Guest Opinion -- Owen
My roommate is still on the phone, so
I'm going to review another vehicle. Actually two vehicles. They are a
1992 Ford Aerostar, and a much newer, maybe 98 or 99 Windstar. Both belong
to my boss at the wine store, who, between the two kids, the dog, and the
burgeoning retail business, needs plenty of hauling capacity.
There are important similarities and differences in dealing with these
vehicles, so first I will start with the similarities, then move on to each
one in turn.
Both of them hold an incredible amount of stuff, even with all the seats in
place. If you want to move things, and you don't plan to go more offroad
than, say, driving onto the lawn to get the tailgate closer to the door,
this is the type of vehicle for you. But be warned, you will move a _lot_
of stuff. The thing is like a cavern on wheels. Seating 7 people in
reasonable comfort, you might find yourself the DD with a lot of people to
drop off at the end of the night. Also, it catches the wind, and doesn't
handle that great. The seating position is such that I had to _climb_ into
the front seat, which is a disconcerting situation for a guy who is used to
getting into cars that are more like putting on a pair of steel pants. The
seating position is very upright. So upright I wish my grade four teacher
Mrs. Jamison who used to yell at me for slouching could see me. Also you
are up really, really high. I felt a bit like I was driving a ladder down
the road. Visibility was poor compared to my cars, but that is to be
expected in a vehicle whose blindspots could park a Mazda 323.
Moving on to specifics, the Aerostar wallows in turns, under any kind of
acceleration, and during braking. The cloth seats are cheap looking (to go
with the rest of the interior) and the whole thing smells like Lucky the dog
and spilled potato chips. (with good reason, and honestly we really can't
blame Ford for that at all) On the up side, the automatic transmission
downshifted willingly, and stayed in gear until I wanted it to shift back up
again, which is nice. The brakes are twitchy, which I have come to expect
on older Ford products, and really they probably were more progressive than
I remember, but I was driving Tubby at the time, and its brakes were kinda
squooshy. The rear anti-locking brakes kicked in rather unexpectedly on
straight dry pavement stops, shocking me somewhat with the harsh modulation
feedback, and with the rather poor braking I experienced even with the
anti-lock system. The engine was, in a word, gutless. Between the huge
bulk of the thing and the automatic tranny, I was really hard pressed to
keep up at a stoplight. Of course, I was hard pressed to keep up on the
cloverleaf from Crowchild to Glenmore too, because I was afraid of flipping
the whole thing over the guardrail.
The Windstar had a bigger, more powerful V-6 and stiffer spring rates, but
still suffered from many of the same problems as the Aerostar. On the plus
side, the radio was a bit better, the seats were leather, and it handled a
bit better. The feeling of driving a ladder was still there, but this time
the ladder wasn't standing on a waterbed. Also the brakes were 100% better.
I had a really hard time finding the gas cap release, but that was just my
own inexperience with auto-popping mechanisms, whodathunk it would have been
way down there? Anyway, as far as minivans go, it was not a bad experience,
but I have never had a chance to drive the class leading products from
Chrysler and Honda, so I really have no fair frame of reference.
That won't stop me from making a rating, however, because that is, after
all, the point. The Aerostar gets two pints for its utilitarian function
mixed with its exactly wrong handling characteristics. The Windstar gets
three and a half pints, mostly because I saw how far they came from and they
deserve an extra half pint for effort. All pints are 16 oz American pints,
not 20 oz Imperial pints, but they are all poured into one really big
container that holds a lot but is really hard to drink out of.