Minivans Are Awesome, Believe It Or Not

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You can deny it from a stylistic perspective. You can reject the theory from a trend-setting angle. You can even break the supposition with an argument in support of on-road dynamics.

Nevertheless, a brand spankin’ new minivan may well be the ultimate automobile. Sad though it may sound to proponents of Mercedes-Benz AMG models and American muscle car believers, if we were all afforded the opportunity to own a single copy of one government-ordained model, any wise radical socialist administration would surely appoint a minivan to fill the role.

Just think about it for a second. If, on the merits of city parking and fuel efficiency we were all forced to buy a Scion iQ, how would large families cope? If, because of a need for cross-country speed, every new car buyer was forced to consider just one option, and that one option was the BMW M5, most consumers wouldn’t be able to afford the price of entry. If, as a result of a need to build homes, farmland, and carry loads, the only new car available was a mandated Chevrolet Silverado, there would be calls to drill for oil in every backyard in the country.

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However, a typical new minivan copes with large families just fine (as a given), carries loads the size of Delaware, tows relatively well, and, in 2012, generates the kind of horsepower that was at one point reserved for cars like, you guessed it, the BMW M5. Obviously, the case can be made that the BMW M550d Touring is the ultimate automobile, but that’s a debate for another day.

Perhaps this is oversimplified; perhaps the argument on behalf of solo minivano isn’t that easy to make. Stick with it and you’ll understand. First, the case for families.

There are SUVs that do a better job of ferrying people, at least numerically. The Chevrolet Suburban, for example, can be equipped with nine seatbelts. But if you’re making a case for maximum seating capacity, you could stretch the concept all the way to a school bus, just as the case for maximum vehicle capacity lands you on an auto transporter, not a tow truck. The Chevy is an amazingly capable vehicle all-around, but it’s too great a stretch from ho-hum Toyota Camrys. A switch to a minivan is more reasonable. Besides, is there something wrong with seating for eight with 170.2 cubic feet of passenger space, as offered by the 2012 Honda Odyssey? Many people are trying to cope now with five seats and 95 cubic feet of space and a 12.5 cubic foot trunk in their Civics. Surely they’d be thrilled with an Odyssey.

Now consider the capabilities a minivan presents to the working man, the man who needs to get things done, who needs to take things and get them to places. Again, large SUVs seem like obvious winners, but that’s not necessarily the case. The Nissan Armada holds 97.1 cubic feet of storage space when the two rear rows are folded. On the other hand, Toyota’s Sienna minivan holds 150 cubic feet. Granted, the Armada wins with 9000 pounds of towing capacity, but doesn’t the Sienna’s 3500-lb tow rating sound great when compared with the Toyota RAV4’s measly 1500?

Convincing the owner of a performance car to adopt the notion that we must all be of one sound mind would be difficult enough if we were only asking for a change of brand. But we’re suggesting much more than that: this wouldn’t be a switch from Camaro to Mustang or BMW M3 to Porsche 911. It’s a far greater change. Still, there’s something to be said for the Dodge Grand Caravan’s 283-horsepower 3.6L V6. Incidentally, the first-generation BMW M5, known at the time as the fastest sedan in the world, was fitted with a 3.5L six-cylinder which made 282 horsepower. Admittedly, comparing a 2012 vehicle with something from the 1980s isn’t the stuff of justice. On a more modern note, each horsepower in the current Volkswagen GTI, something of a performance icon, is tasked with toting around 15.6 pounds. In the Grand Caravan? That number falls to just 15.3 pounds per horsepower.

We haven’t dealt with fuel efficiency, a place where minivans don’t exactly shine. True, the smaller Mazda 5 hits 28 mpg on the highway; that’s as good as the hybrid Lexus RX450h. We can’t bother with the subject of style, either, as that territory is purely subjective. Also, the idea of progressive design generally only arrives in minivans when seats need rearranging or more cupholders need to be installed.

On a practical level, minivans do everything most buyers need, and more. It’s fair to say, therefore, that minivans are awesome. Unfortunately, because minivans are, well, not so cool, you can reserve the right to avoid minivans at whatever cost you deem necessary.

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