1996 Ford Windstar Van

120.7' WB LX

Starting at | Starting at 17 MPG City - 23 MPG Highway

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  • $24,545 original MSRP

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Printable Version

1996 Ford Windstar Van

Printable Version

1996 Ford Windstar Van


1996 Ford Windstar

Source: New Car Test Drive

Last year's champ is still a top contender.

by Ray Thursby

There's a real struggle going on for supremacy in the minivan world, a battle being fought largely between Ford and Chrysler, with GM currently bringing up the rear. With each new model year, the opponents exert themselves to the utmost to increase performance, comfort, style and utility value without driving prices beyond competitive levels.

Chrysler was the first to stake a claim in this field with its 1984 entries. Ford responded with the rear-drive Aerostar a year later, then followed up with the Windstar in 1994. A redesigned Chrysler lineup -- Chrysler Town & Country, Plymouth Voyager and Dodge Caravan -- made their debut last year. GM answered Ford's Aerostar with the rear-drive Chevy Astro and GMC Safari, then introduced the front-drive Chevy APV, Pontiac Trans Sport and Oldsmobile Silhouette.

Import nameplates competing in this arena include the Mazda MPV, Toyota Previa, Nissan Quest -- a clone of the Mercury Villager -- and the new Honda Odyssey.

Lots of choices.

In general, the domestic offerings are large minivans, offering more cargo space and spread-out room than the imports while being easier to drive and more maneuverable than full-size vans. Last year, Windstar was the cream of the crop. This year, it faces stronger rivals. Does it still match up?


The best tribute to Windstar's appearance may well be the remarkable similarity between it and the latest Chrysler minivans. This is less a matter of plagiarism than common sense; it would be difficult to make a shape that combines packaging efficiency and aerodynamics so well look much different.

The rounded nose, sloping windshield and flush window glass all do their part to help Windstar cut cleanly through the air, to the benefit of both fuel economy and interior noise reduction. The sculptured flanks contribute too, increasing stiffness while adding a touch of style.

Entry and exit are aided by large doors and a low step-in height; Windstar is far better than a four-door sedan in this respect. The passenger-side rear sliding door is equally easy to use, and provides plenty of access to the second and third seats. However, the Windstar's one real shortfall compared to the new Chrysler minivans is the absence of a fourth door option. A very high percentage of Chrysler minivan buyers are stepping up to this feature, although a few do have safety concerns. For example, a driver approaching a parked van from behind has no warning of the open door until a passenger pops out of it.

Getting cargo in through the giant rear liftgate is a snap, and there's lots of room to walk around underneath without worrying about whacking your head. There's also a handy pulldown strap to make closure easy, regardless of your personal stature.

The word mini- is something of a misleading prefix when applied to the Windstar. It falls midway between Taurus and Crown Victoria in overall length and width, though its wheelbase is longer than either sedan.

The Inside Story

Front-seat occupants will think they're in a passenger car. The look of the dashboard and controls, and the seating positions owe more to sedans than vans, and are the better for it. It's a high-style environment made up of top-quality plastics and fabrics.

Ford's leadership in interior design is especially evident here. The dashboard has a complete array of gauges (speedometer, tachometer, fuel level, coolant temp., oil pressure and voltmeter), plus large soft-touch rotary knobs for lighting and climate control. Window switches are mounted in the door panel armrests; these also have soft-touch surfaces and are large enough to use without fumbling.

The rest of the interior is excellent as well. Amenity content is high: cupholders are supplied in abundance (two in front, one for the left-side passenger in the center seat, and two in back); there are storage pockets everywhere; and center-seat passengers can have their own controls and headphone jacks for the audio system. The center seats are almost as comfortable as the front buckets, and that's saying a lot. The third seat is tolerable for long distances as well. Second and third seats are removable -- by two people, and with some effort -- to create a large load space.

That load space is not quite as large as that of a Chrysler minivan, however, even though the latter has slightly smaller exterior dimensions. While the difference will be important mainly to those who need to carry loose ping-pong balls or equally odd cargo, it's an area where the Chrysler designers clearly did a better job.

Windstar is offered in three versions: the basic model is a commercial window van, shorn of all amenities aft of the front seats and rather limited in options.

Next up is the GL, a nicely equipped passenger van that needs only air conditioning to make it suitable for most use. It can be dressed up with numerous options.

Many GL options -- including air conditioning -- are standard on the luxurious Windstar LX. Aluminum wheels, power mirrors, locks and windows (including powered swing-out rear quarter glass), tilt steering wheel, speed control and an adjustable track for the rearmost seat are only a few of its premium features.

A large variety of options can be added to both GL and LX. Keyless entry, all-speed traction control, leather seats, privacy glass and a rear seat that can fold into a bed are among the individual offerings. Package options include a trailer-towing group that increases towing capacity from 2000 to 3500 pounds. (though rear-wheel drive is a better bet for heavy towing chores), and a digital instrument group that includes gauge cluster, automatic on/off headlights and a self-dimming photochromic mirror.

Another option worth a serious look in hot climates is Ford's high-capacity air conditioning system. With overhead ducts blowing into the rear of the van, as well as the standard dashboard ducting, this unit can take the interior temperature from 100 degrees down to 70 almost as quick as you can say, "Oh boy, it's really hot out there today."

Ride & Drive

In ride, handling and performance terms, the Windstar is best described as an oversized Taurus with a slightly higher seating position. That's all to the good; it is smooth, supple, quiet and corners well, with far less body lean than drivers of most vans will encounter. The steering is light, but transmits plenty of road feel. Transitioning from sedan to van is easy here, though the larger turning circle takes some getting used to.

Regardless of model, all Windstars come with anti-lock braking. In this regard, the trailer-towing package -- which includes coolers for the engine, power steering and transmission oil -- is worth investigating even if you never plan to hitch up, as it replaces the standard rear drum brakes with discs.

Base (GL) and commercial Windstars use a quiet but somewhat anemic 3.0-liter V-6 engine. Driven gently it is acceptable, but a fully-laden vehicle taxes it almost beyond its ability.

The alternative is a 3.8-liter unit (standard in the upmarket LX), reworked this year to deliver 200 hp, which gives the Windstar one indisputable bragging right -- the most powerful minivan available. That's enough to provide fine performance with no perceptible loss of economy, though this engine, like every other Ford 3.8-liter we've tested, isn't as smooth as some and feels slightly strained at high rpm. Both engines are teamed with an excellent four-speed automatic transmission, and both are sure to give years of trouble-free service.

Final Word

Once again, the Windstar stands at the head of the large minivan list. Despite increased competition, it still delivers a blend of quality, comfort, performance and style that set it apart from the rest.

Obviously, alternatives exist. A smaller van or sedan may cost less while carrying as big a load as you require, and a bigger rear-drive van can carry more and pull a heavier trailer.

But the Windstar is impressively flexible in capacity, and looks equally at home picking the kids up at school or carrying you to a night on the town.

While deficient in a few areas -- there's no driver-side rear door (if that matters to you), rear seat removal is a chore, and the new Chryslers are marginally better when rated on cargo space vs. exterior size -- Windstar remains an excellent choice in a very competitive category.

Order our 200+ page magazine of reviews. Send $8.00 (S&H included) to New Car Test Drive, 2145 Crooks Rd. Suite 200, Troy, MI 48084

© 1996 New Car Test Drive, Inc.

Printable Version

1996 Ford Windstar Van

Safety Features & Equipment

Braking & Traction

4-Wheel ABS Std
4-Wheel Disc Brakes Opt
Traction/Stability Control Opt

Passenger Restraint

Driver Air Bag Std
Passenger Air Bag Std
Child Safety Locks Std

Road Visibility

Fog Lamps Opt
Electrochromic Rearview Mirror Opt
Intermittent Wipers Std


Alarm Opt
Printable Version

1996 Ford Windstar Van

Ford Certified Pre-Owned Warranty  help
Certified Pre-Owned Warranty
To be eligible for Certified Pre-Owned (CPO) status, vehicles generally must be recent models with relatively low mileage. CPO vehicles must also pass a detailed inspection, outlined by the manufacturer, which is measured by the number of inspected points.
Warranty coverage can vary from one manufacturer to the next. While most certified pre-owned programs transfer and extend the existing new car warranty terms, others offer a warranty that simply represents an additional year and mileage value. Always check with the manufacturer for the specific warranties they offer.
Common features and benefits of Certified Pre-Owned warranties include:
Age/Mileage Eligibility
To even be considered for certification, a car must be a recent model year and have limited mileage. The exact requirements are established by individual manufacturers.
Lease Term Certified
Some manufacturers offer certified pre-owned cars for lease. The length of the lease is often shorter than a new car lease, but it will cost you less.
Point Inspection
These inspections entail a comprehensive vehicle test to ensure that all parts are in excellent working order. The point inspection list is simply a numbered list of exactly what parts of the car are examined. While many inspections range from a 70- to 150-point checklist, most are very similar and are performed using strict guidelines. Ask your local dealer about specific details.
Return/Exchange Program
Some manufacturers offer a very limited return or exchange period. Find out if you will get the sales tax and licensing/registration fees back should you return or exchange the car.
Roadside Assistance
Most certified pre-owned programs offer free roadside service in case your car breaks down while still under warranty.
Special Financing
Reduced-rate loans are available through many certified pre-owned programs. Manufacturer-backed inspections and warranties help eliminate the risks involved with buying pre-owned, so buyers who qualify can take advantage of the great offers.
Transferable Warranty
When a new car warranty transfers with the certification of the car and remains eligible for the next owner, it is known as a transferable warranty. Once the original transferable warranty expires, an extended warranty takes effect.
Warranty Deductible
This is the amount for which you are responsible when repair work is performed under the warranty. Some manufacturers require a deductible while others don't, so always ask.

Manufacturer's 7 years / 100,000 miles Powertrain Limited Warranty from original in-service date. 12-month/12,000-mile Comprehensive Limited Warranty. See dealer for details.. See dealer for details. Rental Reimbursement $30/day.
Age/Mileage Eligibility 6 model years or newer / less than 80,000 miles
Lease Term Certified Yes
Point Inspection 172
Return/Exchange Program No
Roadside Assistance Yes
Special Financing Yes
Transferrable Warranty Yes
Warranty Deductible $100

Learn more about certified pre-owned vehicles

Printable Version

1996 Ford Windstar Van

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