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With its Freestar, Ford learned the hard way that in the world of automobiles, there are few segments more cutthroat than the minivan category. Moms have ruthlessly high standards when it comes to their family transportation, and only those haulers with the most compelling mix of refinement, convenience features and luxury amenities survive. The Ford Freestar's sales had been disappointing from the outset, and as a result, 2007 was its last year of production. Crossovers, Ford believes, are the future of family transportation.
Ford's minivan wasn't completely without merit. Safety is an important factor in minivans, and in this area, the Freestar didn't come up short. It earned a perfect five stars in NHTSA frontal crash tests, and mothers and their pint-sized soccer stars were protected with features like standard stability control and optional side curtain airbags. Unfortunately, its success in this area paled in the face of its litany of shortcomings, which included sluggish acceleration, dismal fuel economy, ungainly handling and an unimpressive cabin.
For these reasons, savvy used minivan shoppers will find the Ford Freestar a relatively unsatisfactory proposition. If you're looking for a minivan, you'll no doubt find your needs better served by one of its competitors.
Most Recent Ford Freestar
The Ford Freestar was a seven-passenger minivan. Three trim levels were offered: SE, SEL and Limited. The Freestar could also be had in a cargo van body style, making it ideal for contractors needing a light-duty hauler.
The base SE trim was reasonably well equipped, with air-conditioning, full power accessories, a CD player and keyless entry all standard. The SEL added tri-zone air-conditioning, a power driver seat and second-row captain's chairs. The top-of-the-line Limited included upgrades such as chrome wheels, leather upholstery and automatic climate control.
Two engines were offered. A 3.9-liter V6 for the SE provided 193 horsepower and 240 pound-feet of torque. The SEL and Limited trims got a 4.2-liter V6 that generated 201 hp and 263 lb-ft of torque. Neither engine was especially frugal, turning in real-world fuel economy numbers that were among the poorest in the segment.
At first blush, the Freestar's cabin seemed like a winner. But a closer look revealed shortcomings. Materials looked nice but to the touch became apparent as subpar for the segment. The legroom in the second row was cramped. The lack of versatility didn't help either. Those second-row seats were heavy and tough to remove. And though the third-row seat folded flat, it didn't offer a 60/40 split like virtually all others in its class. At 135.7 cubes, cargo capacity fell short relative to others in the segment.
In editorial reviews, the Ford Freestar earned praise for having reasonable around-town power and a forgiving ride. The engines didn't fare as well when pushed, though, as they ran out of breath when quick passing was attempted. Performance was exacerbated by the van's aged four-speed automatic transmission -- most competitors used more advanced five-speed units. Also, the engines had a rougher, noisier power delivery than nearly any other V6 in the minivan segment. In consumer ratings, the Freestar was panned for its poor ride quality and dismal fuel economy.
Past Ford Freestar models
Ford introduced the Freestar back in model-year 2004 to replace the aged Windstar, which was sold from 1995-2003. Although Ford touted it as an all-new vehicle, the Freestar minivan was little more than a rebadged Windstar with minor upgrades, including a freshened interior equipped with a fold-flat third-row seat. A pair of more powerful V6 engines replaced the Windstar's 3.8-liter V6. Unfortunately, Ford's minivan put on weight during the transition, so even with the larger of the V6s, it was no faster than before and slightly less fuel-efficient to boot. This made the Freestar about as appealing as, well, the Windstar. Straight off the bat, it was trampled by the competition, both import and domestic, and Ford did little to rectify the situation.
The Freestar remained pretty much unchanged for its production duration, so buyers shopping for one on the used market will find few differences between the model years.