List: Truly Cool Minivans

By John Beltz Snyder

December 29, 2009


Toyota Alphard: This Japanese-market minivan was the inspiration for the new Toyota Sienna. It comes with a gasoline or hybrid powertrain, and is a common subject for tuners. Seen here is the Black Bison Edition, modified by Wald International (a Winding Road favorite).


Buick Business MPV Concept: This high-tech concept first showed up at the 2009 Shanghai Auto Show. Intended to embody efficiency and serenity, it has a hybrid drive system, and the interior is awash in ambient blue lighting, with Earth and wood themes. Second-row captains’ chairs swivel 225 degrees to facilitate in-vehicle business meetings, and a power central console with deployable tablets moves between the second and third rows for laptop use. Suit and tie come separately.


Dodge Caravan Turbo I-4: Before it got a V-6 powerplant, the Dodge Caravan was briefly offered with a turbocharged 2.5-liter, four-cylinder engine in the late 1980s. How cool is that? (Sort of cool.)


Toyota Previa S/C: In order to compete with the likes of the V-6 Dodge Caravan, the mid-engined Toyota Previa’s 2.4-liter inline-four received a twin-screw supercharger. Later, the Previa was replaced by the Sienna.


Ford SHO-Star Concept: Ford’s answer to the beleaguering demands of its customers asking, “What would happen if you put the Taurus’ 220-horsepower V-6 in a Ford Windstar?” While it still may be a monstrosity on four wheels, at least it has a little more oomph than the standard minivan we always find ourselves stuck behind on our favorite roads. (We call it the Curse of the Windstar.)


One-Lap Honda Odyssey: Built by Honda Manufacturing of Alabama for participation in One Lap of America, this Odyssey made 400 horsepower, put to the ground via a six-speed manual transmission. In 2008, it finished 26th overall.


Renault Espace F1 Concept: The hottest minivan of them all. The Renault Espace F1 was essentially a carbon fiber Espace body, hiding a Formula 1, V-10 engine producing in excess of 800 horsepower. It shot from 0-60 in 2.8 seconds. It was created to honor the tenth anniversary of both the Espace MPV and Renault’s Formula 1 career.

Toyota Buick Dodge Toyota Ford One-Lap Renault

Toyota is pleased with its new Sienna minivan, seeing it as a fresh alternative to the dumpy, uncool image usually associated with these oft-ridiculed people haulers. Winding Road’s Seyth Miersma found out if it lived up to the hype, leaving us to paw through the WR family photo albums for past MPVs that transcend their unflattering stereotypes. Surely, the Sienna wasn’t the first vehicle of its kind to attempt to appeal to the more savvy soccer moms.

Take a look through the gallery to see some historical examples of minivans we think have the performance or style it takes to stand out from the herd.