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Ford Windstar SEL (2000)

SEE ALSO: Ford Buyer's Guide

By Tom Hagin

     Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price              $ 27,615
     Price As Tested                                    $ 31,330
     Engine Type               OHV 12-valve 3.8 Liter V6 w/SMFI*
     Engine Size                                 232 cid/3793 cc
     Horsepower                                   200 @ 4900 RPM
     Torque (lb-ft)                               240 @ 3600 RPM
     Wheelbase/Width/Length                  120.7"/76.6"/200.9"
     Transmission                           Four-speed automatic
     Curb Weight                                     4019 pounds
     Fuel Capacity                                  26.0 gallons
     Tires  (F/R)                                     P225/60R15
     Brakes (F/R)                          Disc (ABS)/drum (ABS)
     Drive Train                  Front-engine/front-wheel-drive
     Vehicle Type                      Seven-passenger/five-door
     Domestic Content                                 95 percent
     Coefficient of Drag (Cd.)                               N/A


     EPA Economy, miles per gallon
        city/highway/average                            17/23/21          
     0-60 MPH                                       10.0 seconds
     1/4 (E.T.)                          17.5 seconds @ 80.5 mph
     Top-speed                                           110 mph

    * Sequential multi-point fuel injection                              

Most agree that the sport utility segment of the auto industry is still red-hot. But the minivan business is close behind, with some models being so popular, the waiting list to buy one is lengthy.

The Ford Windstar was all-new for 1999 so 2000 sees only small improvements to make a good package better. Available in five models, the Windstar line used to peak at the top-line SEL but a new Limited package adds "standard" items to the SEL that used to be optional.

OUTSIDE - The redesign of '99 brought not just a fresh look but a much-needed sliding side door on the driver's side. For several years, Ford dealers could only watch and weep as other minivan makers added a fourth door, some of which had power openers. Ford followed suit and its powered side doors, an option on most Windstars but standard on SEL models, are operated by either a button on the keyless remote fob or by several buttons mounted through out the interior. They open in 3.5 seconds which is faster than any other minivan today. Also optional is a reverse sensing system that has sonar receivers built into the rear bumper that activates a beeper inside to warn the driver of objects behind the vehicle. SEL models wear a two-tone paint scheme, with bumpers and lower body cladding painted a different color from the rest of the body. Sixteen-inch alloy wheels are standard on SEL models.

INSIDE - Ford concentrated on safety for the new Windstar so new this year are optional side-impact airbags to go with its standard dual dashboard units. This earned the Windstar a double five-star rating in both frontal and side-impact crash tests, the only minivan to gain this designation. Also new is a system called LATCH (Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children) that allows a special child seat to be anchored easily and more securely. A new headliner and interior pillar trim have been added to meet new federal safety standards for interior head impact protection. Power-adjustable brake and accelerator pedals will be offered in March to allow more tailoring of the driving position. Front and middle-row captain's chairs come standard on SEL models as do power front seats, leather upholstery, rear ventilation and audio controls and a premium AM/FM/cassette/CD stereo system.

ON THE ROAD - The base Windstar engine is a 3.0 liter V6 engine that produces 150 horsepower and 185 pound-feet of torque but this powerplant probably won't be seen in many Windstars except commercial units. The engine of choice is a 3.8 liter V6 that produces 200 horsepower and 240 pound-feet of torque. And since Windstar is no lightweight, it needs all the power its engine can muster. Power from a standing start is commendable, thanks to good low and mid-range torque, but it peters out in the higher RPM ranges. It's not technologically advanced as it forgoes the fancy overhead cams and multiple valves found in other Ford products, but it gets the job done. Mated to this is an electronically- controlled four-speed automatic transmission.

BEHIND THE WHEEL - The Windstar sits atop a unibody chassis that is stiff and strong enough to withstand adding lots of weight without excessive bending and twisting. And while performance-level handling is not a strong point of vans, the Windstar's handling is smooth and balanced. It uses MacPherson strut front suspension and a simple twist- beam rear axle, along with gas-pressure shocks and coil springs. An anti-roll bar is fitted only to the front suspension. The steering system delivers good road feel and responds well to relatively quick inputs, although handling is limited by the sidewall flexing and grip limits of its tires. While other minivan makers have switched to four-wheel disc brakes, Ford stayed with its front disc/rear drum setup which is teamed with standard anti-lock braking system (ABS) to stop the van quickly and in a straight line.

SAFETY - Dual dashboard airbags, ABS and side-impact door beams are standard, while side-impact airbags are optional.

OPTIONS - Side airbags: $390; Reverse Sensing System: $245; Trailer towing package: $470; Family security package: $275. Destination and delivery: $580.