What's New for 1996
Smoother shifting transmission debuts, along with revised air conditioning controls and a new radio with visible controls. Solar-tinted glass is standard.
Back in 1986, when Ford launched the rear-wheel-drive Aerostar, front-drive minivans had not yet turned into sales superstars. Chevrolet's Astro was the principal--if larger--competition, and neither ever reached the best-seller list. When Ford finally turned to front-drive with the modern 1995 Windstar, many thought the archaic, pointy-snout Aerostar would be history, but Ford has decided to keep the old-timer around for a while.
As a concession to modest sales, only a single XLT model is available, with seven-passenger seating. An electronic four-wheel-drive system is available, but only as part of a preferred equipment package on extended-length passenger vans. Aerostars also come with a standard-length body, but both ride the same 118.9-inch wheelbase. Rear antilock braking is standard on all Aerostars, and side-impact guard beams have been installed at both the front doors and sliding side door.
Air conditioning is standard fare, and features improved function and controls for 1996. Only a handful of options can be ordered. Manual shift is not available, so all Aerostars have a new four-speed overdrive automatic transmission designed to deliver smoother shifts. Base engine is a 135 horsepower, 3.0-liter V6, but extended-length Aerostars can have a newly enhanced 155-horsepower, 4.0-liter V6 instead. Commercial vans come only in the standard body, with the smaller engine.
For 1996, Aerostars get a new radio design with larger station buttons, new alloy wheels, and standard solar tinted glass. A folding seat bed can be ordered with dual captain's chairs this year.
Aerostars handle capably, with easy steering and light but strong braking action. Acceleration to expressway speeds is excellent, and downshifts arrive crisply. These rear-drivers ride comfortably, too, remaining composed even over washboard surfaces. An Aerostar feels highly stable on the road and in the city.
Yes, it's truck-like in character, but with enough car-type qualities to make for a satisfying experience on the road. On the down side, tiny front windows are no help in terms of visibility, and riders have to climb a little to get inside. Far from state-of-the-art in minivan design, Aerostars still offer a mild medley of virtues.