Buy/Drive/Burn: Toasting a Luxury Minivan From 1994
When the Picture Time post for the Villager Nautica went up on these pages last year, the idea for this particular edition of Buy/Drive/Burn was already on my mind. In fact, in the big list of trios I keep for this series, this one has always been at the top of the list.
The year is 1994, and you’ve got a luxury minivan to set alight.
Sorry, no Previa for you. Today we’re talking American luxury — even though one of our trio is technically Japanese. Let’s go.
Mercury Villager Nautica
The top trim of Mercury’s Villager (a twin to the Nissan Quest) wore clothes from fashionable suburban mall clothing brand Nautica. Leather seats, embroidery, luggage, and the prestige of white wheels were all ensured by Villager Nautica. Underneath, power was provided by Nissan’s VG30 engine, a 3.0-liter V6 with a timing belt. It’s not as good as a VQ30, and it’s smaller than the V6 engines offered by the other two competitors. Anyway, the Villager has prestige and luxury, and the added bonus of being the less-commonly chosen alternative luxury van.
Chrysler Town & Country AWD
This is the van most luxury customers purchased at the time (albeit perhaps without AWD). Chrysler was killing the minivan game ever since it invented it in the mid-80s, and in 1994 the top trim of the Caravan/Voyager/T&C trio was the Town & Country AWD. Changes in 1994 saw a redesigned dash layout and instruments, as well as standard passenger side airbags in T&C models. The Town & Country is a safe choice; the first minivan to meet 1998 safety standards back in 1994. Underneath is Chrysler’s trusty 3.8-liter V6, in use all the way to 2011 in the Wrangler. Plus, gold lace alloys.
Ahh, the Cadillac of Minivans. Hailing from 1989, the Dustbuster Silhouette is by far the oldest design here. Undergoing a front-end revamp and some trim changes in 1993, our top-end trim specification includes the vaunted 3800 Buick V6. Other highlights include configurable and flexible rear seating, where each rear seat is a captain’s chair. No benches for Oldsmobile passengers! Ride comfort is enhanced by the air ride package, which includes an air compressor for all inflationary needs.
This one’s tough, so where’s your purchase money go?
[Images: Toyota, Ford, Chrysler, General Motors]
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- Max So GM will be making TESLAS in the future. YEA They really shouldn’t be taking cues from Elon musk. Tesla is just about to be over.
- Malcolm It's not that commenters attack Tesla, musk has brought it on the company. The delivery of the first semi was half loaded in 70 degree weather hauling potato chips for frito lay. No company underutilizes their loads like this. Musk shouted at the world "look at us". Freightliners e-cascads has been delivering loads for 6-8 months before Tesla delivered one semi. What commenters are asking "What's the actual usable range when in say Leadville when its blowing snow and -20F outside with a full trailer?
- Funky D I despise Google for a whole host of reasons. So why on earth would I willing spend a large amount of $ on a car that will force Google spyware on me.The only connectivity to the world I will put up with is through my phone, which at least gives me the option of turning it off or disconnecting it from the car should I choose to.No CarPlay, no sale.
- William I think it's important to understand the factors that made GM as big as it once was and would like to be today. Let's roll back to 1965, or even before that. GM was the biggest of the Big Three. It's main competition was Ford and Chrysler, as well as it's own 5 brands competing with themselves. The import competition was all but non existent. Volkswagen was the most popular imported cars at the time. So GM had its successful 5 brands, and very little competition compared to today's market. GM was big, huge in fact. It was diversified into many other lines of business, from trains to information data processing (EDS). Again GM was huge. But being huge didn't make it better. There are many examples of GM not building the best cars they could, it's no surprise that they were building cars to maximize their profits, not to be the best built cars on the road, the closest brand to achieve that status was Cadillac. Anyone who owned a Cadillac knew it could have been a much higher level of quality than it was. It had a higher level of engineering and design features compared to it's competition. But as my Godfather used to say "how good is good?" Being as good as your competitors, isn't being as good as you could be. So, today GM does not hold 50% of the automotive market as it once did, and because of a multitude of reasons it never will again. No matter how much it improves it's quality, market value and dealer network, based on competition alone it can't have a 50% market share again. It has only 3 of its original 5 brands, and there are too many strong competitors taking pieces of the market share. So that says it's playing in a different game, therfore there's a whole new normal to use as a baseline than before. GM has to continue downsizing to fit into today's market. It can still be big, but in a different game and scale. The new normal will never be the same scale it once was as compared to the now "worlds" automotive industry. Just like how the US railroad industry had to reinvent its self to meet the changing transportation industry, and IBM has had to reinvent its self to play in the ever changing Information Technology industry it finds it's self in. IBM was once the industry leader, now it has to scale it's self down to remain in the industry it created. GM is in the same place that the railroads, IBM and other big companies like AT&T and Standard Oil have found themselves in. It seems like being the industry leader is always followed by having to reinvent it's self to just remain viable. It's part of the business cycle. GM, it's time you accept your fate, not dead, but not huge either.
- Tassos The Euro spec Taurus is the US spec Ford FUSION.Very few buyers care to see it here. FOrd has stopped making the Fusion long agoWake us when you have some interesting news to report.
I would buy the Chrysler. The Previa is eye-catching, but I drove one that a former girlfriend had, and I wouldn't want it - the seats were uncomfortable, the interior noise was surprisingly loud, and the fuel economy wasn't any better than the 3.8 in my mom's '97 Town & Country van. And the Previa didn't hold up any better than my mom's van - it (the Previa) had a major rattling noise from the exhaust, major oil leaks from every engine seal, and a few other minor problems. She traded the van for a Mini Cooper S convertible. My mom still has her '97 Chrysler, and has never had a problem with the transmission.
Back then, the Town and Country was what the sophisticated family man bought. If the Silhouette was the Cadillac of minivans, the T&C was the Imperial. Everyone knows that Imperials were better than Cadillacs. At least when in a time when it mattered. Buy. The Pillager was the minivan Ford employees drove before there was the Windbag. An over-priced also-ran. They were also big POSes. Drive if I had to. There was little redeeming about the dustbuster vans. Even the Olds version. GM desperately trying to make a futuristic styling statement that led to the longest dashboard in history and very strange outward visibility. Low-rent GM interiors, wretched handling (even for a minivan). Most were rightfully crushed and burned early in their lives.