Doug Drives: Luxury Car Companies Should Build Minivans

Doug DeMuro
by Doug DeMuro
doug drives luxury car companies should build minivans

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.

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.

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?

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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5 of 118 comments
  • Bpscarguy Bpscarguy on Dec 18, 2015

    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.

    • See 1 previous
    • Highdesertcat Highdesertcat on Dec 18, 2015

      @gearhead77 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.

  • Kosmo Kosmo on Dec 22, 2015

    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.

  • Ollicat I have a Spyder. The belt will last for many years or 60,000-80,000 miles. Not really a worry.
  • Redapple2 Cadillac and racing. Boy those 2 go together dont they? What a joke. Up there with opening a coffee shop in NYC. EvilGM be clowning. Again.
  • Jbltg Rear bench seat does not match the front buckets. What's up?
  • Theflyersfan The two Louisville truck plants are still operating, but not sure for how much longer. I have a couple of friends who work at a manufacturing company in town that makes cooling systems for the trucks built here. And they are on pins and needles wondering if or when they get the call to not go back to work because there are no trucks being made. That's what drives me up the wall with these strikes. The auto workers still get a minimum amount of pay even while striking, but the massive support staff that builds components, staffs temp workers, runs the logistics, etc, ends up with nothing except the bare hope that the state's crippled unemployment system can help them keep afloat. In a city where shipping (UPS central hub and they almost went on strike on August 1) and heavy manufacturing (GE Appliance Park and the Ford plants) keeps tens of thousands of people employed, plus the support companies, any prolonged shutdown is a total disaster for the city as well. UAW members - you're not getting a 38% raise right away. That just doesn't happen. Start a little lower and end this. And then you can fight the good fight against the corner office staff who make millions for being in meetings all day.
  • Dusterdude The "fire them all" is looking a little less unreasonable the longer the union sticks to the totally ridiculous demands ( or maybe the members should fire theit leadership ! )