Before suburban moms fled to crossovers and SUVs, the minivan was the status symbol of the original MILFs. Though some may think of these vehicles as slow family haulers, we know better. So, in honor of the 25th anniversary of the minivan, going back to the day the first Dodge Caravan landed in a family's garage, we, along with our commenters, have come up with this, the Jalopnik list of the ten best minivans of all time. Check out the best in sliding-door soccer shuttles below.
Despite the epic name, the Honda Odyssey has never suffered from the sort of pretensions which led unlucky Greeks to fits of eye-gouging. The original model was heralded in the press and among consumers for its car-like handling, attributable to the Honda Accord platform which underpinned it. What it gained in nimbleness it gave up in space and sliding doors, limiting its appeal to a narrow segment of buyers. Successive generations of Odysseys have corrected these problems while still retaining much of the first generation's charm, though we agree with karan1003: the original is still the best.
In 1991, the Toyota Previa looked like the future driving down the street on its way to soccer practice or a flute recital. Boys were quickly jealous of any flautist carted around in the unique minivan. The novel profile is a result of the Toyota's mid-engine design, which placed the four-cylinder engine practically underneath the driver's feat. While this provided an attractive shape, it limited engine size. The solution? Toyota applied a supercharger with an air-to-air intercooler, pumping power up to 160 horsepower. For wintry climates the All-Trac model was offered, meaning a few lucky souls had a supercharged and intercooled AWD minivan to taunt grzydj with. They're even driftable.
We may have envisioned the original minivan, but our hats go off to the Europeans for adapting the model to create gorgeous MPVs like the Ford S-Max. Built on a platform shared with Volvo, the S-Max is one of the best examples of Ford's "kinetic" design language. The stylish MPV comfortably seats five adults and two children in a car with a footprint small enough to weave through narrow Belgian streets. Commenter layabout is happy they're available on his side of the pond and we're looking forward to the possibility of Ford selling them here. Dare to dream.
Prior to the Previa, Toyota's minivan offered a unique drivetrain configuration, dual sunroofs, digital clock and small refrigerator large enough to hold a six-pack of soda. All it lacked was a proper name. The van, offered between 1984 and 1989, was simply called the "Toyota Van" in the United States. These three-door minivans are still a popular choice for campers, especially the four-wheel drive models produced in the last two years of the five-year model run. The cargo versions, though rarer, still see service. We bet DBD could make a new life in one should the economy continue to tank. [Photo: http://www.toyoland.com/trucks/minivans.html]
GM was, typically, late to the minivan party. It took until 1989 for them to offer a full-fledged minivan in the form of the U-platform Pontiac Trans Sport/Chevy Lumina and Oldsmobile Silhouette. With its long sloping plastic-roofed greenhouse the Silhouette was always are favorite version. It was like a German expressionist nightmare of the future. The strange minivan offered numerous unique-for-the-time features including reconfigurable seats, air hose kit and the first remote-controlled power sliding door. Chrysler famously made fun of the minivan's appearance in an advertisement, which may have encouraged GM to design the next generation with the least amount of style as possible. Thanks to the plastic body panels and resilient 3800-series engine, there are still a few running versions out there haunting AndyMarkel.
Sadly, some of the best minivans are the ones we'll never be able to drive. The SHOstar was a concept car developed by Ford to test some alternative uses for their Yamaha V6 and, possibly, to test the waters for a performance minivan. Ford engineers directly transplanted the 220 hp V6 and five-speed gearbox out of the 1989 Taurus SHO into a second-generation Ford Windstar. Other touches include a tasteful body kit and what maxforrest32 will likely agree is a not-quite-tasteful backlit blue oval logo. Though it never saw production, the SHOstar is one of the hottest and strangest Ford concepts in recent memory. [Photo: DadyTypes[
The Mazda5 is what you'd get if you tried to turn the Mazda3 into a minivan. Literally. Built on the same platform, Mazda3 + two sliding doors = Mazda5. It's a winning equation as the Mazda5 is one of the few minivans available with a manual transmission and the only modern minivan we'd be excited about driving. It not only outruns a Caravan at a stoplight, it bests it at the pump. As with PeterSternCan, our only complaint is we can't buy aMazdaspeed version. Hear that Mazda?
What kind of lunatics drop a formula one engine into a minivan? French lunatics! The Renault Espace F1 was designed to celebrate both the company's ten years of the Espace minivan and the company's participation in formula one. Possibly in order to save money, the two ideas were combined and you suddenly had a V10-powered minivan paired with a six-speed transmission capable of reaching 60 mph in 2.8 seconds with a top speed of 194 mph. With this van Device's kids will never have the desire to ask "are we there yet?" [Photo: F1Fantatic]
Of all the Chrysler Minivans built, the Dodge Caravan Turbos of the late 1980s are perhaps the most coveted. Designed as a temporary move until V6 engines were available, they're sleepers in the truest form. If you were lucky enough to buy one with a stick shift you'd be sitting on a collector's item. Though the non-intercooled turbochaged vans aren't known for their reliability, with a little tuning they can do a 12-second quarter mile, a feat unrivaled by most vehicles with wood paneling. WheatKing fantasizes about smoking kids in Civics with one of these bad boys. [Photo and info: TurboVan]
There have been three generations of the Ford Supervan, each more ridiculous than the last. Though the first generation is only sort of a minivan, the GT40-sourced V8 makes us forget the distinctions. The second generation was upgraded with a Ford-Cosworth F1 engine mounted below the rear cargo floor. The final generation now features a Cosworth V8 crammed into a European Ford Transit package. The retro paint job and commitment to insanity make this van a rolling classic to people like RacerX [Photo: NSVA]
Follow along with the rest of our Maximum Minivan Day coverage!