Tag: Minivan

By on December 17, 2018

1984 Toyota LiteAce Van in North Carolina wrecking yard, LH front view - ©2018 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars
When Chrysler had such a smash hit with the K-derived minivans of the 1980s, Toyota USA needed some kind of family hauler bigger than the Cressida, Camry, and Tercel wagons. The solution, from the perspective of the suits in Aichi, was obvious: Americanize the TownAce mid-engined van and ship it west ASAP!

Here’s an ’84 Toyota Van I found in a Charlotte, North Carolina, wrecking yard last month. (Read More…)

By on July 13, 2018

It’s best to just admit it: I have van envy. The educated among you will know that van envy, like many other communicable diseases, comes in a few forms. There’s Van Envy A, which is the traditional desire to have a boxy vehicle of some sort in the immediate vicinity for carrying children and accomplishing household tasks; this virus is typically found in the water supply of single-family homes. Van Envy B is indicated by repeated involuntary exclamations of “dajiban!” You catch that from accidental subculture immersion.

Van Envy MTB is when you can’t stop thinking about fitting out a fresh new Transit with a toolbox and internal bicycle mounts so you can take a quick trip to Ray’s Bike Park in Cleveland — or maybe Moab. The most virulent and damaging strain of the disease is Van Envy IG, which manifests in a gnawing sense of envy regarding attractive twenty-something couples who rootlessly travel the West holding drum circles and making love in converted high-roof Sprinters, subsisting on nothing but their income from selling woven bracelets at street fairs and an eight-figure trust fund.

Today’s question comes from someone who is suffering from precisely none of that. Instead, he has another condition. One marked by eroding telomere chains, drying skin, and a growing desire to watch Matlock. Chances are you have it too, although it might not be as severe.

(Read More…)

By on June 26, 2018

2018 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid front quarter

For those of you voyeurs who enjoy peering at perfectly curated photos of strangers’ lives, do me a favor and click over to Instagram and search the “Vanlife” hashtag. It’s a seemingly endless parade of young folk who have eschewed traditional housing for a thoroughly modified full-size van — typically a Mercedes-Benz Sprinter or Ram ProMaster, kitted with beds, kitchens, and storage for implements of extreme living such as mountain bikes or kayaks.

The thing you’ll notice about nearly all of these vanlifers: no kids. It’s hard to get the little ones to hockey practice when you’re living life to the extreme.

I live a very different kind of vanlife here in suburbia. While certainly there are times when I’m hauling an empty box behind me, more often than not I have two kids and their assorted crap to haul. Other times, my van doubles as a truck, with a few sheets of OSB or 10 bags of mulch. I’ve even hauled a spare Miata engine to a race track for a friend who’d popped one in an early race session.

For those of us who need to get back and forth to the office, rather than to or from a trailhead, a traditional minivan is nearly perfect. The only downside? Fuel economy isn’t great, as you’re pushing a big, heavy box through the air. Chrysler recognized this with the 2018 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid, offering a good bit more efficiency in a familiar package. Does it make #DadVanLife more palatable?

(Read More…)

By on June 21, 2018

2015 Honda Odyssey EX - Image: © Timothy Cain

We weren’t the typical minivan buyers. Yet with only one child (at the time), and desirous of full-size pickups, and frequent travellers of off-road paths not designed for an especially low-slung vehicle, we acquired a new 2015 Honda Odyssey EX in June 2015.

Three years and 37,000 miles later, after mountains of dog hair and many pounds of cracker crumbs and sand from a couple dozen beaches proved the merit of the OEM floor mats, our Odyssey’s odyssey is complete.

Do minivans still make sense in 2018? Do Odysseys hold up to the rigors of a young family’s life? And was it worth paying a premium for America’s favorite (retail) van? (Read More…)

By on June 5, 2018

2017 Toyota Sienna front quarter

Yes, you read the headline correctly — this is indeed a review, running in June 2018, of a 2017 model year vehicle. Chalk it up to other priorities (after all, writing isn’t my full-time gig) but honestly, it doesn’t really matter in this case.

Toyota hasn’t really made significant changes its minivan since the early years of the Obama administration. Sure, minor details are always tweaked year over year, but the essence of the 2017 Toyota Sienna XLE AWD isn’t significantly different from that of the 2011 model. And that’s not a bad thing — no matter the age, minivan owners keep flocking back to the Swagger Wagon.

(Read More…)

By on April 17, 2018

2018 Chrysler Pacifica L

Yes, yes, yes. I know that most of you wouldn’t sign on the line that is dotted for a minivan, and, honestly, neither would I. It makes no sense, really, given that a large box-shaped living room on wheels is just the ticket for road-trip comfort with the family while offering enough space for shuttling hockey bags to the rink and making hardware store runs on the weekend.

Minivan Monroneys can climb uncomfortably high – witness loaded up Odysseys and Siennas which can handily crest $50,000. Is there a lot to like at the Ace of Base end of the spectrum? Let’s see.

(Read More…)

By on March 29, 2018

Automotive trade shows typically provide little more than early access to vehicles you’ve already read about for months. But every so often details emerge that are so incredibly hot, you can’t even begin to fathom why God chose to trust you with them.

At this week’s 2018 New York International Auto Show, Kia Motors America unveiled a refreshed 2019 Sedona minivan, which — get a load of this — has totally new fog lamps. These babies aren’t even remotely the same shape as the outgoing version’s bulbs. Those old round heaps are over and done with; we’re entering an entirely new era of illumination, folks.

To be accurate, the new Sedona actually has entirely new front and rear fascias but, after staring at the 2019 model for several minutes, the only standout upgrade seems to be the fog lights. Which is strange because, when compared with the older model, it becomes immediately apparent that the refresh worked some legitimate magic on the family wagon. Don’t believe us? Well, here is a visual sample of the 2018 Kia Sedona: (Read More…)

By on December 15, 2017

LS V8 Chevy Astro Swap: Image stanceiseverything.com

Woody writes:

Hi Sanjeev,

My wife complains that I don’t even notice when she doesn’t shave her legs; yet every time I say something about it, she complains at me about how she has no time because of kids, school, dinner, etc. Help a guy out. (You’re on your own with that, son! — SM)

No, really. Hi Sajeev — I’ll start out with the problem. I have an 2001 Astro van. As much as I love my cult classic, my Chevy box is starting to get tired. I need 8 seats (yes, I have been busy) and the ability to tow.

Before everybody suggests I go grab a Suburban or Tahoe (no sliding door), I’d like to pose a hypothetical. As only van drivers can understand, I like my current vehicle. With tax returns right around the corner (seven dependents … $$$), I’d like to get your opinion on some frivolous spending. The 4.3-liter Vortec V6 is not a bad motor. With a little effort I can strap a turbo on it and perform the various tuning tweaks needed to get it running tip top (timing change, higher PSI injectors).

Or, I could shoehorn a 5.3-liter in there. It will match up with the existing 4L60e (that will probably blow up under the added stress — SM) transmission, has great stock horsepower and torque, and you can pick one up at the junkyard with the computer for $310 ($275 for the motor + $35 for the ECM at LKQ in Central Florida) I know the the price of labor will probably cost more than either one of these kits. I am a fairly competent shadetree, which might help offset some of the cost. You have to be to keep one of these things going this long.

MERRY CHRISTMAS, EVERYBODY.

(Read More…)

By on December 11, 2017

2010 Nissan Cube in Colorado Wrecking yard, LH front view - ©2017 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars

Nissan’s slow-selling, goofy-looking minivan debuted in the United States market for the 2009 model year and got axed just five years later. You can still buy a new Cube in Japan, but junkyards on this side of the Pacific are getting discarded Cubes in more-than-flukey quantities.

After seeing several in a Denver-area self-service yard last month, I decided to photograph one. (Read More…)

By on September 18, 2017

2004 Chrysler PT Cruiser Turbo in California wrecking yard, RH view - ©2017 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars
The quantity of Chrysler PT Cruisers in the high-turnover self-service wrecking yards remained close to zero for the first decade after the car’s 2001 model year debut (while the Cruiser’s Neon cousins showed up in large quantities starting at about age five). For the first few years of our current decade, I’d see a sprinkling of discarded PT Cruisers… and then the floodgates burst in about 2014, with seemingly every U-Wrench-It yard in the country packed wall-to-wall with the things.

I have ignored them, but the minivan version of the SRT4 Neon seemed worth photographing. (Read More…)

By on August 30, 2017

2017 Dodge Grand Caravan

Over the last few years, FCA’s long-term product plans have been, um, fluid. A great amount of “will they or won’t they” speculation is directed to the venerable Grand Caravan. The nameplate which invented a segment is a perpetual resident of the proverbial chopping block. Yet, sales remain strong.

Why? Well, the central tenet to this Ace of Base series is value, and a base model Grand Caravan has it in spades. Dodge minivans might be as cool as a dad in socks and sandals, but this SE brings a lot of value to the school zone.

(Read More…)

By on May 15, 2017

2018 Honda Odyssey Silver Front Quarter

“Remember, you are in a minivan,” my better half commanded as I tapped the left-hand gearshift paddle, grabbing a lower gear to power out of the improbably banked corner on a mountain two-lane. The 19-inch Bridgestones squealed in protest as I pushed it a bit wide, just as the kid squealed from the third row over a funny movie.

What was I to do? It’s not like the roads Honda chose for this drive are the typical minivan haunts — namely suburban surface streets or long interstate slabs. There are no real suburbs on the big island of Hawai’i, and interstate drives would get quite wet after a couple of hours in any direction. So I pressed on, trailbraking as if I were hustling a much smaller car around an autocross course.

It’s indeed a minivan, but the new 2018 Honda Odyssey is surprisingly rewarding to drive. While the majority of miles racked up by any minivan undoubtedly result from a commute, either on city streets or the interstate, taking the long way home in this Odyssey won’t feel like punishment.

(Read More…)

By on May 15, 2017

1993 Plymouth Voyager in Colorado wrecking yard , LH front view, © 2017 Murilee Martin

The original K-platform-based Chrysler minivans, built for the 1984 through 1995 model years, sold like mad, helped kill the station wagon, and forced the competition to get serious about selling minivans in the United States. Buyers could get the 1984-95 four-cylinder Caravan, Voyager, or Town & Country with a five-speed manual transmission, though few did.

Here’s the first 5-speed second-generation Chrysler minivan I have ever found in a wrecking yard. (Read More…)

By on February 7, 2017

2017 Ford Flex Limited EcoBoost - Image: © Timothy Cain/The Truth About Cars

My sister hates the Ford Flex.

She’s never driven a Ford Flex, mind you. She just hates the way it looks.

I, on the other hand, am a huge fan of the Ford Flex’s exterior design, particularly in Blue Jeans paint, particularly without these black wheels.

There are only two sides to this argument. There is no middle ground on which you stand and declare, “Meh, it’s alright.” Since 2008, consumers have fallen on either one side of the fence or the other. You either love the Ford Flex, or you hate the Ford Flex.

Based on the Flex’s lack of marketplace success, there are apparently too many haters. Some nine years after the Flex was launched, inspired in 2008 by the 2005’s Ford Fairlane Concept, Ford’s alternative crossover is increasingly forced into an ever-narrowing niche. The style quotient remains high — at least in the eyes of those who’ve always loved it — but the Flex now manifests too many signs of old age in a market full of remarkably competent and more popular challengers. (Read More…)

By on January 30, 2017

FCA Windsor minivan assembly Dodge Grand Caravan 2011 - Image: FCA

A good many questions that start with the phrase, “Given an unlimited budget … ” tend to focus on what a person would buy with a bottomless pit of money — and why not? It’s fun to fill our imaginary garages with machines made of moonbeams and unobtanium.

Not this time. Right now, I’m here to ask you: what car makes you froth at the mouth? What car offends you worse than a gunnysack full or rotting tuna? What car would you never buy?

(Read More…)

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