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The Mercury Monterey is essentially a Ford Freestar with a higher level of equipment and some Mercury styling cues. The Monterey offers luxury touches such as a dual climate control system, wood-and-leather steering wheel with built-in cruise and audio controls, and power adjustable pedals.
Safety is its strong suit, with both active handling safeguards and comprehensive passive passenger protection. Its third-row seat folds flat into the floor, offering lots of cargo space for a family of four, and it can carry up to seven.
On the road, the Monterey is smooth and quiet with responsive steering and handling. Parking is made easier by its front and rear park-assist system. The Monterey comes with a big 4.2-liter V6 that packs a lot of torque, giving it good performance. It's rated to pull trailers of up to 3,500 pounds when equipped with the optional Class II towing package.
The Monterey stands out with its three-row Safety Canopy airbag system designed to offer head protection for passengers in all three rows, an occupant-sensing front-passenger airbag, and four-wheel anti-lock disc brakes. The optional AdvanceTrac stability control with traction control and panic Brake Assist can help the driver maintain control. Also available are a tire-pressure monitoring system and self-sealing tires. With a reinforced structure to absorb offset frontal impacts, Monterey earned the highest possible score (five stars) in government frontal crash tests. The Monterey comes recommended by the insurance industry for its offset-frontal crash performance.
The Mercury Monterey is powered by a 4.2-liter overhead-valve V6, the largest offered in this class. It delivers 265 pound-feet of torque, more than the Nissan Quest and the Toyota Sienna. This advantage is important since torque is the force you use when pulling away from intersections, climbing a steep grade, or towing a trailer. The Mercury V6's 201 horsepower doesn't measure up to the 240 horsepower of the Nissan nor the 230 horsepower of the Toyota, but this is often less important. The four-speed automatic transmission shifts smoothly and quickly and makes good use of the engine's power.
We found the Monterey to be smooth and quiet, though it's not the most refined minivan in terms of noise and vibration. Steering and handling is responsive. The brakes are effective and smooth and easy to modulate for nice, smooth stops in daily driving.
Parking is made easier with the Monterey's excellent park-assist system, which signals the driver with increasingly fast beeping tones as the bumper approaches another object. The front and rear use different tones, making parallel parking a breeze. We found that the system beeped when someone walked in front or behind us, which can be helpful in crowded parking lots.
The Mercury Monterey is an extremely competent minivan. It shares much in common with the Ford Freestar, which generally carries a lower list price than does the Monterey. However, depending on the trim level and content package, a Monterey with all of its standard fare could represent a better value than a Freestar that has to be loaded up with options. And Mercury offers features that the Freestar does not, including a seat-cooling system and perforated suede upholstery in the first and second rows.
Michelle Krebs filed the original report, with NewCarTestDrive.com editor Mitch McCullough reporting from Los Angeles.