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Ford Freestar/Mercury Monterey

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  • We stopped by our local Huntsville, AL Ford dealer to look and sit inside a Freestar. It was so different than our Windstar--and not at all in a positive way. The 2nd-row bench seat seemed low. I could feel the cramped seating position while in that seat; in competitors, it never showed up as an issue.

    But the 3rd-row seat, that was a shock. Very low and very hard. I don't see how anyone could sit there for several hours.

    These weren't problems in our '95 Windstar. The seats were well padded and soft. The dash and controls had a modern-looking layout, and it was not very expensive to purchase.

    This Freestar SE listed at $27880 while a Sienna LE (better equiped and with a better reputation for reliability) was $28082.

    I don't see how Ford can lure customers from their competitors with high prices, lower quality seats, and a nothing special in the mechanicals.
  • dtownfbdtownfb Posts: 2,915
    I saw an advertisement that Ford is offering $3500 rebates on the Freestar. I live in NE PA
  • A $3500 rebate would be more realistic. Plus, I'm sure that Ford sales people can come in below MSRP...so that may help.

    But the rear seats are so low and hard (the 3rd row seat is particularly hard). Is that common for a minivan? I recall my '95 Windstar had very soft, foamy seats all the way through. I sat in the back only once, so I may be misremembering things.
  • I've sat in the third row seat in my '04 Sienna on a few car trips (when a grandparent sat up front) and i've found it quite comfortable. Anyone see the new Freestar commercial attacking the Honda Odyssey (re: how you have to remove headrests to lower 3rd row)? Sure- the headrest removal issue is one reason why i didn't buy the Honda but not a reason to chose Ford over unmentioned competition like Toyota, Nissan etc. Ford only offered $1500 off Freestars when we bought our Toyota but i don't think the extra 2K would make me change my mind about why other products are superior (interior and performance) to the Freestar. Maybe if Ford produced a more exciting minivan it wouldn't need to offer such large rebates 2 months after its debut.
  • There are lots of measurements for interior dimensions but seat height doesn't appear to be one. Has anyone (probably an engineer at heart) actually measured the difference between minivans, based on height of the front lip of the seat cushion to the floor?

    vulawgrad: how has the Sienna's front console (where the a/c controls are) held up? Lots of fingerprints? The LE I looked at had a smooth, dark (black?) plastic that looked like a fingerprint magnet. What do you think?
  • Steve, you are all right, the new seats are a bit lower. We have a new Monterey and an '02 Windstar. The Windstar has cloth bench seats and the Merc has leather buckets in the 2nd row and a leather bench in the 3rd row.

    Windstar: 13 1/2" in 2nd and 3rd row
    Monterey: 13" in 2nd row and 10 1/2" in 3rd row.
    The Mercury has the bulge a bit further back from the front edge, maybe better thigh support?

    If you look at the mechanics of the rear seat configuration and how it interfaces to the van, you can see what drives the seat height. Take these things into consideration. The seat must fold flat, then into the rear well. The spare tire is under that same well. The new vans are low to the ground and for the spare to fit underneath, the math just doesn't work out for a taller, flat folding rear seat and not dragging the spare tire on the ground. I am very satisfied with the seat configuration. Our 3 yr old does not complain about the seat height in the 3rd row! Having 2nd row buckets is nice because of the center aisle. All the kids get in and one of the boys will go into the back to buckle the car seat on the little one. If I had to put my 6 foot frame in the back, I would have to be a bit philosophical and believe that it beats walking. We have had 4 Windstars and I can't tell you how many times I had to take out the rear seat to carry something. Having a flat folding seat is a treat.

    The 2nd row buckets are a bit lower and I think that is a function of the fold down - tumble forward action. That function works well.

    We also looked at the early '04 Sienna. We saw that same glossy black trim and thought it was a fingerprint magnet. We have 3 kids under 8. What also bugged us about the Sienna demo was the floor trim was already destroyed in 180 demo miles. Something about moving the seats chews up the floor trim or the sales folks are clutzy.

    As far as rebates, also check the Mercury Monterey, which is the same as the Freestar. They only have 3 models and the top two have leather seats. They seem to have a better set of packages and less options. When we got our Monterey, we were offered the street rebates, plus another business to business rebate. All I needed was a business card and a copy of our contractor's license. This was in Calif, hopefully you have the same options. As it was, ours was an exchange from Ford for our Freestar with all of the problems, so the rebates didn't apply. Even with that, we were very happy with Ford's exchange offer.

    Obviously, I am not real worried about rear seat comfort. If my mom rides with us, I put one of the other kids in the back and they are ok. When we sell the van, another family with small kids will buy it because of all the safety things. In a few years when the kids get bigger and we need the leg room, then we will look to the bigger product.
  • Thanks so much for the detailed and thoughtful response. I may give the Freestar/Monterey another look. Or even a test drive.

    What are your impressions of the driveability and ergonomics of the Monterey compared with the Windstar?

    I was a little disappointed with the Quest because by the time you fold 2nd and 3rd row seats down, the floor is neither flat nor level. I envision using the floorspace of my minivan as an emergency tent during Boy Scout car campouts (it's always rained during our campouts, usually just as we broke camp in the morning).

    Thanks again, Trainboy.
  • Steve, I really like the Monterey and my wife loves the thing. She had a '96 Windstar LX which was a great car. That van had air suspension with autolevel; that came with the trailer package. That van rode nicer than my '98, '00 & '02 Windstars.

    The Monterey is very quiet, compared to the Windstars. My '02 Windstar has the same tires as the new Monterey, so I can mentally discount any tread noise. There is significantly less wind noise with the Monterey and the Freestar that we had for a couple of months, compared to the Windstar. I spoke with a couple of my peers that have received a Freestar and they said the same thing, regarding wind noise.

    As far as the ergonomics, I like the van. There are a few complaints on this website about vent window switch being moved to the center of the dash. I don't mind the move, but I don't like the one common switch. I also miss the door lock switch inside the rear door, but that has been missing for a while. The only things that the Sienna had over Freestar/Monterey are split 3rd row seats and 2nd row roll-down windows, both of which I see as marketing items, but limited value in the real world.

    This is our first van with power side door and that is real nice. We waited for an '04 primarily to get the side canopy safety air bag gizmo. Another nice thing is the dual media radio/ 6 cd player. The kids can sit in the back and listen to a cd. They have 2 headphone jacks and volume controls. We put a splitter on one of the jacks so the 3 year old can feel big as well. We can then listen to the radio in front. This is a must have option. We started out with a Freestar with cloth seats and now like the leather on the Merc better. Heated front seats are nice this time of year.

    As far as an emergency pup tent, you could get three cozy folks in with the 2nd row bucket seats. The 2nd row folds flat then forward, leaving a longer area in the middle. Not quite a Hyatt, but better than sleeping the rain.

    If you wanted to try one out, our local Ford dealer was offering an "overnite" option. I also noticed a Freestar with an Enterprise sticker. You could rent one for a day or two.

    Good luck,
    Randy
  • Randy,

    I find your impressions quite valuable. I'll take a work break and run out to one of my local dealers tomorrow, for a second look.

    When you say that the 2nd row seats fold forward, is that to help 3rd row passengers climb past them? If so, do the seats fold far enough forward that there's empty space where they once were?

    I've tried laying down in each van I've looked at, but without much success. The closest was the Quest, but the floor makes quite a wave--partly that's due to the 3rd row seat sitting on a raised floor.

    I can't believe I'm actually nostalgic about my Windstar's interior. But it seems modern, functional, well-designed and free of the conventional.
  • Steve (or anybody else): Here is a link to the media photos. Search Freestar or Monterey. There are bunches of photos; just jump past the Mobility van stuff.

    http://www.wieck.com/public/index.html

    The second row bucket seat backs fold down onto the seat base. Then the seat base "tumbles" (rolls) forward and rests in a vertical position against the front seat backside. If you want to remove the 2nd row bucket, that is real easy, and is a lot easier than wrestling the old Windstar 2nd row bench seat.

    Make sure to try the Mercury Monterey if you have a Merc dealer nearby. I think the finish is a bit better. When you start loading options onto a Freestar, the stock Monterey packages are pretty attractive from a price perspective, especially with the incentives.

    Good Luck,
    Randy
  • who worries about fingerprints in their car when they own a minivan? i have kids under age 5 and we live with fingerprints all over our house (windows, doors, furniture). My kids are in carseats in the 04 Sienna so there is only the rare chance for them to touch the dash (and i try to prevent the kids from playing in any of our cars). We've had the Sienna since November and i have no complaints about fingerprints on dash around ac/radio. When my kids are older, there is even less reason for them to care about dash radio since they have rear audio controls (w/ remote and headphones) for their listening pleasure. The shiny black dash area is almost identical to the dash around the radio/ac in my '00 Mercury Sable wagon (except the sable is shiny faux wood versus plain shiny black in the Sienna). Same material and i never noticed fingerprints in the Sable either. When we chose Sienna over Freestar, the dash was not a concern. We cared more about 60/40 3rd row, reliability, driveability, and outside appearance (all which went in Toyota favor for me). Since we had 2 Sables that had some service issues, we decided to try the Toyota and hope for better. We have over 1000 miles on it and no complaints. No problems with plastic on bottom of buckets in 2nd row either.
  • If you really want fold flat seating, wait for the DC minivans in March. The Dodge website has a neat interactive showing their operation. It will become the industry standard that everyone will copy, much as everyone (but GM) copied the Odyssey back seat. I know I'm beating a dead horse here, but if you are going to buy a Freestar/Monterey be prepared to own it a long time. It is still a fixed up Windstar. The vehicle will lag far behind the new DC vans, Sienna, Quest and 2005 Odyssey in popularity. Once they start jacking up the rebates to sell them, it will crush the resale value much as it did with the Windstar (now $6000 on remaining 2003s) Combine that with the Windstar's reliability record and the resale is not going to be good. As long as you plan to keep it a while, no big deal. But if want to replace it in 3 years, you will find that the Freestar was actually a much more "expensive" vehicle to buy.

    With the Sienna now the top rated van, you can get a good price on a 2004 Odyssey that is a superior vehicle to the Freestar in almost every way and enjoy vastly superior reliability and resale value. I've driven both, and sad to say there's just no getting around the Freestar's limitations.
  • Mark;
    Rmember our discussion about the manual lumbar support.

    I'm now in sunny Ft Myers Beach. Our trip down here couldn't have been better for this time of the year.
     
     Our Freestar ( my magic carpet) could not have performed better on this 1400 mile trip, made the trip in two days, 14hrs the first day and ten the second.
     
    I had lots of time to look into my drivers manual, (seeing my son was driving) about the lumbar support. This is what I found (if you haven't already).Where it use to be blown up it's now screwed up, don't mean to be funny but that's the truth. It's only in the drivers seat, on the inside of the seat below the arm rest, there is a knob you must turn to adjust the lumbar. Worked well and I have no complaints about the passenger seat which I occupied. They improved on the padding which must make the difference.
     
    One other thing worth mentioning. After reading most of the messages about the Freestar on this message board. I feel like I've gone to the movies and everyone is crying and I'm the only one laughing.

    Thought you would like to know. Hoping that you have a mild winter.
  • steverstever Viva Las CrucesPosts: 41,604
    The van got five stars!

    New Vans Get High Crash-Test Ratings (TheCarolinaChannel.com)

    Side test results aren't available yet (link).

    Steve, Host

    Moderator
    Minivan fan. Feel free to message or email me - stever@edmunds.com.

  • Ford has announced an increase in Freestar rebates to $2500 through March 31. Wonder what happens on April 1?
  • Incentives up $1000 after only 3 months out - must be a real sales dog. Comments about resale are real - try and trade a '95 Windy sometime (bottom of resale value) or try and buy a used 2000 or 2001 Ody (top of resale value). Hanging on to fight off the depreciation doesn't work if they did not change the speedometer, suspension, the drive train, or the engine. Serious cash outlays after 100k could be hanging out there. I can say that for most folks, short of pulling a big boat in a hilly area, that even my old '95 150ish hp was more than adequate. 200 hp should be plenty for just about everyone.
  • SylviaSylvia Posts: 1,636
    Could you please email me at sylvia@edmunds.com? I have a quick question for you. Thanks!
  • Hi Everyone~
    Can those of you who have owned the Freestar share some of the un-advertised things/features that grabbed your attention? Things you've noticed/discovered on your own that you really like? Thanks!
    Dan
  • Looked at a Freestar for the first time today. Some impressions:
    1)Disappointed in the 3rd row leg room. Was tight but tolerable on Windstar (35.3) for little kids, but unbearable in Freestar (32.7). Even with sliding seat, you are forced to decide who gets no room with just 38.0 in the second row. It was 39.2 inches in my 1995. Obviously to tuck in the flip seat, the space had to come out of the 2nd and 3rd rows. If you got kids in both rows and kids with any size you probably have to look elsewhere.
    2)My 1995 GL had nicer padded arm rests than the solid plastic SL Freestar. This stood out as very cheap. Folding third row bench is really hard vs soft foam in 1995 - cost of folding capability apparently
    3)Freestar had much improved cup holders vs early Windstar GL
    4)Deep well behind third seat will allow a dual stroller to be folded up and placed vertically behind he third seat - couldn't do it on the 95 Windstar with anyone in the 3rd row
    5)Liked the sliding second row seat - unfortunately the car needs about 8 to 10 inches of more second and third row seat leg room between them
    6)Disappointed with 2000 lb tow capability. My 1995 Windstar GL had 3500 lb - though I'm told this will be solved by late March, 2004.
    7)Needs the following for the base model (at least the SE) for the base price to compete against the Nissan Quest: CD player, side curtain air bags, folding second row seat, more leg room

    If priced about $1000 to $2000 less than Nissan - it will sell, but probably only to folks who don't use the third row seat much. Seems like they slipped a class into the short wheel based minivans compared to what is now out there.
  • I agree in general with laundryguy's review, but as I have just spent the last week putting 500 miles on a '04 Freestar SE, I can add some actual driving impressions as well. And my basis of comparison is the '03 Windstar I just traded for it (on behalf of my company) with 20,000 flawless miles.

    First - I'd generally agree with the above comments - although I would take an exception to the comment about the third row seat. It depends on who is sitting in it, and for the majority of owners, it's usually kids, not adults in the back row. My 12 and 9 year-old have been sitting back there with no complaints at all. For an adult - I wouldn't recommend it, but if you're only going to have kids in the back, the Freestar is fine.

    I'd also add a few more positive comments about the interior - again having been in one for a week. The dual driver/passenger A/C controls are a nice addition, as is the driver seat lumbar control, the top/bottom door pockets, and the dash-top mini-glove box. Ford did a nice job improving getting to the things you may need to get to while driving- drinks, pens, cell phone, etc. Much better and more convenient inside than the Windstar.

    The control switches have a better feel, too, a much "softer" feel, as you would get in the Odyssey or Sienna. No more "click-clack" sound.

    As for the driving experience itself, everything seems a little better - ride is smoother, brakes are firmer, transmission shifts less noticeably, interior noise is lower. I noticed the FS has the same Michelins that Honda uses on the Odyssey - after years of Goodyears/Firestones on the Windstar, and you can tell the difference.

    I say a litle better, because there is no dramatic improvement here, but there is nothing that doesn't seem to have been improved in some way.

    Summing it up, I'd say if you liked the Windstar, you'll find the Freestar an improvement in almost every category. I did. Whether it's any better than the competition, I'll leave that up to the car magazines to sort out. But the Freestar is a step forward from Ford in the minivan market - compared to the Windstar.
  • Of course the Freestar is an improvement. After seven years of Windstars, it should be. But it will only seem like an improvement to Windstar and GM minivan owners. A previous post had it right, you'll probably be very satisfied with your Freestar - as long as you don't drive the new Sienna, Odyssey, Quest, Grand Caravan before or after. I have driven them all and the Freestar is still far behind the competition. A better question is how satisfied Ford is with a new product that already needs $2500 rebates to move it? It's just disappointing to those of us considering the Freestar that Ford didn't go all out like Toyota and Nissan with a complete redesign.
  • As a former owner of a Chrysler minivan, I would disagree. It was one of the worst performing vehicles I have ever owned - shoddy build quality and poor dealer service - from multiple dealers. They maintain their market share lead with massive discounts, not quality. When Honda comes out with their 2nd -row folding seats just months after Chrysler, they will leave them in the dust.

    Actually, the best financial deal right now may be on the '04 T&C. They currently have a $2,000 rebaete and 0% APR - which works out to more than the $2,500 on the Freestar. Chrylser needs a major hit with the '05 T&C - the recent launches of the new Pacifica and Crossfire have been major sales dissapointments.
  • I wasn't referring to quality or reliability. Neither the DC or Ford vans are anything to brag about. I was strictly referring to the test drive experience. People who value quality and reliability first are probably going to buy a Honda or Toyota anyway. All the more reason that the Freestar should have been a better effort as the Windstar reliability history won't fill the showrooms. You are right about the failed DC launches. I'm guessing this time they get their pricing right. But you never know. It's amazing how the same companies continue to make the same mistakes.
  • I heard something about a 3.0L cyclone v-6? Also some new 3.5L Duritech V6 with 245 hp? Will ford have a VQ style engine that it can configure to COMPETETIVE hp figures???
    These engines will mean the future for ford, or whether it will be swallowed up like crysler. Does anyone have info or can provide a link for these engines???
    Also, the 5.4L triton v-8 is defeated by the German Hemi, will ford up the anti and improove HP for the engine???
  • ANT14ANT14 Posts: 2,687
    "I heard something about a 3.0L cyclone v-6? Also some new 3.5L Duritech V6 with 245 hp?"

    The "Cyclone" was the in house project name for the 3.5L liter that's coming up. It's officially called "Duratec 35", cousin to the 3.0L Duratec, but not just a bored/stroked larger 3.0L either. That engine can produce anywhere from 230-300HP depending on other engine factors.

    I'm including some links from Ford about the engine announcement.
    http://media.ford.com/article_display.cfm?article_id=15896
    http://media.ford.com/article_display.cfm?article_id=15897
    http://media.ford.com/article_display.cfm?article_id=15895

    "Also, the 5.4L triton v-8 is defeated by the German Hemi,"

    Depends what your perception of defeating is. The Triton engines have received "10 Best Engine Awards" from Ward's Automotive for years. Mainly because of how they are able to produce high torque at low lower RPM's, something that's not commonly found on most Overhead Cam Designed engines. As well as their sophistication and quietness.

    Hemi uses a 5.7L which realistically is a bit larger, but it's also OHV design which some customer's view as "old-tech". The 5.4L was just revamped with 3 valve technology (like Mercedes's 3.2L OHC V6) for improved emmisions, performance, and fuel economy.

    If Ford would choose to, they could make their 6.8L V-10 available (on certain vehicles) than having to increase the size (bore out) of the 5.4L. The 6.8L will also receive the 3V treatment, as well as the 4.6L.

    Or simply, other components of the vehicle can be improved to increase performance (if that's what your seeking). Like a new 6 speed automatic planned for RWD Ford/L/M vehicles coming out in 2005-2006, which not only improves fuel economy, but also helps acceleration if geared properly.

    Sales wise, let's take an example the Altima. great 3.5L V6, but statistically, only 23% of customer's opt for the highest engine offering. Which is why Accord/Camry's 4 cylinder offering's make up for 70-80% of their sales.

    Which is why some automaker's might be relunctant to increase their engines offerings, or match competitors in power. Historically (in trucks for example) Chevy always had higher hoursepower engines, yet Ford always had the highest sales in comparison. Same with the Camaro/Mustang segment, the Camaro was always quickest, but the Mustang has other attributes that allowed it to sustain solid sales and make GM give up that segment.

    And back to the Altima, I love the vehicle and the power behind it and have recommended it to a few friends (on other factors according to their needs) but it's biggest downfall in my opinion, as well most other's who have written on it... is it's plasticky interior, road/wind roar, and interior fit and finish which I've heard will be addressed this coming year.
  • I would say that the Freestars aren't selling on either side of the border. Ford plant in Oakville Ontario is to sit idle for half of Feb. and you should see the BAZILLIONS of Freestars lining the ancillary parking facilities around the plants, which are never used.

    Heard a rumour they have built to 130 day supply where 60 day is ideal. Oh well, at least the CAW contract will pay the workers to sit at home and watch Opera.

    Serious trouble. Can't compete against Asia.
  • cartagramcartagram Posts: 115
    Did you mean Oprah?

    Paying people to sit around and watch opera would be a kind of forced retirement, wouldn't it?
  • This bears repeating, but the Honda, Toyota and Nissan vans are specifically designed for the North American market and are built here as well. Large engineering and design staffs comprised of mostly Americans are responsble for the vehicles. I would agree with the comment about Asia if you are referring to philosophies of most of the Japanese companies which is to give the customer the highest product quality and value. They don't always achieve this goal, but at least they try. When you don't even try -you end up with parking lots full of unsold Freestars.
  • Does the new 3.5 have overhead cam and multi valve technologies? If so - why keep the Duratec name which is synonomous with mediocrity?
  • The articles you sent were great. I noticed that Ford is bieng shy about the duritec 35 engine output figures, but we will see in about a year the result of all this hype. I would say if they don't AT LEAST match Nissan's VQ series 245 - 285hp figures then it's troubling.

    you are correct that few people buy the highest engine output versions of their respective cars (Altima, Accord, etc.) But to the mags, and to brand perception in general, the top of the line engine is VERY important. Note that even though Mustang kicked camaro's but in sales, enthusiast mags always hailed the camaro the best performance car for the buck. The camaro lost to the mustang b/c those crack-heads at GM didn't support the car as well as ford supported the ‘stang. Ford worked with many tuners like saleen and others to give the mustang a contemporary image. The main reason mustang won is that the car is more livable, it’s higher off the ground than camaro (I was in both) and had a less menacing interior. IMO the last Mustang was not better than the last Camaro.
    This brand perception, however affects the average Joe who is going to buy a car without the best engine, but the rep for being a "cool ride" (altima) will influence his purchase over a Taurus, even though realistically speaking, he would get more for his dollar with the latter since it could be had in v-6 trim for under 20K, or so ppl tell me.

    The freestar and its cousin are classic examples of Detroit laziness. The new japanese minivans are putting the word "cool" into minivans with wild new forms and aggressive headlights, especially the new quest.

    Fords new minivans look like big 3-d smoothed out rectangles with HUGE windows. Not good. I would not be surprised if the new vans are slow to sell.

    Also, what’s with the missing nav system? What gives? The engines OK, some ppl said that its cuz ford is getting rid of old volume engines to make room for the new duritec, fine. But Nav system??? All of the invaders have nav systems, why don't we?

    weaponous said it right.

    I also don't believe the argument that since a car is made in the US (or Canada), it is "ours" and not "foreign". The point is who gets the profit, corporate America or corporate Japan. And no matter how little the evil white corporate American cares for us, I think everyone is in accord that the evil asian corporate japanese cares a hell of a lot less. His three ounces of concern would be, if any, delegated to his home of japan, appropriately so.

    How much more ground are we going to give up to Asia???
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