New & Used Ford Freestar: In Depth
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The Ford Freestar was Ford's minivan offering to families across North America in the mid-2000s. The Freestar and its near-twin, the Mercury Monterey, were the successor minivans to the Ford Windstar. After a $600 million redesign of the lackluster Windstar, the Freestar rolled into showrooms in 2003 as a 2004 model--but never met with strong sales, and was axed after just four model years.
The Freestar came into being as Ford tried to address some of the many shortcomings of its first true minivan, the front-drive Windstar. Originally introduced without fold-flat seats or dual sliding side doors, the Windstar also proved trouble-prone, from head gaskets to a rust issue that drew NHTSA's recall notice until even recently.
The Freestar was meant to change all that, and to challenge the dominance of Chrysler's minivans as well as the two new fixtures on the market, the Honda Odyssey and Toyota Sienna. The first line of improvement was in the powertrain; in the first year it was upgraded to a 3.9-liter V-6 rated at 193 horsepower, with a 4.2-liter V-6 with 201 horsepower available as an option. A four-speed automatic was standard.
In terms of usability, the Freestar was a big upgrade over the Windstar, with powered dual sliding side doors, and a fold-away third-row seat that could also be rotated into a rear-facing seating position. The second-row seats still had to be removed, however, to use all of the Freestar's cargo hold--while Chrysler was introducing its Stow 'N Go fold-away seats for the second and third rows. The Freestar offered 27.4 cubic feet of cargo volume behind the third-row seat; in its most spacious configuration, the rear cargo area expanded to 135.7 cubic feet.Myriad family-friendly conveniences included power sliding rear doors, a power liftgate, a rear-seat entertainment system, and the third-row seat that folded flat into the floor without having to remove the headrests. Available safety features included AdvanceTrak stability control, a Safety Canopy side curtain airbag system, power adjustable pedals, and a reverse-sensing warning.
Over their relatively short lifespan, the Freestar and Mercury's Monterey grew old quickly, with the vast improvements in the Chrysler minivans as well as in the Sienna and Odyssey. Sales never gained strength, and the final Freestar was built in 2006 at Ford's plant in Oakville, Ontario.
The Freestar was replaced in the 2009 model year by a much better effort--the Flex crossover, a family wagon with almost all the functionality of a minivan, minus those archetypal sliding side doors.