On the Road: 2005 Ford Freestar Wheelchair Vans

road-test-2005FordFreestarWheelchair-van

The 2005 Ford Freestar Wheelchair Van

The Freestar wheelchair van does offer a considerable amount of interior space and the seating is fairly easy to rearrange. Additionally, top conversion companies like VMI have long worked to transform Ford minivans into fully-featured mobility vehicles. As such, we can expect to see many 2005 Freestars converted for use as wheelchair vans.

In most cases, handicap minivans like the Freestar are modified to allow the wheelchair user to enter using a ramp from the side of the vehicle. Rear entry configurations do exist, but they tend to be less popular than the side entry approach.

The 2005 Freestar can be converted into a side entry wheelchair van via a series of modifications. The floor can be lowered to provide sufficient vertical space within the cabin. An wheelchair auto ramp can be used to facilitate entry and exit through dual sliding (and preferably powered) side doors. An auto kneel system rounds out the approach, dropping the Freestar closer to the ground when loading and unloading, which decreases ramp slope to improve overall safety and convenience.

Those core modifications are hen coupled with interior adjustments including changes to stock seating, the use of specialized controls, and methods by which to secure the wheelchair in place.

The Freestar makes a good wheelchair van in terms of the access it can provide to disabled drivers. However, the pronounced weaknesses of the Freestar render it a weak choice for those in need of a wheelchair van.

Overview

Ford came up with the Freestar to replace the not-so-gracefully aging Windstar. However, instead of ending up with a vibrant, exciting new minivan capable of competing with Honda, Dodge, and Toyota, Ford is still lagging well behind.

The new Freestar is better than some of the previous Ford offerings, but it still has a long way to go.

Model Lineup

Ford has streamlined the four-tier Windstar trim level, by beefing up the entry-level version, the SE and then adding an SEL and Limited edition.

The SE includes power accessories, keyless entry, air conditioning and other essentials. The SEL includes numerous upgrades, including the option for a more powerful engine. The Limited also offers the superior engine along with a list of accoutrements that includes stylish chrome wheels and a leather interior.

Ford also produces a stripped down version of the Freestar for the commercial market.

Improving Style & Appearance

Minivans keep getting better looking. The utility box look of the first Caravans has been replaced by more stylish and car-like designs throughout the field. The 2005 Ford Freestar wheelchair van hasn’t caught up with the competition, though.

The Freestar isn’t an ugly vehicle and its simplicity may attract some buyers. However, it is one of the most plain and boxy handicap minivans on the market. The design isn’t offensive, it’s just too pedestrian.

The interior follows suit. It’s plain and uninteresting. While it is spacious and doesn’t look cheap, a closer examination of some plastic accents and the other materials used reveals a slightly sub-bar package.

Powertrain

The 2005 Freestar supports two different engines that can partner with the automatic transmission. The 3.9-liter, 193 horsepower V6 is standard. SEL and Limited owners can opt for a larger, 4.2-liter V6 that generates 201 horsepower.

Driving the 2005 Freestar Wheelchair Van

The engine choices are far more reliable than those used in the last few editions of the Windstar wheelchair vans, but they really don’t have enough muscle for the heavy Freestar. The vehicle is slightly sluggish and doesn’t boast the acceleration of its competitors. It also falls short on the fuel economy front, as well.

Minivans don’t just look more like cars than they once did. They also drive much more like cars, as well. Wheelchair minivans like Honda’s Odyssey continue to dazzle drivers with their responsiveness and ability to hug the road.

The Freestar wheelchair van, on the other hand, drives like a truck or a van. It’s a little bouncy and isn’t particularly responsive. That may have been acceptable several years ago, but it seems strangely out of place in today’s market.

Safety

The Freestar wheelchair van does do well in terms of overall safety. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the IIHS gave the vehicle high marks across the board for its performance in collision/crash tests. The Freestar comes standard with the necessary airbags, antilock breaks and a stability control system. The Freestar may be a second-tier minivan overall, but it’s top-ranked in terms of safety.

The Bottom Line

Ford is moving in the right direction. The 2005 Freestar handicap van is better than the 2004 model and that was better than the earlier Windstars. Unfortunately, Ford seems to be so far behind the rest of the pack that the improvements aren’t really enough to make a difference. If Ford can post significant improvements for a few more years, the Freestar wheelchair van may be a legitimate contender. Until then, it’s an also-ran in the minivan field.

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