Need cargo room? Like 160 cubic feet? That's how much space Chrysler's 2005 long-wheelbase Grand Caravan minivan supplies when its second and third rows of seats are folded and stashed away in bins built into the floor. Pull on three numbered straps, and you have a flat floor to accommodate boxes, containers and other inventory. The seven-passenger Grand Caravan's third row is a 60/40 split bench that can be flipped to function as tailgate seating. Other features include easy entry into the third row, side-curtain air bags on all three rows, rear park assist warning, sliding side-door alerts and Bluetooth for hands-free cell phone use. The base engine is a 2.4-liter I-4 with 150 horsepower and 167 pound-feet of torque. Price with destination fee: $22,295.
Mercury's response is the 2004 Monterey, a new long-wheelbase minivan with luxury features and a third-row bench that, like the Grand Caravan's, folds into the floor. The vehicle boasts front and rear parking sensors to warn of obstacles, power-adjustable pedals with memory and a power liftgate. The engine is a 4.2-liter V-6, delivering 201 horsepower and 263 pound-feet of torque. A stability-control system, optional self-sealing tires and three-row rollover sensor system are among the safety features. Power sliding doors are standard. Maximum cargo space is 134 cubic feet. Price with destination fee: $29,995.
Lower priced but still not beating the Grand Caravan's sticker is the new 2004 Ford Freestar. The third row folds flat into covered floor wells, for 134.3 cubic feet of cargo space. An option is AdvanceTrac, which monitors throttle position, steering wheel angle, wheel speed, fishtailing and other vehicle-stabilizing factors. The Freestar has a safety canopy that inflates on all three seating rows in rollovers. The base engine is a 3.9-liter V-6 with 193 horsepower and 248 pound-feet of torque. Electronic add-ons include a compass, traction control, a home-automation remote control device, puddle lamps, message center and adjustable pedals. Price with destination fee: $24,460.
Editor and consultant Jill Amadio has been reporting on the automotive industry for 25 years.