By on September 26, 2010

Rachel Drummond is the Swagger Wagon mom, and I think she’s as cute as the proverbial button. Sorry. I really do. Her Sienna SE, on the other hand, doesn’t do much for me. It’s expensive, it’s not all that roomy, it doesn’t tow worth a darn, and it’s a Toyota minivan..

I only have one child, but that child might one day decide to try karting and/or some other van-friendly activity. This being Econoline Appreciation Weekend, I wonder if perhaps we can’t cook up a right-wheel-drive alternative to the ol’ Swagger Wagon. Say it with me: “I got the pride in my ride…”

A 2011 Toyota Sienna SE clocks in at a pretty reasonable $30,750 base price. Reasonable, I should say, for a used Bentley! Really? Thirty-one Gs base for a V6 minivan? The E-150 seven-seater is $30,450 with the 4.6L V-8 and $31,400 with the 5.4. Let’s choose that: it gives us 255 horsepower with 350 lb-ft of torque against the Sienna’s wimpy… um… 266 horsepower and 245 lb-ft of torque. Focus on the torque number. The Sienna weighs 4,465 pounds against the E-150’s 5,695. Just for the record, my Town Car weights 4,502 pounds.

The “Towing Prep” package for the Sienna boosts the rating to 3500 pounds. Gosh, that means you could tow a Crosley Hot Shot on a Featherlite open-deck trailer! The E-150’s tow package bumps us up to a nice, robust 10,000 pounds, which is enough to tow a Toyota Sienna SE in an enclosed double-car trailer with built-in air conditioning, tool racks, and dance floor.

When we add all the fun stuff to our Sienna, it ends up costing $34,980. The E-150 is $38,745. The Toyota has dual power sliding doors, while the Ford has a single sliding or clamshell side door, your choice. The Sienna SE has sporty leatherette, but the E-150 XLT has real leather seating. Both claim Bluetooth and USB connectivity, but anybody who has checked out the Toyota and Ford implementations of those two technologies will run screaming away from the Swagger Wagon. Also, the E-150 has full DVD navigation, something for which you’ll need to write two additional checks with Toyota: one for the nav system itself, and one for the Sienna Limited on which it’s a model-exclusive option.

What else would help us make the decision? The Toyota has a generally nicer interior, will be far easier to drive in all weather conditions but particularly in snow, and will get much better fuel mileage. In the short-term, it will retain more resale value. The purchase of a Sienna marks you as a respectable part of the neighborhood; driving an E-150 will cause people to whisper behind your back that you are working nights as a drywall contractor, attending a church where the Bible is read aloud without shame, or possibly both.

The E-150 will last just about forever. It requires less maintenance. It can be used as an actual van if required, and if you keep both of these vehicles for 250,000 miles you will find the Ford is worth something at resale time and the Toyota probably is not. Twenty years ago, it was well-accepted that suburban moms were competent to drive full-sized vans. Today’s E-150 is easier and more pleasant to steer than its 1990 counterpart but somehow we all now believe that a woman would kill everybody in the ZIP code if she had to operate a RWD-only truck.

Even among appreciators of Econolines, on a weekend where such appreciation is encouraged, I don’t think we can sell an E-150 to a Sienna mommy. Unless, that is, she isn’t really a Sienna mommy. Maybe she drives out to a rural cabin once a month. Maybe she’d like to tow a boat. Maybe she needs to load the cargo area with, say, 30 bags of cat litter, something which would bring a Sienna to its bumpstops but which the E-150 would accept with Econoline equanimity. In other words, if she’s an adventuresome mommy she might find the big Ford can do things for her that the Toyota can’t even consider accomplishing.

It’s something to think about. The Sienna may be a “Swagger Wagon”, but moms (or dads) who have a little bit of swagger in their lives might want to consider Ford’s ancient van before they pull the trigger on that default choice.

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47 Comments on “EAW: E-150 vs. Swagger Wagon...”


  • avatar
    HoldenSSVSE

    Here is another thing to consider.  The rather expensive Sienna in AWD form (the only minivan you can buy that way) gets worse MPG than an AWD GMC Acadia (I haven’t looked up 2011 MPG numbers if released, willing to be corrected)
     
    They are nice vans, I would even argue the best minivan available of the four makers still in the game (sorry, I just don’t consider the Mazda5 a “real” minivan).  A fully loaded Kia Sedona is just $34K, that’s a huge price gap from the Toyota, but most people walking into a Toyota showroom wouldn’t be caught dead looking at a Hyundai or a Kia (what a shame for them).  A fully loaded Odyssey is $41.5K (yikes, I had no freakin’ idea).  A loaded out T&C, also $41.5K.  Double yikes!!!
     
    Wow, maybe the E-150 isn’t that bad after all!!!

    • 0 avatar
      gslippy

      I just bought an 09 Sedona LX in April for $17k, with 18k miles on it.  That’s about the price of a new econobox.
       
      While I don’t need to tow 10,000 lbs, I did just tow a U-Haul and family of seven on a 6000-mile odyssey around the country without a sweat.
       
      There is NO WAY I’d pay $40k+ for a new minivan today.  One major problem with the E-150 is that it won’t fit inside most garages and the step-up is pretty high (being a truck).

    • 0 avatar
      mnm4ever

      @gslippy — You hit the nail on the head… no WAY I could pay $35k+ for a new minivan, no matter how many fancy options they stick in it.  They are just appliances, with terrible resale value.  Buy it cheap, use it, then get rid of it when you dont need it anymore!

  • avatar
    Robert.Walter

    But the E-150 (esp as depicted here) got so Ugly in the last few years … (And this comes from a guy who worked on the VN-58 launch team for the, then, all new 1992 Econoline – which I thought was a beautiful and innovative truck…)

    Is a two-tone Eddie Bauer Club Wagon still even available?  (next stop is the fmc web-site to check this out…)

    Apparently the Eddie Bauer package is no longer available on the E-series … and there appears to be nothing bearing the Club Wagon (Chateau) moniker either …

    There was a nice photo gallery with a couple of old time pics of early E-series at:
    http://www.fordvehicles.com/trucks/eseries/gallery/photos/

    Some comments about the pic gallery at the Ford site:
    – even as a kid, years ago, the front turn-signals (as like so many trucks of the day and even up into the ’70’ and ’80’s – esp on H.D. vehicles) shown on the old two-tone E-series amazed me as looking like an example of an oversight by the vehicle integrators/stylists (yes, I know the fender top-mount blinkers on the very-heavy F’s also allowed the driver to see the signal, but on something like the little E-series, I can’t imagine why these existed in such form.)
    – where are the head-restraints in the rear seats of the passenger version of the van? Guess FMVSS hasn’t mandated these (nor shoulder straps for seat center passengers either) yet…

    • 0 avatar
      NulloModo

      The Ford partnership with Eddie Bauer is kaput – no more Eddie Bauer variants of any vehicles.  While I don’t think you can get the factory two-tone paint anymore, you can get the ‘XLT Premium’ package which gives the E-150 most of the interior comforts of the old Chateau wagon.
      For the ultimate in luxury though, you need to go to a conversion van.  When I was younger my family would take a big driving tour through middle America and the deep south to visit relatives every summer.  I remember a couple years doing the trek in our Grand Marquis (maroon with red velour interior trim, natch) and then later years in our E-series conversion van.  Compared to the Grand Marquis (and probably anything else available at the time) the conversion van was the height of luxury.  two rows of plush captains chairs, shades you could pull down over the windows, AC vents over every seat (just like on an airplane!) and a TV (good old CRT of course) that had a VCR built in, what more could you want?

  • avatar
    Pete Kohalmi

    We have one kid now and hopefully a second one next year, we were thinking of a van too. Minivans are shockingly expensive, like stated in the article. But the E 150 is a beast. I was thinking of Ford’s new transit Connect. The “wagon” version comes with a second row seat and dual sliding doors with glass for about $22000. Only the wimpy 2.0L engine might be a deal-breaker.

    • 0 avatar
      stationwagon

      Unless you’re planning on having more than 4 kids all you need is a Chevy Impala with bench seats, but if you’re having only 3 or less you can shove them into any old sedan. I wouldn’t buy a CUV or van. Here some advice, don’t let you’re kids eat in the car, if you’re on a road trip stop and eat; on road trips lengthen your schedule by a couple of hours, so you can use the extra time as emergency time or time that mysteriously disappears in stops, that way you won’t be late.

    • 0 avatar
      jpcavanaugh

      Stationwagon:  Your plan only works for 3 children with no friends or relatives.  You will never carpool or drive a cubscout pack to a campsite or a soccar team to a game.  On your trips, you will have to pull over and get into the trunk everytime somebody needs something.  And you will have to settle a LOT of fights in the back seat.  Good luck.

    • 0 avatar
      th009

      For my parents, sedans worked just fine, even with three kids.  Fights were (I think!) minimal or at least manageable, and us kids had to take things we would need from the trunk at the stops — we didn’t make extra stops to get something from the back.
       
      I would bet few parents will actually transport entire cub scout packs or soccer teams in their minivans (or E-150s) — just like few people take their SUVs off the paved roads.

    • 0 avatar
      vww12

      «pull over and get into the trunk everytime somebody needs something»
      A properly equipped wagon or hatchback will have a barrier —typically a vertical net or metal mesh/grid— between the rearmost seats and the cargo compartment.  So unless there is a pass-thru built into the seat backs or between the seat backs, a stop is still required in order to safely access stuff in the trunk.

    • 0 avatar
      sastexan

      The thing most people forget vs. the “old days” is that new, modern car seats (mandated by law, not that you will find anyone advocating putting a toddler on a lap) are MASSIVE and kids under certain age/weight/height must be rear-facing.  In the vast majority of sedans, that means either the front passenger seat is all the way up, you have a really short driver, or the center seat is crowded.  With one kid, it isn’t a big deal.  When you get to two kids, however, the car seat situation becomes more of an issue.  And 3 kids – forget about it.
      And it really sucks when you have a grandparent or friend you want to ride with you but can’t due to the collection of car seats.
      Still, I haven’t succumbed to the so-called “need” of a van (the only MINIvan is a mazda 5 – the rest are full size vans).

    • 0 avatar
      mnm4ever

      There are always tons of other parents with minivans to drive the soccer teams around… why suffer??  You are on TTAC because you love cars, dont saddle yourself with a boring mom-mobile.  2 kids??  No way you need a van.  Get a nice wagon if you want utility, or even a hatchback is fine.  If you are REALLY concerned, the Mazda5 is an excellent choice, or even dare I say a small SUV like a CRV or RAV4 is more than enough.  When family comes, take 2 cars or rent a van if you have the money.

  • avatar
    OldandSlow

    Soccer moms and I’ll add many gents are not in the habit of checking their side mirrors while parking. The wheel base on the E-Series is longer than distance  between the front and rear bumpers on my small CUV.  The standard length E-Series is 18 feet long from bumper to bumper.  Simply put, it’s a pig to park – especially in a parking garage where support columns are strategically placed at the sides of your parking space.
     
    Now for towing, even with a 2,000 lb trailer,  I’ll take the body on frame, rear wheel drive,  E-Series hands down.

  • avatar
    Disaster

    $30,000 is “shockingly expensive” for a minivan?  I just don’t know anymore.  I was just following a thread on an internet forum where a guy has priced out a Mini for $28,000.  He said he also looked at a used Civic Si, with 30K for $19,000.  All of it seems expensive to me….or not…depending on what you compare it to.
     
    Here is a topic for a future article; “Best value vehicles.”  What SHOULD a subcompact cost?  What is a good value in a large sized family sedan?  I found the recent article, about the VW price drop, by Karesh, to be enlightening.  How much do people actually pay for their cars vs. the stickers that draw them in once they option them up?
     
    Color me confused.

    • 0 avatar
      HoldenSSVSE

      Actually, I would love to see a story by Karesh on the best used “value” vehicles.  What is the best you can get for say $3K, $5K, $7.5K, $10K and $15K.  That would be a great series of articles, and I would hope it would go beyond just what is reliable and add in the “it has soul” into the equation.  Sure, a 1993 Geo Metro is incredibly cheap to own, gets amazing MPG, can be fixed with duct tape, bailing wire and a hammer; and I wouldn’t be caught dead driving one.

    • 0 avatar
      Educator(of teachers)Dan

      Lang would be the better one to do that IMHO.

    • 0 avatar
      mnm4ever

      that Si seller was dreaming, those cars arent worth anywhere near that much used.  And dont forget the Mini is a premium brand, with premium priced options.  The base models are very well equipped for the price… $19k base, $23k for the S.  The dealers option the crap out of them to make more profit.

  • avatar
    IGB

    I considered this briefly once.
    The Econolines don’t necessarily fit in your garage.
    Most people expect a big wheelchair ramp to throttle out when the side door opens…if the bible stigma doesn’t bother you.
    The seats don’t fold any which way at all.
    The seating capacity isn’t any more in decked out trim, it just suits the more obese.
    For capacity sans plushness, the Sprinter is the way to go.
    For a typical family, it’s still Odyssey vs Sienna. Price be damned. Followed closely by Chrysler. The Koreans are still quite a bit behind.

    • 0 avatar
      fiasco

      We frequently haul two kiddos with car seats, stroller, big dog, and great grandmother. Our 04 Outback wasn’t doing the job (taking two cars waaaay too much), and it needed a year’s worth of car payments in maintenance/repairs as it was teetering near 100k miles with busted AC, an antifreeze leak that screamed head gaskets, dead shocks, dying clutch, and a check engine light that wasn’t going to get fixed for real without dropping the fuel tank. Time for a new ride.
      Tried new Subies, tried small SUVs/CUVs, they didn’t offer more space than what we had. Really, we were looking at minivan or Suburban, and no way was a ‘Burban in the cards.
      Odyssey and Sienna are top tier, but I’d go KIA, then Chrysler trailing in fourth. We couldn’t get over owning a KIA-pet, and the ChryCo vans just look awful, and look and feel cheaper than the KIA. Stow-n-Go is really their only redeeming feature. Briefly drove a KIA rental last year, and it wasn’t bad, they did a credible job ripping off the earlier Honda and Toyota, but their sticker price is so close to the primo brands, why would you buy it?
      Sienna had better ground clearance than the Odyssey. Budget dictated used AWD, but couldn’t find one that hadn’t hit everything but the lottery (that wasn’t more money than new FWD), so we bought a new 2011 FWD and are taking our chances with Hakka snows this winter. Should be OK, and if it’s not, the things don’t depreciate in the short term, so we won’t take much of a hit if we need to trade it.
      An Econoline won’t EVER fit in our garage, and probably won’t get up our dirt road in winter without a 4wd conversion. Having driven one as a rally service vehicle in Quebec in February, I can say Econolines (with bald hand-regrooved dry-rotted all-season tires) suck in snow. Great grandma wasn’t going to climb a ladder to get into an Econoline, either.
      Minivans are for hauling people, Econolines are for hauling carpentry tools. And the Sienna actually MOVES with the V6 and 6 speed auto (way faster than the Outback was), and gets 22-23 mpg with fairly lead-footed driving.
       

  • avatar
    john.fritz

    I had the opportunity to drive an E150 with the 5.4 up front. I’ve never set foot in the Toyota offering so I can’t compare the two. But I can say that the big E certainly got out of its own way rather easily when right foot met driver’s floor mat.
     
     

  • avatar
    JimC

    Fair enough points on both vehicles, but 5,695 lbs?  Wow.  Different customers want different things- I get that.  But with that kind of weight is it a familymobile or a dump truck?

  • avatar
    stationwagon

    An E-150’s only advantages is having cheaper options and with higher towing capability, but its disadvantages are its size and fuel efficiency and safety, I don’t know what kind of safety amenities it has but I doubt it has many, plus 15 passenger vans are at a high risk of rollover, and soccer moms aren’t the best drivers. I don’t know how many people are like me but, when I see a full-size van I think “rape van.”

  • avatar
    Educator(of teachers)Dan

    I actually like conversion vans as long distance luxury family haulers (interstate travel, vacations and the like) but I prefer the short wheelbase versions that GM and Chrysler cranked out until a few years ago.  Get one with a V6 or the smallest V8 available and they actually got ok fuel economy.   All while riding in captain chaired comfort.

  • avatar
    67dodgeman

    Silly Jack, if you have to tow, then you obviously need the F-350 crew cab extended wheel-base dually 4WD turbo diesel truck with the King Ranch package and monster 24″ rims. As a minimum. Tow with something other than a diesel truck? What the hell were you thinking? Oh, and don’t forget to chip the diesel, you know, cause you really need 600 hp out of that diesel.

    And I thought the original purpose of the full size vans was to avoid towing. You could throw the motorcycles, gas cans, tool boxes, ice chests, cots, chairs, dogs, hookers, etc. in back and take off. Yeah, the gas can fumes kinda made you light-headed, but that was what the beer was for, you know, to take the edge off.

  • avatar
    don1967

    Sienna, E-150… phhht!   A real middle-class Costco poseur drives nothing less than a Kenworth tractor trailer, festooned with perpetually-empty Yakima bike racks and Thule roof box.  And they are busy, busy, people… crazy busy.  Just ask them.
     
     
     

  • avatar
    jpcavanaugh

    Jack, you are on the right track.  In 1995, I asked these same questions.  The deal seemed to be the same as now:  Minivan vs. big van.  Equip them the same, and they cost the same.  The fuel mileage penalty is about 3 mpg.  I was fortunate that my wife had no problem wheeling the big van around.  She is also one who sees that “40% more for the same price” is a good deal in a van just like with laundry soap.
    I was never crazy about conversion vans.  Resale was not as good and I had questions about crashworthiness.  I preferred a factory passenger setup.  Looking new or late model used in 1995, there was only one choice:  Ford Club Wagon.  (I liked the Dodge, but it lacked a full complement of shoulder belts.  The old Chevy van – don’t get me started.)
    Our 94 Club Wagon Chateau was a fabulous family truckster.  It had 4 captian chairs and a rear bench that folded to a 3 cushion bed.  It seat 7 like the minivans, but it seated those 7 in comfort.  With only 6, it was limo-like with the glorious luxury of ROOM.  Plus, you could take 6 or 7 people PLUS all their gear.  My club wagon easily doubled the minvans in cargo room.  (Ditto vs. a Suburban).
    After 1996, these vehicles were never as nice (imho).  Minivan amenities have continued to evolve, but Ford pretty much stopped any development on passenger versions.  I think that you can still find the occasional version with the Chateau package, but they are hard to find.  I am currently driving a 99 Town & Country.  It is fine, but I don’t like it as well as I liked my Clubber.

  • avatar
    rudiger

    Despite all the advantages of choosing an E-150 over a Sienna, the American minivan consumer is not listening. Just ask Ford and GM back when their answer to the original Chrysler minivan was the Aerostar and Chevy Astro. Even Toyota, Honda, and Mazda all couldn’t get a viable competitor to market for decades. In the meantime, Chrysler cleaned-up in that  segment.

  • avatar

    I’ve put putting my three kids in a Protege5 since 2003. Sometimes a three-row vehicle would be preferable, though.

  • avatar
    AaronH

    Why does anyone watch TV…Don’t people get even a little intellectually insulted by it?
    It is like a bunch of 40 year old infantiles.

  • avatar
    Conslaw

    Oh Jack, you fell into the new parent trap of daring to imagine that your child will share your interests.  The odds are that Jack Jr. is going to want to play soccer with his friends.  You should be so lucky if your wife is ready willing and able to be a soccer mom, because otherwise it’s your job to be soccer dad.  But what about that towing ability?  The average person who budgets for $500-600 car payments can’t afford to run even go-carts on the weekends.  By afford, I mean really afford, that is, pay all the bills and save something for retirement AND college.  In fact, you’re probably going to be too busy cleaning the house and running errands on the weekend, oh yes, and going to soccer and little league games and building science fair projects and collapsing, to even consider taking a weekend trip on most weekends.
    In other words, welcome to parenting hell.  We saved you a seat.  It’s in the third row, but if you pull your knees up, you’ll be fine.

  • avatar

    Companies like Railcrew Xpress and Renzenberger use vans for crew transport.  This often requires hauling several large men and all their equipment over long highway distances, followed by treks over bad to non-existent access roads next to remote railroad sidings.  For years they’ve used Econolines, but lately they’ve been switching to a variety of minivans or CUVs (the last one I rode in was a Dodge Journey.)  The drivers say the minivans are easier to drive, ride better, and get better fuel economy, but they don’t hold up to the beatings these vehicles take around the railroad.  The Econolines are inferior in everything except cargo capacity and durability.  You just can’t kill them.

  • avatar
    Canuck129

    “it’s not all that roomy”

    ?????Yes it is…

  • avatar
    xyzzy

    Jack’s premise that since mommies drove full size vans in the 1970s and early 80’s they should do so now is off base.

    My parents had an E150 and my mom drove it fine.  She and my Dad built a lake house together and used the van heavily to move building supplies.  It took the family on many vacation road trips.    But those facts didn’t stop them from dumping the E150 and getting a Plymouth Voyager almost immediately when they came out, and not looking back.  Just because a mom can drive a heavy, ponderous, fuel-sucking vehicle from the 1970s doesn’t mean she wants to, or even should.

    You might as well say that we should all be driving the same thing we drove in the 1970s, after all we drove it then so we can drive it today.

  • avatar
    Hank

    The 80’s were a stream of Club Wagons and custom vans for our family.  Miss that 460 V8, two tanks, and cheap gas these days.

  • avatar
    ajla

    The E-150′s tow package bumps us up to a nice, robust 10,000 pounds,
     
    E-350 Triton V10 with a 4.10 axle maybe. The E-150 maxes out at 7000lbs.

    http://www.fordvehicles.com/trucks/eseries/specifications/towing/

  • avatar
    robert_h

    E150: Fuel economy: unrated by the EPA, but some googling reveals that you’re looking at around 13 mpg. Crash tests? Also missing in action. With a design dating to the early 90’s, crash performance is not likely to be state-of-the-art. No side air bags of any kind. Those are just a couple of the reasons why minivan buyers aren’t cross shopping this dinosaur.

    • 0 avatar

      Yes, but unless you’re plugged solidly in the side by a commercial truck or something lifted, most of the impact is going to be beneath your CG and hip point and mitigated by the van very likely bouncing up and off. Same with frontal impact… crush is -almost- good, because you could squeeze the lower nose back almost to the seat base without crushing your feet/ankles. It’s a little bit of a different game, somewhat like how the Jeep Wrangler soft-tops ended up scoring points (however distastefully to NHTSA/IIHS) in side impacts because the occupants sat too high to get whacked with C-pillar/door beams, and the head impact was mainly a hard swipe against a stretched plastic sheet window… or without the top, the test dummy would end up whanging their heads *way* out the window… into air, since a car hood was at hip level.

      Just don’t go ramming any bridge abutments or running lights in front of speeding Kenworths (or Joe with his F-350 on a 8″ lift kit and 33’s.)

      I recall seeing the results of a particularly nasty rear-end collision between something (it wasn’t there, or was hidden by workers/vehicles) and an advancing early 80’s Econoline. Firefighters were extracting the driver… pretty much without injury though, as we found out on the news later with some cuts and bruises on the lower extremities… only because when the nose collapsed it caught his feet under the pedal box and the doors were jammed shut. Thank goodness nothing caught fire though.

    • 0 avatar
      jpcavanaugh

      robert: my 94 E150 Chateau with a 5.8 and a 3.55 axle never went under 12 mpg in town and never went over 16 mpg on the highway until it was well north of 100K.  This led to about 14 mpg in all around suburban driving.  I figure that the newer Triton engine should be good for at least 1 more mpg, and a taller axle would help a lot.
      My 99 Chrysler Town & Country with a 3.3 has averaged 17.5 mpg according to the trip computer.  This is over 9000 miles in the last 6 months, which is a lot of highway.  You can get a lot of extra room and utility for that 2-3 mpg difference.
      You are probably right on crash tests, though.  You will have front airbags and 3 point belts all around, but this is about it.  But you are also up a lot higher than most other vehicles.  And it is a lot safer than about anything those of us over 50 grew up riding around in.

  • avatar
    grzydj

    A minivan seems like a lot of vehicle for having 1 child on board, even if you’re potentially hauling a bunch of stuff to a karting track in the distant future. An E-150 is way too much van for that.
    You could easily tow a little trailer with a kart on it with a decent Subaru wagon, or something similar and all your gear and still be able to have a decent handling car when you’re not towing.
    I know Toyota is the new in thing to hate on, but these vans aren’t too bad for what they are. All new minivans are expensive because they come so loaded with every gadget you can possibly imagine to distract your kids. None of that comes cheap.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      A minivan seems like a lot of vehicle for having 1 child on board

      It is, but even with one child the form factor is really appealing.  You get sliding doors (parking lots just got a lot easier), a high hip point (ever tried to get a recalcitrant kid into a carseat?), lots of glass area (interesting how a minivan can get away with thin roof pillars, huh?  I guess that rollover crush excuse really is a crock) and the ability to walk through the vehicle without getting out to, eg, tend to child (believe me, you don’t want to get out of a car to breastfeed a screaming newborn at -20C on a 120km/h highway).

      Go ahead, talk about how families should all drive BMW 3-Series wagons, or B-Body Roadmasters or suchlike.  Then go and actually have a kid or two and get back to me on how you like the door dents in the 325xi, or how mom has to climb over the front seats to get to the kid in the rear.

      If I had only one child, I would have bought a Mazda5.  I have two and might have one more, so we bought a Sienna.  It drives as easily as a Camry (where the E-Series drives like, well, like crap), has better sightlines the the Camry (and the E), gets, easily, twice the fuel economy of the E in the city and at least 30% better on the highway.  Yeah, it can’t tow and you can’t sell it to a vegetable store for $2500 at the end of 250,000 miles.  So what?  You’ll have had the benefit of not having spent a quarter-million miles in the second-worst three-row vehicle on the market (winner: the GM full-sizers).

      But if you must be contrarian in your family hauling, you could get a Transit or a Sprinter.  The former drives pretty well and holds a pile of stiff.  The latter drives ok, can tow and, unlike the other two domestic church buses, won’t kill you and your Dugganites when (not if, when) it rolls over in an accident. Yeah, they’re expensive. It’s because they’re not crap.

      Yeah, I’m being harsh. I used to drive E-Series vans whenever I had to make a service call to another branch at the company I worked for. That company made aftermarket truck bodies and it was cheaper to just send us with a truck to deliver rather than rent a car and pay a hauler. But driving an Econoline from Toronto either Regina or Moncton gave me a real appreciation for, oh, the Toyota Sienna.

  • avatar

    Yep she’s cute; the commercials got our attention.  We ended up buying a swagger wagon, though we bought the less expensive LE instead of the SE.  Still, our last two minivans were Odysseys, so getting us to switch to a Sienna is a big win for Toyota.  We made the switch because we like the van better, but the commercial is still where it all started.  Nice marketing job, Toyota.

    BTW, our kids are grown up and married, but as empty-nesters we still enjoy the minivan.  Some year in the future it will be nice for grandkids, too.

  • avatar
    slance66

    Friends of ours just ordered a loaded Sienna with AWD to replace their aging Odyssey.  Two kids, but it includes a DVD system with wireless headphones and captains chairs with leg rests like business class airline seats.  Add sliding doors and I see the appeal for some.
    Here’s where it falls down for me….it’s a barge and then some.  I can’t imagine getting something even bigger, as the Sienna is now huge.   There is nothing “mini” about it.  I really think there is a market for something closer in size to the original Chrysler products, at a lower price point and with better mileage.  Then again, that’s pretty much a Highlander or Venza or any number of other CUVs.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      I can’t imagine getting something even bigger, as the Sienna is now huge.   There is nothing “mini” about it.

      The Sienna has been about this same size since 2004.  The Oddy’s been this size since 2000, as have the long-wheelbase Chryslers and the WindFreeStar.  Minivans are actually quite efficient, not having gained nearly the mass and size most other cars have.

      I also question calling the Sienna a “barge”.  It’s actually pretty light on it’s feet and fairly maneuverable, thanks to a tight turning circle.  I’ve driven both the prior and current model and they don’t come across as massive vehicles at all.  The Odyssey does seem a bit larger, but that’s more to do with it’s suspension tuning (it “feels” less buttoned-down), while the Chryslers are somewhere between the two.

      All of them are less heavy-footed than their crossover cousins. I drove a Venza a while back and it certainly feels more massive than the Sienna. Ditto, say, the Flex or Traverse, and all for the same reason: the massive rims that make crossovers look oh-so-stylish make them drive terribly.

      I really think there is a market for something closer in size to the original Chrysler products

      That would be the Kia Rondo and Mazda5.  They’re not selling in the US, though they’re going like gangbusters in Canada.  People who want a three-row vehicle tend to want more space.

  • avatar
    Domestic Hearse

    Jack, you need to wait until Christmas, where under your tree you’ll find the all-new Nissan NV commercial series. Ugly, yes. Smart, absolutely.

    Based on the frame-on Titan truck chassis, and available as a tallboy with vertical sides, you can bolt in your parts racks and tool boxes. Long and wide enough for a bed on the floor, for those nights at the track when you fail to secure a hotel roommate from among the female drivers.

    You’ll find the engine out front, where it’s supposed to be, and not taking up your half your interior like the Econoline’s cabin doghouse.

    Someday, you can fit your son’s entire kart inside, along with tires and a spare engine. For now, you can tow your Boxster behind you quite handily. Then, put a Strat in your lap and your Blackface Twin ‘Verb on the fold down passenger seat table and jam your way to-and-fro across the nation.

  • avatar
    Slow_Joe_Crow

    If you want to go full monty, you can get a Quigley 4×4 conversion for around $11k extra and get a van that can go anywhere an F150 can go. There are a few in my area, mostly E-350s and about half are Sportsmobile campers.

  • avatar
    bomberpete

    Jack,
    There’s some truth in your argument about the value-per-pound of an E150 vs. a Sienna/Ody/Caravan, but there’s a world of difference not only in the way the Ford drives van but in how it PARKs. There are underground parking facilities where full-size vans simply won’t clear. The ride and steering is comparatively awful. I’ve spent enough time in E150s and E350s in the past few years to say they’re simply too too bulky and unpleasant for the kind of real-world use this kind of buyer now expects.
    Those who are happy driving a minivan rarely need more than 3,000-lbs. towing plus seven-passenger capacity. Those who need more are probably more drawn to the Suburban or Expedition XL, both for image and refinement.
    The thing that bothers me the most is that the minivan has evolved into a 4400-lb. monstrosity, overpriced with gadgets that will cost even more over the long haul. I really think in terms of reasonable power-to-weight and fuel economy ratios, we’ve been getting out of whack with everyday sedans, minivans and the like. It’s been getting especially bad since about 1995 when the automakers started putting 200+ hp V-6s in midsize cars, with subsequent weight and power increases. I hear Honda will address this with the next Accord. Good. These segments need exactly the kind of downsizing GM gave its fleet back in the Seventies, like last week’s Curbside Classic  https://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/curbside-classic-gms-greatest-hit-3-1979-chevrolet-caprice-classic/.

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