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Making a choice

Which is more long trip reliable for business: Saturn Relay, Ford Freestyle, Dodge Caravan, Ford Windstar?

I currently drive a Volvo 240 '92 wagon, 360,000 miles and am beginning to worry about its dependability even tho it is doing fine. I need cargo space equal to that, or more, and drive primarily on highways with about 300 lbs of load plus luggage. Have looked at several wagons, minivans, crossovers and vans, just not sure which way to go. Any suggestions?

Well,the Ford Freestar and the Windstar are the same vehicle. Ford updated the Windstar slightly and called it a Freestar. The Saturn Relay is the same minivan as the Chevrolet Uplander. There is also a Buick version of this minivan. I owned a 2000 Ford Windstar which I bought new that I sold to my son. He has over 100,000 miles on this vehicle and I think the only real problem was the intake manifold gasket. He had owned a 1999 Ford Windstar which he purchased used that had been previously used to deliver packages between Chattanooga and Knoxville Tennessee. He bought it with 75,000 miles and drove it to 150,000. He did have the transmission rebuilt and an intake manifold gasket. This minivan had probably seen rather hard service before he bought it. I presently have a 2006 Chevrolet Uplander than now has 47,000 miles and I have had no problems.

I don’t think there is much difference in minivans–if you’ve driven one you’ve driven them all in my opinion. I drive minivans because I manage a small chamber orchestra and am always taking musicians and intruments to underserved areas where we play free concerts. I need the minivan to carry string basses, tympani, etc. The Windstar would run about 21-23 miles per gallon on the highway. The Uplander seems to do a little better at 24-26 mpg. I would expect the Saturn Relay to do about the same. One thing I do like about the Uplander is that it is several inches narrower than other minivans. I have to back off a busy street into a narrow alley between a building and a telephone pole when loading the instruments.

I imagine a crossover vehicle or a wagon would be more like your Volvo. You may want to drive a minivan on a 100 mile trip or so to see how you like it.

All good choices…how about including ?

If you want space and a smooth, quiet ride, and carlike handling, look at the Ford Flex. It represents a return to the classic station wagen, and so far has proved very reliable.

I would stay clear of Ford minivans and Dodge models. For workhorse driving, they generate too many breakdowns and repairs. Not familiar with the Saturn, but it would be the best of the US models.

If you have to have a minivan, the Honda Odessey or Toyota Sienna would be the two best. Put on enough miles and they’ll pay for themselves.

I’d take the Windstar off the list just because it’s so old (2003 was the last year). If you are looking at the Saturn, why not the other equivalent GM vans? Check out and to get an idea about those vans, and possibly others.

Another possibility is the Chevy HHR cargo. It’s a small panel truck and will get better mileage than any of the vans.

Check out mileage here:

Why are you looking at such large vehicles? Even the smallest hatchback on the market will carry 300 pounds, plus luggage, with ease.

Of the four you list, I’d take the Freestyle (now called Taurus X), but I really think you should consider other vehicles.

The Windstar is getting old; forget it. Dodge and Chrysler vehicles have the worst reliability record of any US brand, so skip that one, too. Saturn? Well, if you’re buying brand new they have some interesting vehicles, but I wouldn’t spend too much time looking at used Saturns.

Why not another Volvo wagon? There are plenty of them available on the used car market. I don’t understand the wish to go larger, especially considering the recent spike in fuel prices. Any of the vehicles you list will get less mileage than your current Volvo, and what’s the point of that?

It’s interesting that the vehicles you list are built by the “big three” US auto makers, but you’ve driven a Volvo for 360,000 miles. What’s up with that? None of the vehicles you’ve mentioned is likely to last anywhere near that long.

I vote for the Freestyle, just get one with the 6 speed auto. The CVT transmission was only offered for a year or two. The others are have proved be less than reliable (the Windstar especially). Also consider Volvo V70, I recommend the light-pressure turbo model, the standard non-turbo 5 cylinder is a bit underpowered. My stepdad replaced a 1998 V70 w/300k on the clock a few years ago for new one with the non-turbo, and although it has been trouble free so far (100k on the clock) it isn’t quite a peppy as the turbo model.

Check out the Mazda 5. Lot of load space with the seats folded down, but smaller than a traditional minivan and gets decent mileage.

You still drive a 240 ? You need another practical, reliable, box on wheels. Scion XB.

I’d vote for a freestyle. Smooth ride; built off of the volvo s80 with load leveling shocks.

My daughter has a 2005 Uplander and I would not recommend it based on what I have seen and all the problems she has had. My Toyota van had 310,000 miles and had very few repairs. My neighbor speaks highly of their Honda Odyssey. Either one will be worth the price.

Of those listed the Freestyle would be good. I assume you’re buying used, is that correct? The new Ford Flex is also a great choice. The new Toyota Venza would be a big step above the ones you list, but only available new.