By on December 18, 2015

2015_Toyota_Sienna_SE_001

So I’m driving along the other day, and I get up behind this Toyota Sienna that looks like it has a body kit. And not just a body kit, but powder coated wheels, too. This thing looked like your standard airport rental Sienna had been turned over to the people in charge of making Hyundais appealing in their last model year before a redesign.

It turns out that this vehicle is available for order from your local Toyota dealer. It’s called the SE Premium, and Toyota pitches it as a minivan that offers “extra swagger” for your whole family, as if your whole minivan-owning family already has enough swagger to go around, but some extra couldn’t hurt.

While I was on the Toyota configurator looking this thing up, I reached another conclusion: Toyota is now selling a version of the Sienna with a starting price of $46,000 with shipping. And guess what? If you add optional all-wheel drive, along with all the accessories — including something called “deluxe ashtray cup” — you’ll be into this thing for almost fifty grand when you’re done.

Fifty grand for a minivan.

2016 Honda Odyssey Touring Elite

It’s the same story over at Honda, where they’re offering the Odyssey with a starting price of just over $30,000 — but if you want the Touring Elite, with all the nice features and the vacuum cleaner to clean up dog vomit, you’re paying $46,000 with shipping.

2013 Chrysler Town and Country

And what about Chrysler? Well, here’s the deal: the Town and Country starts around $30,000 with shipping, but when you go through all the options and trim levels you end up paying $42,000 for a “Limited Platinum” model. Fortunately, this figure decreases a bit when you factor in Chrysler incentives, such as Has a Job Discount ($1,000), and Current Vehicle Owner Incentive ($2,000), and Air-Breathing Human Special Offer ($4,000), and Has Never Murdered Spouse Deal ($5,150), and by the end of it, you’re paying $11,000 and they’re throwing in a free swimming pool basketball hoop.

Still, the point remains: minivans today are expensive.

But do you know what? People are buying them! Whenever I see an Odyssey on the road, it isn’t the base-level Odyssey LX with hubcaps and crank windows and optional doors. It’s the Touring Limited Platinum Desklamp, which features a built-in rear IMAX system and a super deluxe ashtray cup that makes Toyota’s deluxe ashtray cup look like a homeless person’s spittoon.

All this has me thinking: why don’t luxury brands make minivans?

MY2016 Mercedes-Benz Metris Passenger Van

I know what your response will be: Mercedes-Benz already does make a minivan. It’s called the Metris, and it’s clearly a minivan, so this whole thing is stupid.

Well, folks, here’s the deal: the Mercedes-Benz Metris is not the kind of thing you’d consider if you were buying a minivan, because it does not have any of the modern conveniences or safety features of a minivan — unless your primary consideration, when it comes to a minivan, is whether or not it has doors. (The Metris, it should be noted, does have doors.)

No, I mean a real minivan. Like, I think they should take an Acura badge, slap it on the Odyssey, change the styling a bit, and call it the MLX. They would start prices at something like $44,000 for a base model, and they would go up to $59,000 for a really nice one, and the best minivans on the market would have features like a built-in stroller and a partition that can – at the push of a button – separate you from your spawn. Is this not a brilliant idea?

Meanwhile, Lexus would come out with its own minivan, a Sienna-based vehicle called the MV 450h, and it would get 30 miles per gallon, and it would have amazing J.D. Power numbers, and it would have every feature you could every want, and it would still look like the grille is about to eat a lamppost. Prices would range from $42,000 to $58,000, and the top-end model would be a hybrid with quad-sliding doors and a built-in babysitter named Tamara, who comes standard with Enform if you pay an extra $80 per month.

Meanwhile, BMW would come out with its own minivan (the 5 Series Gran GRAN Turismo), and Infiniti would come out with its own minivan (the QX70, or maybe the Q70, or whatever), and Audi would come out with its own minivan that would pollute directly into your child’s mouth as you drive down the road.

OK, so maybe I’m getting carried away here, but I truly don’t understand why this doesn’t exist. We have luxury midsize SUVs. We have luxury full-size SUVs. We have luxury compact SUVs. We have luxury subcompact SUVs. We have luxury wagons, and luxury sedans, and luxury coupes, and luxury convertibles, and luxury Grand Sports Tourers, and luxury Sport Activity Vehicles, and luxury hatchbacks, and by God I think it’s time for the luxury minivan.

You may laugh now, but we’ll see who’s laughing when I’m cruising around in my Acura MLX Premium, using its standard indoor park system to walk the family dog. And the built-in vacuum cleaner to pick up after it.

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118 Comments on “Doug Drives: Luxury Car Companies Should Build Minivans...”


  • avatar
    VoGo

    Volvo has long been chided for not bringing a minivan to the US market. That would probably be the (near) luxury brand with the best fit with family safety.

    I like the idea of the Acura MLX, although I think MLF might be more appropriate…

    I am feeling pretty good about myself right now. It isn’t even 9AM, and I already used “chided” in a sentence.

  • avatar
    Chris Tonn

    The R63 didn’t do that well, IIRC. Otherwise, I’m down for buying a used lux minivan.

  • avatar
    energetik9

    No, please no. Minivans are the bane of my driving pleasure. Slow, hard to see around, and dangerous to park next to. Minivans are road obstacles that must be maneuvered through. I just don’t see how putting a luxury badge on it will change anything. Most people I know with money scoff at them…as they drive in their Mercedes GL, GLV or X5. They’re not going to step down to a lesser vehicle even if it has a nice badge.

    • 0 avatar
      iNeon

      Minivans are fast as hell.

    • 0 avatar
      Roberto Esponja

      I was gonna say. When’s the last time you drove a minivan?

    • 0 avatar
      Car Ramrod

      Really depends on your point of reference. The last 4 years in an Odyssey brought a lot more smiles to my face than the prior 5 in a Honda Pilot.

      For what’s it’s worth, the local private school dropoff line contains as many loaded Odysseys as GL450/550’s.

    • 0 avatar
      Sjalabais

      I own a 2002 Honda Stream minivan. It’s lower than the rest of the class, a bit longer, and there were sacrifices made to create a driving machine that also carries 7, instead of a 7-seater that can also corner. It’s a very enjoyable drive for what it is! And my kids love it when I make it “sound like a motorcycle” which, frankly, is necessary if you want the 1.7 litre engine to do its work with some excitement.

    • 0 avatar
      gearhead77

      Please, as though any SUV or CUV is any easier to see around than a van. And any vehicle is slow if the driver has no idea what they’re doing behind the wheel. I’ve surprised many faster cars in both minivans (Odyssey and Mazda 5) and only by paying attention!

    • 0 avatar

      “Slow, hard to see around, and dangerous to park next to. Minivans are road obstacles that must be maneuvered through.”

      How is this different from all the Lexus/Honda/Nissan CUVs that women make their husbands buy them?

      • 0 avatar
        Hank

        Easy: They are just as slow and less efficient, even harder to see around (or out of), and even more dangerous to park next to since their doors swing into yours. And since the soccer mom in the CUV is on the phone dissing the opponent team’s coach’s scrunchy, more dangerous to maneuver around at Nordstrom’s.

    • 0 avatar
      e30gator

      Our Nissan Quest can easily out-handle pretty much any pickup and most CUVs on the market and has the same 3.5 V6 as a Nissan 370Z, making it faster than most of them as well.

      Did I mention the ridiculous interior room, power everything, 2 LED TVs, sweet sound system, and rear panoramic sunroof?

      I drive down the road and scoff at the “look-at-mes” in their cramped Lexi and Mercs who deliberately overpaid for an inferior family vehicle because of a badge on the hood.

      • 0 avatar
        Hank

        This. No one who buys a CUV sat in the second row before purchase, nor did they even attempt the third. I had to ride 5 hours last week in the second row of a GMC Acadia, and all I could think was that I was so glad my wife chose the Odyssey. It’s comfortable in all three rows.

      • 0 avatar
        JMII

        My SIL has a Quest… we call it the Maxivan because its HUGE. The interior appears to be lifted directly from the Infiniti G37 – it clearly not standard Nissan low-grade bits.

    • 0 avatar
      Sigivald

      Minivans are not slow.

      Minivan *drivers* are slow.

      They’re just as slow if you put in a giant V8 or put them in a wagon or put them in an SUV.

      Same with parking – the problem is the operator, not the vehicle.

      (I put some time in on my parents ’99 Sienna V6.

      It was not slow, hard to maneuver, or any more difficult to park than anything else – 190 HP was more than enough for it to get out of its own way.

      It’s all in how you drive it.)

    • 0 avatar
      Omnifan

      Slow, hard to see around, etc. Sounds like you’re talking about our over infatuation with SUVs.

  • avatar
    RideHeight

    Love that private school Rapid Response Team deploying from the T&C.

  • avatar
    jeanbaptiste

    “I take my r63 to Carmax” -D.Demuro

  • avatar
    Spartan

    I’ve always wondered the same thing! I’d buy an Acura or a Volvo minivan, but I wouldn’t buy an Oddessy or a Sienna.

    Maybe they don’t exist for the same reason that luxury brsnded pickups don’t exist, but something tells me that a Lexus MV400h would sell like hot cakes.

    • 0 avatar
      Willyam

      I think you’re definitely on to something here referencing the great Luxury Pick’em-Up fail, although that was more of a victim of “I’m an everyday cowboy kind of guy, just a jeans-wearing dude in my…ahem…$55,217.98 work truck.”

      • 0 avatar

        Ordinary blue-collar badging gives the blue-collar guys and gals plausible deniability when it comes to their $50k+ pickup trucks.

        “See? We’re ordinary Joes and Janes who drive Ford/Chevy/RAM just like you”, all the while enjoying the luxury features of their Platinum/King Ranch/High Country/Longhorn trims.

  • avatar
    shifter25

    In Asia, the minivan is the new luxury car to own. Case in point, in Seoul this Kia Carnival (Sedona in the US) Hi-Limousine is your Platinum Extra Special edition: http://asiantopcar.blogspot.com/2015/01/kia-carnival-hi-limousine-look-more.html?m=1

    • 0 avatar
      Varezhka

      True, a vehicle of choice for a Japanese yakuza bosses are Toyota Alphards now.
      http://toyota.jp/alphard/

    • 0 avatar
      silverkris

      In Hong Kong, celebs and tycoons will tool around in (chauffeur-driven) minivans like the Toyota Alphard.

      Why not? They’re comfortable, you can step in and out of them upright, and carry a lot more people, than say, a Merc S-class, and don’t look as pretentious (though that’s not really a big problem in status-conscious HK).

    • 0 avatar
      TMA1

      Yup, if you see a van with tinted windows in Korea, there’s probably a celebrity inside.

  • avatar
    Varezhka

    I know it’s a bit off from the point Doug is trying to make, but if it means we might see something unique and weird like Renault Avantime, I’m all for it.

    Anyways, I think we just need to wait for another generation or two before a company comes up with an “innovating sliding door system” in their latest CUVs.

    • 0 avatar
      baconator

      This sounds right. You can’t take a minivan and slap a luxury badge on it, but you can take a luxury CUV and give it a sliding door and a low load floor – then market the hell out of its “brilliant engineering.”

      Personally I loved the R-Class – I’m a sucker for a good interior, and the R-class was nicer than the E-class in those model years.

  • avatar
    RideHeight

    How many affluent couples have enough kids to need a minivan? They’re probably affluent because they’re smart.

    • 0 avatar
      smartascii

      I’d add that those affluent couples who do have enough offspring to need a minivan probably aren’t all that driven by image. And ultimately, that’s what luxury brands have become at this point: image. I’ve driven dozens of cars in my search for a replacement for my 2011 3-series, and it seems to me that the so-called luxury brands aren’t really any better than the mainstream ones, with the exception of a few $90k+ offerings at the top end. If I do wind up with another European car, it’ll be because I can get AWD + manual transmission from them, not because the actual car is any better than a Ford or Toyota.

      • 0 avatar
        krhodes1

        Show me an affluent couple with enough kids to need a minivan and dollars to donuts they own a Suburban, Navigator, Escalade or a Mercedes GL. A loaded minivan would be better at schlepping people than those, but would not have the right image among the yummy/mummy set.

        Their are exceptions – my wealthiest friends had a succession of Chrysler vans dating right back to a first year fake plywood encrusted 4cyl-3spd ’84. 4-5 in total, right up to a couple years ago. But they also had two MGs, a Jaguar, Range Rovers, and a couple VW TDI wagons alongside the Chryslers. They used the vans for hauling people, as they are intended. They have a private island they were always shuttling hoards of people to and from. Now that the kids are grown with their own kids, they have a Q5 TDI and a Volvo XC60, and everyone else goes separately.

        But true to stereotype, my extremely well paid buddy with two kids and wife, who has sundry relatives and inlaws visiting from the old country pretty much year ’round (they are Hungarian) has a wife who simply WILL NOT under any circumstances even consider driving a minivan, even though it would fit their needs perfectly. So she drives a Mercedes GL. Though to their credit, it is a diesel and gets really decent mileage for such a beast, far better than a van would. But nothing like the seating comfort in the back two rows.

        I think it is a generational thing. My first friends were around my age now when they started buying minivans. Many people my age won’t consider them because of image, and they can get by with an SUV, even though it costs more and is less useful. But it has the right image.

        • 0 avatar
          Mandalorian

          It is definitely cyclical in regards to generation: Wagon, Van, SUV…repeat.

          I would also argue that usefulness is more on an individual metric, everyone lives a different life and has somewhat different needs.

  • avatar
    Speed3

    I totally want an Odyssey Si. Drop in the 3.5 V6 from the NSX. Bam!

  • avatar
    Land Ark

    The people buying these $50k vans are the same people who are shocked when they find out a Chevy SS costs $45k.

    • 0 avatar
      Car Ramrod

      Ouch, too close to home. Seriously though, it’s harder to justify spending that coin on the “around town” vehicle than the family trip vehicle

      • 0 avatar
        Land Ark

        Oh yeah, I agree it’s so much easier to justify.
        I mean, if I needed a large vehicle for carting kids and their accoutrements around I’d get a minivan.
        And if I were in the position to buy a loaded up one, I probably would.

    • 0 avatar

      I was thinking the EXACT same thing. I’ll take the SS, thankew.

      • 0 avatar
        gearhead77

        And then cringe every time junior or sissy opens those doors into a parked car or wall? Or accidentally spills something or gets sick on the Alcantara interior inserts?

        The right tool for the right job. Minivans are the best for little kids. When they’re old enough to truly understand why you don’t fling the car door open( so many times saying the same thing) and can get into their seats and buckled in by themselves, then SS.

        • 0 avatar
          Drzhivago138

          I’m proud of the fact that I never spilled anything worse than water in any of our vehicles. Of course, I made up for it with carsickness at the drop of a hat.

        • 0 avatar
          Land Ark

          I’m not suggesting people with kids should buy an SS.
          My point was that the cost of one person’s tool can seem outrageous to the other despite paying the same price for their tool.

          • 0 avatar
            krhodes1

            I think you are spot on. Realistically, the price of a nice anything with wheels these days starts around $40K. Be it car, truck, or van, if you want all the toys that is the price of entry.

  • avatar
    Sjalabais

    I’d like a Toyota Probox that shines.

  • avatar
    Car Ramrod

    I think I remember spy shots of a heavily clad potential Acura minivan some time around 2013. Looks like nothing became of that.

  • avatar
    wmba

    This is an obviously silly question. If there was any real money to be made in a luxobarge minivan, BMW would have already been making it. They know niches like the little Dutch boy knew how to plug a leaking dyke.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      They already do, they just don’t sell it in the US. 2-series Active Tourer. Lots of luxury minivans elsewhere, but in the US people want Ess-u-veees to haul little Billy and Sally around in. And you can slap an even higher price tag on a luxo-SUV that costs no more to make. Profit!

      • 0 avatar
        Sigivald

        How is the 2 series AT not … “a small SUV”, anyway?

        Or rather a “CUV” like the X1, built on the same platform?

        The BMW international page doesn’t make it look like “a minivan” in any way meaningful to me, or radically different from the X1.

        • 0 avatar
          krhodes1

          It’s MUCH taller than an X1, and bigger inside. It is basically a German Mazda5, and a premium take on the very popular in Europe tall wagon/minivan. And it is what I would actually call a “minivan” – what are sold in the US are just plain VANS at this point, as there is nothing mini about them.

          I’m kind of ambivalent about sliding doors. The larger opening is nice, but they tend to be mechanically problematical.

    • 0 avatar
      RHD

      Good to see that the little Dutch boy has grown up and is getting into a bit of mischief.

  • avatar
    Steven Lang

    A few reasons.

    First, it’s hard to justify a new offering in a market segment that has been in a perpetual decline for the last 15 years. I highlighted this issue at another place recently (Autoblog), but the declining audience for minivans is the main reason why only six companies will be producing these vehicles in 2016.

    Second, badge engineering doesn’t work out particularly well in the minivan market unless you have high enough volume to cannibalize a healthy portion of your current sales. The economics of making an upscale minivan work aren’t particularly strong at this point.

    Finally Doug, luxury automakers are more concerned about image than you or me. Well, maybe just me. But seriously, could you imagine Porsche doing this? Everyone and their mother has made a mention of an Acura or Lexus minivan, but both those brands are trying to become a bit more sporty and youthful, which means the minivan isn’t a good fit at the moment. The only brand that could probably make a go of it is Mercedes, and their recent failings with the R-Class would make minivans a non-starter.

    • 0 avatar
      e30gator

      I could imagine Porsche building a lawn tractor at this point.

      Minivans, and station wagons before that, were once a staple of every upper middle class neighborhood in the US. Is it too far-fetched to think that if done right, a company like Lexus (which sells front drive Camry variants like hotcakes and already has a solid platform available) could make minivans desirable again?

      • 0 avatar
        Willyam

        “I could imagine Porsche building a lawn tractor at this point.” GRIN!

        Yep, there are some pretty beat-down Porsche SUV’s in my company parking lot today. They serve the same purpose as the Durango and 4Runner on either side of them. Sad fact.

        Of all the possible players, I can most imagine a Lexus VX350 with that charcoal leather they do, and maybe a slightly less portly Sienna body and the kind of sound-deadening they do in the RX series (if you’ve driven one it’s almost creepy). A common minivan complaint is road noise and booming. That would sell.

    • 0 avatar
      Land Ark

      So basically minivans and full size pickups have the same value scale.
      Meaning no limit to what you can add to a Ford but the minute you put a Lincoln badge on it, it flops.

      (except in my example, Ford doesn’t make a minivan, per se)

      • 0 avatar
        bball40dtw

        Unminivan wagon thing. Towards the end of it’s run, they called the Freestar a wagon too. I was looking at Ford’s tow ratings document from 2007 and it was listed as “Freestar Wagon”.

      • 0 avatar
        gearhead77

        The truck market is fiercely loyal and weird. The Blackwood was before it’s time and not well executed. 65k+ for the top of the line full size trucks that very few folks really need is common. Most every Silverado on the Chevy dealers lot last night carried a sticker around 40-45k.

        I’m sure slapping a Lincoln or Cadillac badge on that very same truck(and charging another 10k) would “sissify” it to undesirable status in many truck heavy locations. You think you’re better than me, Lincoln MXF150?

  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    Well, honestly, back in the mid-2000s, if you purchased a Sienna, you were getting Lexus quality and materials. The only thing it didn’t have was a set of real wood veneers. The new Sienna? Not so much. So maybe a luxury minivan is warranted.

    • 0 avatar
      kosmo

      Wow, having owned both versions, I think I’m qualified to disagree.

      The old version doesn’t compare well at all to the new one.

      Except it got a bit better mileage.

    • 0 avatar
      Quentin

      While I consider the ’11ish Sienna and ’09 Venza the low point of Toyota car interiors, the refresh last year in the Sienna did a lot of favors. I was in an XLE trim for a trip and was thoroughly impressed.

      • 0 avatar
        Kyree S. Williams

        Good point, both of you. I haven’t seen the inside of the refreshed one (except on “Modern Family”, wherein one of the neurotic main characters drives one as part of an apparent Toyota sponsorship of the show), but the pre-facelift version of the current one was horrid.

  • avatar
    gearhead77

    I’d like a Metris to replace the Odyssey in a few years, but there’s still too much Sprinter in the lines that the wife won’t want it. The Odyssey serves our needs well, the Sienna was very close and the 2015 redo of the Sienna fixed a lot of my complaints according to many reviews I’ve seen. I’ll be very interested to see the next Chrysler too and our Honda lease should be up then.

    Rather than luxury vans, why not hybrid vans? It’s not like weight is truly a concern and the hybrid system would help move these things off the line easier.Make a hybrid available, as diesel in the US is back to being unloved thanks to VW. Come to think of it, why doesn’t VW offer a van here from Europe? And in the off chance the Microbus comes to life, it needs to have sliding doors.

  • avatar
    bball40dtw

    I’m just over here wanting a Transit Connect RS. Keep the luxury badges, I want to drift my minivan.

  • avatar
    Scottie

    Qx70 already exists, it’s the old fx.

    But I don’t see many getting a luxury minivan when for that price they can get a full size suv which holds similar people in the same comfort. And why not go all in and get a full size conversion van and really live it up. They used to do minivan conversion vans.

  • avatar
    linard76

    Doug,

    Mercedes does make a luxury passenger focused version of the Metris for other parts of the world called the V class. The top end model is the V250 BlueTec with 4matic.

    Think of it, a full-sized diesel van with permanent all wheel drive and available with the full suite of their safety and semi-autonomous driving options. The interior is basically lifted from the C class and is pretty opulent.

  • avatar
    olddavid

    Every time I read the writing with this byline I reach for the phone and ask my primary care physician if I really passed my Alzheimer’s test? He says that doing the same thing while expecting a different outcome is one of the first signs. Maybe it’s just me. I didn’t get the Sofa King jokes until my 12 year old nephew explained them to me, either.

  • avatar
    alawat

    As the happy owner of a Sienna filled with 4 car-seats, there are some days that push-button partition option would be so nice.
    Maybe my tastes are simple, but my 2008 XLE trim with leather seats, privacy shades that retract into the window and 3 zone auto temperature control feels like all the luxury I can handle.

  • avatar
    Steve_S

    While I agree with you they should many luxury buyers are style conscious and mini-vans aren’t stylish.

    MB also tried this with the R-Class and it was a bust. People are buying CUV’s in droves and their are healthy margins on them.

    I do agree that a mini-van makes more sense than an X6 so anything is possible.

  • avatar
    Pch101

    As is the case with pickups, this is a segment in which luxury branding would generally be a turn-off to the target consumer in the US. Minivan buyers like to think of themselves as family people, and the luxury badging would just come off as excessive for most of them. As is the case with trucks, higher trim levels for mainstream badges would be a better idea.

    I presume that this would be different in China, where minivans are used to cart around the affluent.

    • 0 avatar
      gearhead77

      I like my “luxury”, I just don’t want to pay more for it than I have to. Our ’14 Odyssey EX-L has leather, moonroof, a decent ICE (although the touchsceen system isn’t the best) and every door besides the front doors are powered. We didn’t opt for the TVs this time, but maybe the next. We limit the screen time to long journeys, which is once or twice a year. And the “strap it to the seatback” DVD system we have is a bit cumbersome.

      I know the trimmings, NVH and leather in a luxury brand would be better quality, but 35k for a nicely equipped family vehicle is fine for most of us folks.

      • 0 avatar
        Willyam

        gearhead77, us too. I didn’t go in to get an EX, but the 2014 close-out was just too good. I did hold out for the “Entertainment” package as I have a toddler. A half hour of zombie induced state to a DVD can be a real blessing on a long trip. They tried to sell me the GPS model at an even more ridiculous discount, but I knew the bump in resale would be worth it in a few years.

        I kind of appreciate the fact that those eyeballing our cabin or hotel room with a van out front don’t necessarily see the dollar signs the way they would with a Range Rover.

    • 0 avatar
      Big Al from Oz

      Actually Pch101,
      Vans are used in the EU and many other OECD economies to “cart around” the affluent.

      I thought you would of known this, being such a worldly person.

      • 0 avatar
        bball40dtw

        Well he was specifically talking about the target consumer in the US. So I don’t know what your beef is.

        • 0 avatar
          Big Al from Oz

          bball,
          Actually, the comment I have directed at Pch101 is serious.

          This guy denegrates anyone who doesn’t support his views, which are extremely US centric. He sprouts on as if he is the know it all on global vehicles and the auto manufacturing sector and yet he doesn’t know what the global people mover market is?

          Please, get on your bike bball.

        • 0 avatar
          Pch101

          Just scroll past BAFO the Blowhard. Between his lack of reading comprehension and his poor grasp of facts, there is no reason to waste your time.

  • avatar
    DenverMike

    Minivans are strictly tools. The line gets blurred with pickup trucks, as tools, but no one buys a minivan because the want to, they need to. Mid-level trim/luxury is about the limit for “tools”.

    Or how about a chromed out, designer gold-plated jack hammer, air-compressor or generator?

    • 0 avatar
      Big Al from Oz

      I do think pickups come up in the same category as vans for need/want and purchase.

      • 0 avatar
        DenverMike

        The difference is there’s not a “lifestyle” minivan buyer. When you don’t need a minivan, they won’t even cross your mind when shopping for a new ride.

        Lifestyle buyers may actually want to step up to the prestige of a luxury marque/brand, not those buyers looking for and needing a tool or purposeful vehicle.

        Minivans get rode hard and put away wet. Wet as in spilled foods and beverages of all sorts, or worse. Urine, vomit, or worse again. Some smells won’t come out. Shame to do that to a luxury car anyway.

        That’s not to say minivan owners/buyers may not be thinking about a luxury brand/marque once the kids are on their own, or not allow in.

  • avatar
    Mandalorian

    Aren’t we forgetting the Oldsmobile Silhouette: “The Cadillac of Minivans”. What about the Mercury Villager?

    Honestly, that’s as close as were gonna get. A minivan is like a pickup truck, load up an F150 to Rolls-Royce levels and they’ll fly off the shelves, but slap a Lincoln sticker on and 12 people will buy it.

    Also, don’t be so quick to forget the influence of the loaded Suburban. It’s been a family staple for generations for a reason.

    • 0 avatar
      DenverMike

      “Oldsmobile Silhouette: “The Cadillac of Minivans”

      Great movie btw.

      But is a “badge” all we’re talking about? Or actual *Luxury*? I get all confused with base German luxury-cars with vinyl seats, simple CDmp3, and 16″ wheels.

      • 0 avatar
        Willyam

        True (as an owner, I must agree).

        The ‘perceived’ value of a $45k German sedan is much higher than a $45k Sienna, even though the Sienna’s resale and reliability will be better long-term. But you would never buy a luxury badge to use this way.

        The folks who dig honey-nut Cheerios out of the seat tracks could not imagine doing that in something from Bavaria, even though the pricing is equivalent.

      • 0 avatar
        Big Al from Oz

        A prestige or luxury vehicle is designed as such from the ground up.

        Like the pickup, vans are a great value adding mechanism.

        Suspension tuning, Bling and leather doesn’t equate to luxury or prestige.

  • avatar
    Luke42

    Since I already own a minivan, buying a luxury crossover (like the BMW X5) would be a downgrade. If they want to sell me a luxury car, the only way they’d have a chance is with a minivan.

    But, I’m practical enough to own a minivan, so I’m not an easy mark. I’m not trying to impress anybody, and rrading practicality for “luxury” (and paying more) would be a poor choice for me,l. I’m not willing to make compromises in order to show everyone that I have a roundel, so I see why they don’t invest the cash necessary to serve my kind.

    I see the value in paying extra for measurable quality, and/or something tangible that I can’t get elsewhere
    For instance, I would pay extra for a van that would be expected to be reliable and easy to maintain over 20 years. I would pay luxury car prices for an electric minivan with a 200-mile range, though. Leather seats and woodgrain would be fine, too, if they won’t be damaged by car seats and spitup from our two young kids (with more to follow, if we’re lucky).

    I’m already in the 6 figure demographic, and my wife has mostly finished her PHD — so we’ll definitely in the “successful” demographic. But, the best car on the market for us really is a $45k minivan, with maybe some super-high-end competition from the Tesla Model X at 2-3x the price.

  • avatar
    NN

    Hilarious writing, but this is exactly where the market has been going.

    Go to Hong Kong or Tokyo and you’ll see the Asians are on point with minivans. They have a Toyota Estima (modern Previa) hybrid that looks sharp and I’m sure gets great mileage. Toyota, Nissan, Honda and Mazda all provide high-end minivans that look very sharp and are used as executive transport vehicles similar to how you see Escalades used here. In mainland China the Buick minivan rules the roost.

    In the US, the Nissan Quest LE is the closest thing that comes to this, because it is a JDM model in the first place. The high end Sienna and Odyssey are similar but very Americanized (with hyper-cheap plastic interiors, seats that fold 30 different ways, a thousand cupholders and vacuums). In contrast, the Quest isn’t as versatile, but the seats are deep and plush Lazy-boy style, and the interior is Infiniti-quality. I wrote about it on this site last year, the Quest LE is what we went with, we love it and it really could be an Infiniti. They would need to position it as such, however…in other words, don’t market it to the kids and cereal and dogs and vacuums commercial…market it as executive transport, first class traveling, etc. and the families will buy it anyway.

  • avatar
    PentastarPride

    The Town & Country is good enough to get noticed by Hilary Clinton to shuttle her on her campaign trips (sadly).

    She should have went with the pudgy, gaudy Toyota Sienna. It is very fitting.

  • avatar
    balreadysaid

    Rear drive aerostar a with the auto part delivery package…

    What’s luxury?

    I say buy a dual rear wheel Ford transit diesel. Put a hot tub over the rear axle, add in some bikini clad chicks,maybe bolt in 2 lazy boy recliners and viola! Luxury in a can…

    • 0 avatar
      gearhead77

      I’d buy an updated Aerostar in a minute and I’m sure many would. Those and the Astro/Safari twins had quite a following. I had a cheapie Aerostar for about a year or two and it was a good van. I came to appreciate the ride and balance of RWD over FWD again. Until the transmission failed, but it was fairly cheap to replace ( van was a 93 with 69k). But soon I gave up on that job and didn’t need it, so we used it as a down payment on an Accord.

      I just did an Autocheck search because I was looking at used cars, it’s still out there.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    Meh, ask Kia how many of the LOADED Sedona Minivans with reclining seats etc they are actually selling?

    And does Chrysler break down the listing of what trims of T&C sell the best?

  • avatar
    cdotson

    My wife pilots the family Odyssey and she’s been saying for years that someone needs to offer the “limo partition” just to reduce the loud children distraction factor.

    I like the Metris, and in fact only ever noticed it because my wife saw one and said “I’d like a Sprinter someday,” at which I scoffed the pricing only to be shocked how affordable it was. Then I stepped back and realized it was only a 3/4 scale Sprinter. The bring something unique to the minivan market that would bring more success to almost any other automaker, and that’s the ability to move 7 to 8 people and tow almost 5000 lbs for $30k purchase price. The next highest tow rating in minivans is 3600 lbs. Want to tow 5k and haul 7 people? Pop for a $40k+ AWD Pilot or Explorer. Since my wife wants to get into camping and our Ody has crested 180k miles I’ve been thinking about such things. All the pop-ups she wants come closer to the towing capacity limit of 3500lbs typical of minivans than I am comfortable using over the long term.

    Mercedes is intentionally discouraging private owners from considering a Metris as a passenger wagon. They’re courting fleets and cargo van users. From an outside perspective minivan buyers are anti-badgewhores. People who normally wouldn’t mind a utilitarian minivan and see the value of the vehicle the Metris is are awfully gun-shy about the prospect of purchasing anything with a three-pointed star on the grille. It seems also MB doesn’t want to present a utilitarian feel to private buyers with whom they’d rather foster a MB=S-class correlation than MB=Euro Taxi. As such they’ve gutted the interior. Maybe that’s the only way they can hit the pricing they have, but if any other automaker built a $30k 8-passenger 5000lb towing capacity vehicle with sliding doors I’d be on it like ugly on an ape.

  • avatar
    Russycle

    Simple. The minivan is the anti-halo car, nobody wants to be associated with it. The fact that there’s a cajillion SUVs and CUVs available and, what, 4 models of minivan, is a clue. It’s silly of course, minivans are superior in many ways, but we’re a silly species. People buy luxury cars for prestige as much as luxury, and minivans don’t check that box.

  • avatar

    Very good article, written well.
    Lancia sold a luxury MPV called the Phaedra. It was swish. I advised my cousin to buy one. He loved it.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    Mercedes thought a luxury minivan (or something like it) was a good idea too.

    Then they introduced the R-class.

    And they don’t think it’s a good idea anymore.

    (But damned if I wouldn’t love a R63 AMG – the mommy-mobile from HELL)

  • avatar
    akatsuki

    The R-class shouldn’t be brought into the equation – it was too small to really count. A mid-sized minivan isn’t where the market is. The full-size minivan market is a different story.

    As is, I am driving around in a T&C that I like but if Acura or Lexus released a version of the base minivan, I’d snap it up in a second – fully loaded. What do I want? Way more sound-deadening. Better suspension in the rear so rear occupants aren’t jostled. Better climate control in the rear. Not including shit tires right from the beginning.

    The minivan and family segment has been stagnant for a while. Why don’t more cars come with flip down boosters built in? Or even better yet – a better baby/child seat system period than LATCH which is crap and messes up your leather. The media systems have crappy screens that don’t even match an iPad. Third row accessibility is crap – I don’t care if it requires more bracing, add third doors to each side so I can get my kids in there. Then you can have a bench on each row and really cram the kids in there. And since it is a luxury car, you can just add more power to deal with it. The turn radius also sucks in all of them, give me 4 wheel steering. Active suspension and yaw control to control the wallowing nature. The Honda vacuum seems like a good idea until you realize you can get a much better Dyson handheld for cheaper – so that was not really worth it. How about getting rid of all the crannies that shit hides in so it is easier to vacuum out? How about sunroofs for the rear occupants so they can occupy themselves instead of bothering me while I am driving – maybe LR Disco wrap-around style?

    Anyway, I could rant more… a lot more, but whatever.

  • avatar
    Big Al from Oz

    Doug DeMuro,
    Mercedes Benz has the V Class, these are luxury vans. I do believe they are still based on the Vito commerical van platform.

    To me this is just a value adding exercise and not a true luxury van. MB will attempt to market it as such, though.

    http://www.caradvice.com.au/353858/2015-mercedes-benz-v-class-pricing-and-specifications/

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    “Air-Breathing Human Special Offer ($4,000)”

    This is so discriminatory against robots.

    • 0 avatar
      bball40dtw

      Because of your post, in my head, I read Al’s post above yours, as a robot. I think I’m going to read all of his posts in that voice now. Almost like a robot spam dialer that wants to sell me a automotive warranty, home security system, or lower my FHA mortgage rate.

      Me: Al, are you a person?

      Al: Of course I am a hu-man person.

      • 0 avatar
        Big Al from Oz

        bball,
        Again, it appears the only people who do respond are the US centric types.

        I really don’t care what you think, I write what I consider the truth to be.

        I don’t sit and blow wind up anyone’s ass regarding any favourite brand, like you do with your allegiance toward FoMoCo.

        I don’t have any allegiance towards any country that manufacturers automobiles. All countries have good and the bad. Motor vehicles are appliances that we use in our daily lives. Why? Because we can.

        • 0 avatar
          bball40dtw

          You still sound like an auto dialer sales call. I don’t need a home security system. Thanks though.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            Greetings, friends. Do you wish to look as happy as me? Well, you’ve got the power inside you right now. So, use it, and send one dollar to Happy Dude, 742 Evergreen Terrace, Springfield. Don’t delay, eternal happiness is just a dollar away.

          • 0 avatar
            gearhead77

            Thank you, 28 cars, for the Simpsons reference.

  • avatar
    bpscarguy

    Great article. As the owner of a minivan that both my wife and I feel falls into this category, I feel compelled to comment. We own a Town & Country. It is her car but I drive it very frequently. I just asked her if she feels like our van is luxurious. She said without hesitation, “Absolutely, of course.” She calls it her spaceship, and there is “a button for everything”. We have the Touring L model that someone decided to option up to a Limited level option by option. When we decided to get a van, we decided we were going to get one with EVERYTHING. It literally has every option except a sunroof. I have the original sticker. Power everything, nice wheels, heated seats all around, heated steering wheel, nav, fold down video screens, stow and go, parking control, blind spot, chrome mirrors, adjustable pedals, remote start, window shades, it goes on and on and on. $40K van. We got it with only a handful of miles on it – under a year old. We have two kids and it is a comfortable, trusty companion that makes life easier and pampers us in the process. We have several friends that have suvs/cuvs and all who ride in our T&C or pay even the slightest bit of attention to our T&C have questioned us about it and they all seem to doubt their purchase decision afterwards. That makes me feel good. Especially since we got an amazing deal. There is a stigma about vans, but I for one think if people gave them a chance more would buy. And I know for me, I very much believe there is a luxury market vans-currently served by the top trim levels of all – but it could probably expand by a manufacturer or two.

    • 0 avatar
      gearhead77

      We looked at T&C. The moonroof is a very elusive, even on the Limited trim. It’s one of the reasons we went with the Honda. EX-L with or without entertainment, but Honda always gives you a moonroof on EX and up trim.

      • 0 avatar
        highdesertcat

        I think the Honda may have been the better choice. When my son and his wife looked to replace their first Odyssey, they ended up buying another new Odyssey. Maybe old habits…., maybe the good prior experience. Maybe the retained value at trade-in time.

        Our contractor-mailman started with a minivan from ChryCo a long time ago, but these days he has four minivans he can choose from to do his daily rural-route mail delivery, and none of them are Chrysler or Dodge.

  • avatar
    kosmo

    Oddly enough, I used to say I’d buy a BMW or Volvo minivan the day they offered one, but the longer I own Sienna AWD Ski-Mobiles, the more I realize they are the perfect price point to use the living crap out of, without ever a worry.

    And where I live, selling a used one takes about 10 minutes.

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