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Let's set the record straight: The 1994 Ford Aerostar Wagon, including the Eddie Bauer version we tested, isn't really a wagon. It's a comparatively large, high-off-the-road minivan. But considering its classy exterior, posh leather interior, stable ride and agile handling, it was difficult for us not to regard the vehicle as sort of a Land Rover with snob appeal.
The extended-length Aerostar Eddie Bauer Wagon (aka minivan) we tested had an MSRP of $27,727. That's toward the hi end of the minivan price bracket, but we thought it was justified by the fact that our test vehicle was absolutely loaded. The Eddie Bauer equipment package included a full complement of power assists, an AM/FM stereo with a cassette player, air conditioning, a muscular 4.0-liter V6, a computerized 4WD system and more. Our test vehicle was also outfitted with a high-ratio limited-slip axle and a seven-passenger seating/convertible bed option. Other than a trailer-towing package for boating or camping mavens, not much more could have been added to our high-end test Aerostar.
The Eddie Bauer version of the Aerostar rewards buyers with a high-quality two-tone paint treatment. Our test vehicle sported an Electric Red Clearcoat Metallic upper body with a Mocha Clearcoat Metallic lower body and a red accent stripe divider.
The front was well-balanced by a rectangular grille with three vinyl bars, square two-way headlamps and a hefty wraparound front bumper color-matched to the lower body. A centered air scoop and two slender chrome strips did a nice job of interrupting the mass of the front bumper.
In profile, the most dynamic design characteristic of our Aerostar was the severe downward slope of the windshield and hood from the roofline. It was an eye-pleasing and aerodynamically styled touch.
The Aerostar offered a more conventional look with slab sides, a high roofline and ample ground clearance. But Ford added black vinyl window moldings, door handles and side-view mirror coverings that worked with the two-tone paint for a rather sporty effect. The forged aluminum wheels that came with the Eddie Bauer package complemented the appearance.
There was certainly nothing striking about the flat rear end of our Aerostar, but we found nothing to disappoint us, either. The liftgate was one of the easiest-opening ones we've encountered, thanks to dual hydraulic assists. The same applied to the sliding passenger/cargo door on the right side of the vehicle.
When we stepped into our Aerostar Eddie Bauer Wagon, we were pleasantly surprised by its elegance. Four leather-clad captain's chairs formed the front and middle seating arrangement. The three-passenger rear seat was also leather and converted to a child-sized bed. This seat could also be removed for more cargo space. All seats were high off the floor, providing excellent visibility.
With the exception of some rather hard-to-reach power window and lock buttons, the Aerostar boasted a well-organized and passenger-friendly interior. In the middle passenger armrests, we found headphone jacks for private enjoyment of the vehicle's stereo system. Individual fan controls allowed rear passengers to adjust their climate via side and roof vents.
In the driver's seat, we were confronted with a cockpit-like configuration that we suspected was influenced more by NASA than Eddie Bauer. Looking through the thick leather-padded steering wheel that housed the standard air bag, we were greeted by a high-tech instrument cluster and vehicle diagnostic center. Large digital miles and kilometers, the current and average mpg, the amount of fuel remaining and the distance we could drive until the tank was completely empty. Engine rpms were indicated by a bar-graph tachometer.
The computerized instrument cluster included a scanner that reviewed the status of the charging system, oil pressure and other engine functions. just beneath were lights for the air bag, braking system and parking brake. Few vehicles we've driven have provided information as effectively and completely as this Aerostar Eddie Bauer Wagon.
It was obvious that Ford took an equally thorough approach to storage and organization throughout this vehicle. Swing-out map cases in the doors, a covered well in the left rear area and a floor console with cupholders and a storage slot were just a few of the practical touches.
During several days of testing, we took the Aerostar over everything from rut-filled dirt roads to rolling freeways. What we found was a vehicle with ample power, a firm but smooth ride and a superb sense of direction and stability.
In acceleration tests from standing starts and highway passing trials from 45 to 65 mph, the 4.0-liter, fuel-injected V6 responded quickly and aggressively and seemed to have plenty left in reserve. At 65 mph we observed that the engine was turning at a comfortable 2,500 rpm. We detected a little engine noise as well as minimal road and wind noise at higher speeds, but remember: This wagon was built on a work-van platform that can't offer the advantages of a sound-deadened luxury sedan.
Cornering and handling were the areas where our Aerostar really shone. We negotiated a sharply curved freeway exit ramp at 50 mph and we experienced absolutely no lean or sway. Darting in and out of freeway traffic, we found ourselves in command of a quick, nimble vehicle.
On bumpy dirt roads and stretches of slick pavement the computer-adjusted 4WD kept us on track without a trace of skidding or wheel spinning. The system had a full-time feature, which meant we never had to touch the switch. The computer locked the drive shaft of the slipping wheel to the shaft of the non-slipping wheels until normal traction was achieved.
The effective 4WD enhanced the braking on our Aerostar. Though our vehicle had only rear anti-lock brakes, we tested it on various slick surfaces and found we could easily stop on command.
Although Ford built the '94 Aerostar Eddie Bauer Wagon on a conventional minivan platform, a sophisticated vehicle emerged. From the state-of-the-art instrument display to the ingenious 4WD system, this vehicle is a tribute to the Ford engineering team.
The Aerostar also offers the room and handling that minivan buyers are looking for. And the optional 4.0-liter V6 provides some welcome punch.
All in all, this vehicle is a good way for the Aerostar line to retire and make room for Ford's new, highly touted 1995 Windstar minivan.