DEARBORN, Mich. – With more standard safety and security features, a quieter cabin environment and an easy-effort third-row Tailgate Bench seat, the new 2004 Freestar is designed to be Ford's highest quality, most versatile and safest minivan ever.
"After driving both the Freestar and its rivals, this mom puts the new Ford minivan near the top of her shopping list," says Anita Lienert of The Detroit News.
Maintaining Ford's tradition of safety and security was paramount in the Freestar program. The new minivan offers more available safety and security features than any of its competitors.
"We were the people that brought driver and passenger, front and side five-star crash-test ratings to market with the Windstar, and this vehicle takes it to a new level when you see things like the available side canopy air bag," says Ford Division President Steve Lyons.
A new option for 2004, the Safety Canopy deploys from the headliner and covers most of the glass area along both sides of all three seating rows. Sensors in the driver- and passenger-side B and C pillars trigger the system in the event of a side-impact collision or if the system senses an impending rollover. The Safety Canopy remains inflated for as long as six seconds to help protect occupants from multiple impacts and from being ejected. Available seat-mounted, side-impact air bags provide additional protection for front-seat passengers.
The front passenger seat and safety belt incorporate several new advanced safety features.
"Weight-sensing airbags are now standard for the front-seat passengers," notes Bengt Halvorson of the Car Connection. "The innovative system…uses a weight-sensitive pad to detect the relative size of an occupant and decide to suppress the airbag deployment or deploy the airbag in a depowered mode."
Sensors also measure tension on the safety belt to determine whether the occupant is actually a child safety seat. Three-point safety belts are standard in all seating positions, including the center seat in the third row. Other available safety and security features include a fail-safe cooling system for the engine, which allows the vehicle to continue running for a short period following the loss of coolant; a reverse sensing system; mirrors with integrated turn signals; adjustable pedals; self-sealing tires; and a keyless entry keypad.
"After spending some time behind the wheel of the Freestar, it's obvious Ford understands the modern minivan buyer," says Bradley Horn of The Globe and Mail.
The new standard folding third-row Tailgate Bench seat highlights the Freestar's interior packaging. The seat is counterbalanced for nearly effortless, one-handed fold-flat functionality, eliminating the struggle of having to remove a heavy, bulky seat. The Freestar's third row also can be placed in a rearward-facing position for use while parked.
"A great feature for any parent who has had to watch a soccer game in the rain – not to mention the tailgating possibilities," says Lienert.
"With the seat up there's enough room in the storage well for a full-size hockey bag or a family-sized load of groceries," Horn notes.
"When we started this program about three to four years ago, we benchmarked not only the Ú.S. market, but we benchmarked the world to come up with what was going to be the next best state-of-the-class seating operation, and I think we've accomplished that," says Wayne Bahr of Freestar body engineering. "All you truly need is one hand to operate the system."
One hand, fold-and-tumble second-row seats also provide easier third-row ingress and egress, or up to 134 cubic feet of cargo space if the third-row seat is in its fold-flat position.
Dozens of storage features have been engineered into the Freestar's interior, including second-row cup holders.
"The cabins have been redesigned and are much more elegant, offering proof that Ford has tripled its spending on interiors," writes Michelle Krebs in The New York Times. "Materials feel richer, the instrument is cleaner-looking and a delicate watchlike clock now serves as the focal point of the center dashboard."
"The new and beautifully crafted two-tone instrument panel in the Freestar is squared off and almost stark, giving the minivan a spacious, almost European feel," Lienert reports. "While many manufacturers claim to have captured the family-room feel, the Freestar actually delivers on that promise."
Also key to the 2004 Freestar launch is improved ride quality.
"A new front suspension and reworked rear end are sprung softly enough that most bumps went unnoticed," writes Horn.
An improved 3.9-liter, 193-horsepower V-6 engine is standard on the Freestar, or an available new 4.2-liter V-6 engine harnesses 201 horsepower and provides best-in-segment torque at 263 foot-pounds. New powertrain mounting technology isolates the passenger compartment and lends a 25-percent reduction of that powerful engine's sound in the cabin. With improved body and door sealings for a 50-percent improvement in air leakage into the cabin, a noise-absorbing dash panel and sound-blocking technology that Ford calls "comfortable constrained layer damping," the 2004 Freestar boasts a virtually noise-free interior and a much quieter ride than past Ford minivans.
"In the driver's seat, it's not an exaggeration to say that the Freestar is luxury-sedan quiet," Halvorson reports.
"Comfort, stability, and security are the name of the game here," Toronto Star reporter Brian Early concludes. "[Freestar] is a well-executed refreshing of a proven design."
Arriving in dealer showrooms as early as October, the 2004 Freestar is priced from $24,460. Visit your local Ford dealer for details. Source - Ford Communications Network