The Windstar is the middle of three minivan nameplates Ford offered over nearly three decades. Built from 1995 to 2003, the Ford Windstar was produced for two generations in an effort to win customers in a highly competitive segment.
1995 to 2003: Ford Windstar
The first-generation Ford Windstar was built from 1995 to 1998, succeeding the Ford Aerostar. The second-generation Windstar was manufactured from 1999 to 2003 and was replaced by the Ford Freestar.
Upon its debut, the first-generation Windstar delivered a comprehensive package, including V6-only engines, dual front air bags, antilock brakes, an integrated child seat and generous cargo space. This model has three doors, with one on the driver’s side and two on the passenger side.
For 1995, the Windstar was introduced with a standard 3.8-liter V6 good for 155 horsepower. A 150-horsepower, 3.0-liter V6 became the base engine for 1996, while the 3.8-liter engine saw output increase to 200 horsepower. Both engines are paired with a four-speed automatic transmission. That year, Ford also provided a tip-forward driver’s seat to make it easier for passengers to enter the vehicle on the driver’s side.
The 1997 Windstar gained a base equipment package to slot underneath the GL and LX. That edition removed some standard content and lowered the vehicle’s base price.
Beginning in 1998, Ford widened the driver’s door to improve ease of access to the rear compartment. A top-of-the-line Limited edition was also introduced.
Ford rushed the second-generation Windstar to the market in 1999 in an effort to remedy one of its glaring deficiencies, namely the availability of a sliding door on the driver’s side. Now available with four doors, the 1999 to 2003 Windstar was better positioned to compete in the segment.
The second-generation Windstar was based on the same footprint as the original model and also had the same engine and transmission combinations. Some models came with a middle bench seat, while upper trim level vans were equipped with bucket seats. The top trim also came with a minivan first: a rear sensing system that beeped if the Windstar was within 6 feet of an object.
Beginning in 2000, Ford offered an optional rear seat video entertainment system including a VCR. For 2001, Ford dropped the base engine and a center console was included in models equipped with second-row bucket seats. For 2002, Ford made dual sliding doors standard across the model line.
Ford added an optional anti-skid system for 2003. The following year the Windstar was updated, renamed the Freestar, and built through 2007.
Competitors to the Ford Windstar included the Dodge Grand Caravan, Toyota Sienna and Honda Odyssey. This model may also be cross shopped with the Chrysler Town & Country, Kia Sedona and Nissan Quest.