Ford introduced the Freestar in 2004, which replaced the company's Windstar minivan. Mercury's Monterey is closely related, and both are manufactured in Canada.
The 2006 lineup includes three models: SE, SEL and Limited. The Limited now uses chrome on the 16-inch wheels, door handles and roof rack, but 17-inch polished alloy wheels are optional.
An SE Appearance Package is available for 2006, and the SEL gets bright, machined, 16-inch wheels. The front door panels have been redesigned. New standard equipment includes cruise control, a CD player, roof rails and a tire-pressure-monitoring system.
Ford has indicated that it may stop making minivans after the 2006 model year.
The Freestar's appearance is similar to the Windstar's. Distinctive front-end styling themes differentiate Freestar trims. The SE model has a body-colored grille, whereas a chrome grille and five-spoke aluminum wheels go on the SEL. Limited models have exclusive exterior trim and power sliding doors, as well as heated signal mirrors with puddle lamps.
Large upright headlights and an eggcrate grille integrate with the hood and front fenders. Contoured rear bumpers promise a low liftover height.
Standard wheels measure 16 inches in diameter, but 17-inch tires on aluminum wheels are optional. Measuring 201 inches long overall, the Freestar rides a 120.8-inch wheelbase. Self-sealing tires and a power liftgate are optional.
Freestars can seat up to seven occupants. Second-row bucket seats in upper-end models include a fold-and-tumble feature. The third-row seat can be positioned to face the rear for tailgate parties, and it can fold flat into the floor. Cargo space behind the third row totals 27.4 cubic feet. A covered compartment atop the dashboard holds small items.
Overhead consoles on the SEL and Limited contain readouts for outside temperature, a compass and auxiliary buttons for the power sliding doors, if installed. Front-door cupholders can hold 20-ounce beverages. Ford's Conversation Mirror lets drivers watch children in the rear. Power-adjustable pedals, a DVD entertainment system and Ford's Reverse Sensing System are optional.
Under the Hood
A 193-horsepower, 3.9-liter V-6 is standard in the SE model. A 4.2-liter V-6 in the SEL and Limited generates 201 hp and 263 pounds-feet of torque. Both engines team with a four-speed-automatic transmission.
All-disc antilock brakes with electronic brake-force distribution are standard. On Freestars equipped with Ford's AdvanceTrac electronic stability system, panic brake assist — which applies added pressure in an emergency — is included. A Safety Canopy side curtain-type airbag system is available.
Like its Windstar predecessor, the Freestar seems a little more trucklike than most minivans. When parking, this minivan seems unusually wide.
Performance with the 4.2-liter V-6 is energetic, and the automatic transmission yields prompt, smooth shifts. Moderate engine noise during acceleration is present. The Freestar is fairly easy to drive and maneuvers with acceptable agility. The ride is sufficiently smooth on good surfaces.
The seat bottoms are short but offer good support. Front headroom is abundant, and elbowroom is adequate. Second-row occupants get plenty of space when bucket seats are installed. Squeezing into the third row isn't too difficult.