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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.

Score: Two Pints

Score: Three and a half Pints

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