15 November 2006

driving the road to hell in a minivan

Once upon a time one could choose between a variety of all-wheel drive minivans. I have happily driven Subarus for years and like all-wheel drive. I drive in the winter, in a place where there's snow and ice. It's a no-brainer, as far as I am concerned. We need a larger van, not any of the little ones. We have dogs that ride in crates and we will have two kids by spring. No small van is going to have enough room for us. I'd also like at least 48" between the wheel wells in order to fit two crates across the back. (Yes, I walk around the auto show with my tape measure. Very few of the van spec sheets contain that measurement, and none of the sales people know either.)

For years I'd though the Chrysler Town & Country was the "one". Lots of my dog showing friends have them and like them. It has 49" between the wheel wells, perfect for two Clumber crates. Then they dropped the awd model. Consumer Reports doesn't like them anyway.

No problem, I thought. At the auto show the only minivan CD and I both liked was the Saturn Relay. All-wheel drive, comfy seats, enough room for kids and dogs. While I have never owned a car made by any of the big three, my sister has had Saturns forever and has always been pretty happy with them. Then they too dropped the all-wheel drive model. Sensing a trend yet?

Today, there's just one awd minivan, the Toyota Sienna. Consumer Reports may love it but the one I saw and sat in at the auto show made me want to hurl. None of the dashboard controls or gauges were easy to view or where I wanted them to be. The seat was uncomfortable. The price? Obscene.

Since I can't have awd anyway, I started looking at the Honda Odyssey, again. It's okay, I guess. Consumer Reports loves it, but they've never been able to get the fold-flat rear seat right. It doesn't fold flat. If you put a dog crate on it, it's tilted, not flat at all.

We have until March to decide, and the auto show will be back in February, but I fail to be optimistic that there's something out there to be uncovered. Anyone have a suggestion? Have a missed a great minivan out there? (Remember, none of the small ones will work for us.)

1 comment:

Tulkinghorn said...

I have been researching minivans myself lately.

The problem (with the Grand Caravan) is that you can't have the vaunted 'stow-and go' system and the AWD in the same car... AWD takes too much space in the undercarriage.

Since there are just two kids, you may be best off getting a certified used GC with the AWD, take out the bench seat, and budget the saved money from buying new toward the increased maintenance and/or getting an extended warranty.

(visiting by way of ephblog)