Used 1996 Ford Windstar Minivan Review
Until mid-1994, nobody had seriously challenged Chrysler's domination of minivan sales. All previous attempts by domestic and imported manufacturers couldn't match the Chrysler standard for user-friendliness. They were either underpowered, too high off the ground, or the wrong size. When Windstars rolled into Ford showrooms, Chrysler finally had been bested at its own game.
For a while, at least. Windstar's superiority proved to be short-lived. The 1996 Chrysler minivans are simply best-in-class. The Ford is still quite good--even more so now that Ford has substantially upgraded the 1996 version and the competition is forcing Windstar prices to dip, in the form of sales rebates and sweetly subsidized lease deals.
Not everyone favors Windstar styling, but the interior is an ergonomic delight. With room for seven, dual airbags, and a commodious cargo area, the Windstar keeps passengers comfortable. Controls and displays are housed in an attractively swept dashboard, lending a well-crafted tone. The radio is crammed with buttons and tiny lettering; it's time for the new family of Ford radios, complete with big buttons and a volume knob, to debut in this van. Climate controls are mounted low, but are easy to modulate without glancing from the road. An optional center console adds generous amounts of much-needed storage, but cuts access to the rear seats. There's little to complain about, and quite a lot to like. Construction quality is fine and the interior is spacious and attractive. A single body size and style is offered, in cargo van, GL or luxury LX guise, with four-wheel antilock braking.
Ford has improved the Windstar in the face of stiff competition from Chrysler. Traction control is now available, and includes four-wheel disc brakes. The discs also come with the trailer tow package, which has been upgraded to handle more weight. A new integrated child seat makes the options list, and a convertible rear seat bed can be installed. But Holy Horsepower Batman! The big news is under the hood, where Ford has upped the 3.8-liter V6 engine's output from 155 horsepower to 200. To make matters more appealing, torque is up slightly and a revised final drive ratio means the Windstar is the sports van of family haulers. This new engine is standard on LX models, and optional with the GL trim level.
Standard on the GL and the cargo van is a 3.0-liter V6. Other changes for 1996 include 100,000-mile tune-up intervals for both engines, standard underseat storage for the GL, and a quad bucket seat option for the GL as well. Bodyside molding, standard on GL last year, has moved to the options list.
Windstar is anonymously styled, but goes about its business with flair when equipped with the new 3.8-liter V6. Still, it is basically an automotive utensil, providing scads of utility and little driving excitement outside of the quickest acceleration of any minivan on the market.
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This review was written by a member of Edmunds' editorial team of expert car reviewers. Our team drives every car you can buy. We put the vehicles through rigorous testing, evaluating how they drive and comparing them in detail to their competitors.
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