ratings for rear passengers.
The Monterey only comes in front-wheel drive. It is not available with all-wheel drive. Also, no navigation system is available nor is a flip-up table between the front seats, like on the Honda Odyssey and Toyota Sienna, offered.