Now in its third model year, the Ford Freestar minivan undergoes trim changes for 2006. SEL and Limited models receive a new monotone appearance and chrome accents, including chrome roof rails, liftgate and door handles, bodyside colour-keyed moulding with chrome insert and, on the Limited, new 17-inch bright machined aluminum wheels. New exterior colours are Satellite Silver and Smokestone; Dark Toreador Red Metallic replaces Matador Red Metallic, while Norsea Blue Metallic replaces Medium Steel Blue Metallic.
All leather seating surfaces are now heated, with seat heaters no longer a separate option, and 17-inch wheels and tires have been removed from the SEL Value Package, which now gets a power liftgate instead.
All Freestar models are long-wheelbase and are powered by a 4.2-litre V6. There are five trim levels (S or “Base”, SE, Sport, SEL and Limited), each with its own front, rear and body-side design treatments to differentiate them.
Even the base model is very well-equipped, with four-wheel disc brakes with ABS, air conditioning, power locks with keyless entry, power mirrors and windows, CD player with four speakers, 16-inch wheels and variable intermittent wipers.
The SE adds cruise control, rear reading lights, front seat-back storage, roof rails and remote-operation opening rear quarter windows.
The Sport adds a rear air conditioning outlet with secondary ventilation controls, 17-inch aluminum wheels, heated mirrors, leather-wrapped wheel with audio controls, power driver’s seat, front and rear reading lights, captain’s chairs, alloy wheels, fog lights and a hatch spoiler.
The SEL adds three climate control zones, upgraded seat fabric, power sliding doors, cornering lamps, 16-inch chrome wheels, chrome roof rack, six-CD stereo and a front seat centre armrest.
The Limited adds memory package, perimeter anti-theft system, 17-inch aluminum wheels, message centre, auto-dimming rearview mirror, power-adjustable pedals with memory, heated leather seats, leather-wrapped wheel, universal garage door opener, and side and curtain airbags.
2006 Freestar prices are similar to 2005 prices: only the Sport has gone up (by $580). S and SE prices remain the same, while the SEL’s price tag drops by $225, and the Limited’s by $2,020. The Freestar is very quiet, thanks to the liberal use of sound-deadening materials, and it’s well-equipped. But it doesn’t offer as much interior room as most competitors, and it’s thirstier and not as refined as many other minivans. Its third-row seat folds away very easily and tilts backwards for tailgate lounging at the campsite, but its second row of seats must be removed in order to maximize cargo capacity. Chrysler’s Stow ’n Go definitely has the edge here.
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