Ford Freestar is First Produced
The Ford Freestar is a minivan that was manufactured by the Ford Motor Company from 2004 until November 2006.
It replaced the Ford Windstar for the 2004 model year. The name change accommodated Ford's strategy to rename all their cars to words beginning in F. The Freestar and its twin, the Mercury Monterey, were built in Oakville, Ontario, Canada.
The Freestar can accommodate up to seven passengers and features an electronically controlled 4-speed automatic transmission as part of the van's standard equipment. Five trim levels were available: base, SE, Sport, SEL, and Limited. In the United States, the Freestar was available with two different gasoline-powered V6 engines. The smaller 3.9 L (available only in the United States) develop a maximum power of 193 hp (144 kW) at 4500 rpm and 240 lb·ft (325 N·m) of torque at 3750 rpm, while the larger 4.2 L produces 201 hp (150 kW) at 4,250 rpm and 263 lb·ft (357 N·m) of torque at 3650 rpm. While the smaller engine came on the base model in the United States, the larger 4.2 L engine is standard on all models in Canada and Mexico.
The Freestar name change may have led to its early demise as perhaps a textbook example of how a name change can kill what was once a strong product line.  The Toronto Star cited one naming expert who called it the "Ford Fiasco.". Naseem Javed, president of ABC Namebank International predicted "It will cause confusion and chaos for consumers. Others called the scheme to rename Fords with a word starting with the letter F as "just foolish." Ford said that dealers suggested the idea, and that it fit the $600 million redesign of the Ford minivan. Joe Greenwell, vice-president of marketing and operations for parent Ford Motor Co. believed the new name would "stimulate interest in the product."
The Mercury Monterey minivan was the Mercury version of the Freestar. It filled a gap in the Mercury lineup after production of the small Nissan Quest-based Villager ceased in 2002. Just like its Freestar twin, the Monterey offered seating for up to seven passengers. However, the Monterey offered more luxury options, and had the 4.2 L V6 engine as standard. Like the Freestar, sales of the Monterey minivan were very low as the design would prove uncompetitive against stronger entries from other automakers, as well as an overall decline in the minivan market. Only 567 Montereys were sold in August 2006. When production ended after a short run of 2007 models, only 1,354 were sold. The Oakville Assembly plant underwent retooling for the Ford Edge and Lincoln MKX crossover SUVs. The last Monterey rolled off the assembly line on August 25, 2006.
Final sale numbers for the Mercury Monterey after a three year run totaled 32,195.
The 2004-2007 Ford Freestar received a "Good" rating in the offset frontal crash test from the IIHS and outperformed the 1999-2003 Ford Windstar, but resulted in moderate injuries only on the head and neck. In the side-impact tests, it received a "Poor" rating without the optional side airbags for poor structural performance, potential head and neck injuries, and high forces on the driver's torso, but fared better with the side airbags, but resulted in a moderate head and neck injury to the driver.
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.