2005 Freestar New Car Test Drive
The Ford Freestar is a solid, highly capable minivan that performs well and offers all the latest safety features. Though introduced as a new minivan with a new name for 2004, much of the Freestar's structure and design came from the Windstar it replaced. Windstar offered class-leading safety and solid performance for its time. But while the improvements that inspired the name change moved Ford's minivan closer to its competitors, they did not leapfrog it ahead of them. Ford says the Freestar is the highest quality minivan it has ever built. That contention is backed up by the J.D. Power and Associates research firm, which found Freestar's overall quality and mechanical quality better than most.
Freestar is quite capable. It can haul seven passengers or four passengers and a heck of a lot of stuff. Freestar's third-row seat disappears into the floor when not needed, leaving a big, flat cargo space and seating for four people. When the third row reappears, it opens up seating for three more and leaves a deep well in back that's perfect for keeping groceries from rolling around. A new Class II towing package boosts trailering capacity to 3,500 pounds, enough to handle personal watercraft, snowmobiles, light boats, motorcycles, small campers and other toys.
Out 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. We didn't think the Freestar felt as refined as the best and newest of the minivans, however.
But Freestar's strongest suit is safety: Freestar earned five stars in the government's front-impact crash testing, and was named 'Best Pick' by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety following rigorous crash testing for the insurance industry. 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. Options further improve the safety of the Freestar: AdvanceTrac electronic stability control helps drivers maintain control when swerving to avoid something or when entering a slippery corner too fast. Ford's Safety Canopy can help protect against head injuries in a rollover or side impact; unlike curtain airbags from other manufacturers that protect people in the first two rows, Ford's system is designed to offer protection to passengers sitting on the outboard sides of the third row as well. 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. Freestar's seat belts use pretensioners and energy-management retractors to improve their effectiveness and reduce the chance of belt-related injuries.
Freestar is offered in five trim levels: the base model S; the popular, mid-level SE and SES; and the up-level SEL and Limited. All models are front-wheel drive; all-wheel drive is not available.
Freestar S ($23,910) comes standard with a 3.9-liter V6 engine; four-speed automatic transmission; air conditioning; AM/FM stereo; power windows, locks and mirrors; remote keyless entry; four-wheel anti-lock (ABS) disc brakes with Electronic Brake-force Distribution (EBD); and 225/60 all-season tires on 16-inch steel wheels. A cleverly designed third-row bench seat folds flat into the floor or turns backward to form a tailgate bench seat.
SE ($26,510) adds upgraded seats, a CD player, cruise control, privacy glass, and the logitudinal rails of a roof rack.
SES ($26,010) adds dual-zone climate control, an overhead console with a compass and outside temperature display, six-way power driver's seat, fog lamps, and wider 235/60R16 all-season tires on aluminum wheels. Black-trimmed bumpers and grille replace the monochromatic look of the S and SE.
Freestar SEL ($29,010) boosts performance with a 4.2-liter V6 engine. SEL also gets fold-and-tumble second-row bucket seats, automatic headlights, cornering lamps, an illuminated entry keypad on the driver's door, leather-wrapped steering wheel with built-in audio controls, and AM/FM/CD/cassette stereo with auxiliary rear-seat controls. The grille is now chrome, and the bumpers revert to body color.
The top-of-the-line Limited ($32,710) includes all SEL equipment plus dual power sliding doors, automatic climate control, power-adjustable brake and accelerator pedals, leather upholstery for the front seats, power heated mirrors with turn signals and puddle lamps, 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 ($150). A Memory Package ($305) stores settings for the mirrors, driver's seat, and pedals. A navigation system is not available on the Freestar.
The Active Safety Package I ($395) combines panic brake assist, traction control, and Ford's AdvanceTrac stability control. Active Safety Package II ($750) adds a reverse-sensing system. 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 all of these packages and recommend ensuring that all of your passengers always wear their seat belts, the most important safety feature on any vehicle.