Minivans are utilitarian but it’s also true to say that today’s iterations are no longer glorified vans with seats.
How many of today’s NHL stars made those very early morning trips to junior practice in a minivan?
Of course, we will never know for sure but you can bet the answer is in the 100s, judging by the tens of thousands of kids, enrolled in hockey, soccer and countless other activities, who have been transported for the past 30 years in these people movers, pioneered Chrysler.
Virtually every auto maker has a version though in recent years, with the explosion of sport utility and crossover vehicles there has been a trend away from the vehicle dubbed ‘mom’s taxi’ in the popular media. At first, that was an affectionate moniker but of late, it’s come to be a disparaging term for these very efficient family carriers now described as multi-purpose vehicles.
No, they’re not leading edge in looks for the most part but surely that’s not why people still buy them in goodly numbers. Minivans are utilitarian but it’s also true to say that today’s iterations are no longer glorified vans with seats. They come close to driving like sedans and the higher end models are a step away from limo status.
The loaded 2014 Grand Caravan SXT version I drove recently certainly could lay claims to be much more than mom’s taxi. Premium cloth seats were inviting and supportive but the rear seating is perhaps the more interesting for those with aforementioned early morning drive duties. The stow’n’go seats are ingenious, turning the Caravan quickly with the flick of a wrist from a seven-seater into . . . . dare I say . . . a van if desired. Power sliding doors and liftgate complete the convenience package.
An area where the Caravan has made giant leaps is right upfront. The one-piece instrument panel is easy on the eye and easy to operate. An optional “super” centre console builds on the functionality, providing a lot of storage.
Stepping outside there’s an interesting innovation called the Stow ‘n Place roof rack system, which enables the stowing of the roof bows into the side rails when not in use. There is an obvious cosmetic improvement but that would be a frivolous consideration. The ability to stow the roof bows a reduction in aerodynamic drag, wind buffeting and thus better overall efficiency.
Under the hood is the truly tried and tested Pentastar 3.6-litre V6, matched to a six-speed automatic transmission. This power combination pumps out 283 horsepower but still remains frugal when it comes to fuel economy – 12.2/7.9 L/100 kms.
Driving in town with such a large vehicle is not so much of challenge as you might expect. The excellent vision provided by large windows helps when parking in those tight supermarket spots.
Stop/go traffic on Highway One was not fun and certainly spoiled the fuel economy promise.
That said, once rolling on the freeway, the Caravan hits its stride and return to sipping gas rather than gulping.
The basic Caravan is anything but basic in its equipment tally and starts at $27,995. The tester was loaded to the gunwales with every bell and whistle and came in at $43,580. Take out the basic for the test drive then start adding the features you want until you run up against budget wall.
‘Mom’s taxi’ is going to be around for a while yet and that’s good news for sports oriented families and maybe even the National Hockey League.