2011 Toyota Sienna SE: Lunar Surface
October 13, 2011
Did I mention I love vans? My colleagues know this and mock me for it. At least my man Niebuhr was good enough to lay this awesome ode to 70's van-love on me. Forget all that people power and democracy movement nonsense; archiving gems like this is why Al Gore really built the Internet!
Vans and minivans are different species, as distant as Arabian thoroughbreds to donkeys. Vans have swiveling velour captain's chairs and four-speed column-mounted shifters. They have big oak cupholder racks on the front bulkhead, overhead stash boxes, and your buddy's botched airbrush on the side.
A proper van also has a back row that converts to a bunk. Now if you move (or remove) the seats around in the Sienna or Odyssey, you can definitely stretch out. But both have this lunar floor surface marked by hooks, bumps and depressions. Nothing a thick bedroll can't overcome, but for me, the Nissan Quest wins for its fold-flat third row that seamlessly extends the rear cargo floor and best captures that function and spirit of old American vans.
Stow n Go is a close second, especially since the new SnG seats are actually comfortable. But Quest still wins on being able to retain some cargo well. I'm willing to sacrifice the cabin volume for the convenience.
I'm a nostalgic kook, what can I say?
Still, you gotta respect the minivan for having heart. It's been dealt a lousy hand: front-wheel drive, more rows than a sports arena, and a lifetime of service to kids, dogs and groceries without ever knowing a V8 or even a Volkswagen flat-four. Sad.
Dan Frio, Automotive Editor