Used 1997 Ford Windstar Review

Edmunds expert review

What's new for 1997

Not much is new for the 1997 Ford Windstar. Caught flatfooted by the Chrysler and GM minivans that feature sliding left-side doors, Ford has installed a tip forward driver's seat, on early release 1998 models, to give passengers the option of entering from the driver's side. Hmmm, seems like that won't be enough to satisfy the fickle buyers of the minivan market.

Vehicle overview

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. The Windstar's superiority proved to be short-lived. The totally redesigned Chrysler minivans are best-in-class in terms of style and convenience features; the main reasons people buy minivans in the first place. The Windstar is still a good minivan, but the stiff competition in this segment is forcing Ford to offer sweet lease deals and big incentives.

Not everyone favors the Windstar's 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, Base, GL or luxury LX guise, with four-wheel antilock brakes.

The Windstar receives few changes for 1997, but early-release 1998 models show a few stop-gap features designed to appease potential buyers who can't live without a left-side passenger door. The most notable is the tip forward driver's seat that is intended to allow passenger access from the left side. To people who feel that it's important to have a left side passenger entry, this is a poor substitute. Fortunately for Ford, the Windstar has other features which make up for this missing portal. Namely its awesome horsepower available with the optional 3.8-liter engine. Cranking out 200 horsepower, the 3.8-liter equipped Windstar is the fastest minivan on the market.

If you're searching for a minivan with good towing ability, fast acceleration, gobs of interior space and comfortable seating for seven, the Windstar is definitely worth a look. Especially because your local Ford dealer should be offering deep discounts to keep them competitive with the Caravan and new Chevy Venture.

Edmunds expert review process

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.

We're also regular people like you, so we pay attention to all the different ways people use their cars every day. We want to know if there's enough room for our families and our weekend gear and whether or not our favorite drink fits in the cupholder. Our editors want to help you make the best decision on a car that fits your life.