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First Drive: 2017 Chrysler Pacifica

Redefining the minivan – will it win back American family buyers?

by on Mar.21, 2016

Perhaps no other type of vehicle does a better job of delivering what it offers than a minivan.

Running from the Southern California Coast towards Lake Elsinore, the Ortega Highway is the sort of torturously twisting two-lane highways that motorcycles and sports cars love. Minivans travel it at their own peril, and yet, we’re planning to run nearly the full 111.5 miles of what’s official known as CA-74 this drizzly, late winter morning.

If we were driving Chrysler’s old Town & Country model, or just about any conventional minivan, for that matter, you might have reason to question our choice of routes. But this is our first chance to drive the new 2017 Chrysler Pacifica.

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No automaker is more closely identified with the minivan. The Detroit side of Fiat Chrysler invented the modern people-move back in 1984, and for years it struggled to meet demand, U.S. sales at one point nudging 2 million a year. These days, the numbers are down for nearly three-quarters and a number of one-time competitors, including Ford and General Motors have dropped out of the minivan market. So, some question whether the new Chrysler Pacifica is the segment’s last great hope.

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First Drive: Honda Odyssey

The driver's minivan still offers a sublime driving experience.

by on Feb.17, 2011

The 2011 Honda Odyssey features an interesting "lightning bolt" design that improves the view for third-row passengers

The minivan wars are on. All of the major players are either making major updates to their boxes or introducing completely new models. The timing could be a good right to push minivans. With the possibility of rising fuel prices on the horizon, many car buyers will be looking for better efficiency. But they still need the space to carry a junior hockey team, not to mention their gear. They still need to be able to fold down the seats and help a teenager move up to college. They still need to bring home a new couch.

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Love them or hate them, minivans offer the most space for the least money with the best fuel mileage and handling of any vehicle type on the planet. Period. (more…)

First Drive: 2011 Toyota Sienna SE

All minivan and proud of it.

by on Dec.10, 2010

The 2011 Toyota Sienna SE has a sporty vibe. Will it encourage would-be crossover shoppers to consider a minivan?

Maybe they’ve gone too far, this time. In the never-ending attempt to make the minivan cool, Toyota has taken the Sienna over the top.

At least it doesn’t look like a minivan trying to look like an SUV. Nope, this box is minivan through and through. But hung on that box are all sorts of air dams, spoilers, creases and shapes. The result is a minivan that looks like it had a makeover by one of those TV vehicle makeover shows.

To be fair, this is the SE  – sport edition in Toyota nomenclature. It’s meant to be sportier and edgier. For those buyers who can’t see themselves driving this hipstermobile, Toyota offers three other trim levels – base, LE and XLE – which have less razz matazz.

At least Toyota is making an effort. Minivan sales have lagged for years while buyers opt for sexier SUVs and crossovers. But for most buyers, minivans would actually make the most sense because they offer more space, cost less, handle better and some get better fuel mileage.

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SE or not, Toyota has given the new Sienna added visual interest with arcing creases, a shapely grille and bigger wheels.

For the core group of minivan buyers, exterior styling hardly matters. They care about what’s inside. On that front, Toyota made some interesting choices, some good, some not so good. More in a moment.
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