SEE ALSO: Ford Buyer's Guide
SPECIFICATIONS Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price $ 19,380 Price As Tested $ 22,250 Engine Type 3.0 Liter V6 w/SFI* Engine Size 182 cid Horsepower 150 @ 5000 RPM Torque (lb-ft) 172 @ 3300 RPM Wheelbase/Width/Length 120.7"/75.4"/201.2" Transmission Four-speed automatic Curb Weight 3795 pounds Fuel Capacity 20 gallons Tires (F/R) P205/70R15 Brakes (F/R) Disc (ABS)/drum (ABS) Drive Train Front-engine/front-wheel-drive Vehicle Type Seven-passenger/four-door Domestic Content 90 percent Coefficient of Drag (Cd.) 0.32 PERFORMANCE EPA Economy, miles per gallon city/highway/average 18/25/23 0-60 MPH 10 seconds Pay load capacity 1,750 pounds Maximum towing capacity 3,500 pounds * Sequential-port fuel injection
(Bob Hagin's use of Ford vans goes back several decades. His son Matt can vaguely recall some of them but distinctly remembers that they weren't nearly as posh or plush as the '98 Windstar the family team tries out this week.)
BOB - The first Ford van I used to cart the family around was an 85- horse, six-cylinder '61 Econoline cargo van I acquired when it was well past its prime. For you kids, I bolted a couple of nondescript seats in back and that was it. Ford offered what it called a Station Bus back then but except for the side windows, it wasn't much more refined than my home-built version. Those stone-age minivans were pretty crude and grossly underpowered, Matt.
MATT - You can't call this new Windstar GL crude, Dad, but it borders on being underpowered. It's one step up from the base model but it uses the same 3.0 liter V6 engine. It strains to pull itself and a load of family and cargo for a weekend trip. It only puts out 150 horses and although its considerably more than what you had in the '61 Econoline, it still wheezes a bit up into the mountains. A much better choice would be the 3.8 liter V6 that's offered as an option on the GL, and as standard equipment both on the Windstar LX and Limited models. It's also the same engine that was used in the Lincoln Continental of not too many years ago. It puts out 50 more horses than the smaller version and considerably more torque. When the Windstar is ordered with the optional towing package, it can pull a trailer set-up weighing up to 3500 pounds, which is about perfect for a medium-sized boat or utility trailer. The bigger engine would be an obvious choice if the family was going to do a whole lot of extended vacationing. The two rear seats can be folded flat and made into a short bed, too.
BOB - And with more than 60 percent of the weight over the front wheels, it wouldn't be quite so prone to the wheel spin that bedevils lots of rear-drive rigs when they're pulling a sport boat up the slippery boat ramps at almost any average marina. But truthfully, Matt, for the average guy like me the 3.0 liter version works just fine. Although it's a somewhat antiquated 12-valve pushrod design, Ford has done some internal tricks to get the power and torque up a bit. Unlike the other minivan makers, Ford hasn't gone over to a driver's side sliding cargo door yet, but to make things a little easier, the Windstar has an ultra-long driver's door. It allows entry into the rear seating section from the left side of the van, which was virtually impossible before. Access to the back is even easier when it's equipped with the optional slide-and-tip driver's seat. The seat is handy, and the longer door only swings open one inch more. This helps avoid banging the car next to you with the edge of the Windstar door when parking in a mall.
MATT - The Windstar is pretty practical for us do-it-yourself home-owners, too. With the rear seat removed and the middle seats out of the way, there's enough room to lay sheets of plywood flat on the floor. And with a 1700-pound carrying capacity, I could carry a pretty large load. This rig has a lot of other trick stuff, too. The rear window wiper goes on automatically if you back up with the front wipers on, and if you leave the turn signal on for more than a half a mile, a chime goes off to warn you that the signal is still going. There are eight different option packages available on four different versions of the Windstar, so a buyer can option one out to fit specific family needs.
BOB - I'm told that the overhead console is new on the upscale Windstars this year, and although I'm not usually impressed by these kinds of gadgets, it has one device that I could have used on that old Econoline van we had. The Windstar has a small pull-down panoramic mirror that allows the driver to check what's going on in the back two rows of seats. It would have been handy to monitor all that trouble you kids were getting into whenever we went somewhere.
MATT - Dad, it wasn't me who caused the trouble back then. It was either Tom or Andy. I was too little and besides, they were always picking on me.