The Freestar is a solid performer, but it isn’t the sharpest saw in the shed. It’s now in its third year since being redesigned and is outclassed by newer entries. However, the J.D. Power and Associates research firm has rated Freestar’s overall quality and mechanical quality better than most. It’s better than any previous Ford minivan, so if you liked the Windstar, you’ll love the Freestar.
Ford Freestar is well-equipped to do minivan things. It can haul seven passengers and has a deep well behind the third row that’s perfect for securely stowing a week’s worth of groceries. Fold the third-row seat into the floor, and the Freestar holds four passengers and offers a big, flat cargo area behind the seats. Also, the third row can flip around to function as a tailgate seat, a neat trick for parking lot parties. A power rear liftgate and dual power sliding doors are available. Tow ratings of up to 3,500 pounds are possible, enough to handle personal watercraft, motorcycles, or other trailer toys.
On the highway, the Freestar is smooth and quiet. It glides over rough pavement. It’s easy to drive, with responsive handling and a big, powerful V6 engine. It doesn’t feel as refined as the best and newest of the minivans, however.
Freestar’s strongest suit is safety: Freestar earned five stars in the government’s (NHTSA’s) frontal impact crash testing, and is a "Best Pick" for frontal offset crashes by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Freestar received a five-star rating from NHTSA in driver and passenger front impact as well as passenger side impact. It received a four-star rating in driver side impact and roll-over resistance.
Dual-stage driver and front-passenger air bags come standard and are designed to deploy at full or partial power depending on the severity of the crash. Ford’s optional Safety Canopy can help protect against head injuries in a rollover or side impact; Ford’s system is designed to offer protection to passengers sitting on the outboard sides of all three rows. Freestar’s seat belts use pretensioners and energy-management retractors to improve their effectiveness and reduce the chance of belt-related injuries.
To help drivers avoid crashing in the first place, the Freestar comes standard with anti-lock brakes with Electronic Brake-force Distribution. A tire-pressure monitor is standard and self-sealing tires are available. The optional AdvanceTrac electronic stability control helps drivers maintain control when swerving to avoid something or when entering a slippery corner too fast.