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We recently acquired a minivan. Half of my readers just mentally snorted at the wretched direction my life has taken. You pity me.

The other half of you have actually been inside a modern minivan. You know that a minivan is the mullet of automobiles, and by that I mean it is all business in the front, and a party in the back. It's a little slice of heaven on wheels. I love my minivan. Yeah, I said it.

We were forced to consider minivans because our Toyota Highlander had an annoying noise that wouldn't go away. It sounded roughly like "Mom, there isn't enough leg room! Make someone else sit in the back next time!" We tried turning up the volume on the radio to drown it out, but that was only partly successful. So we started looking at minivans.

After extensive shopping we narrowed our minivan choices to either a Honda or a Toyota. The Honda had an edge in back seat comfort, mileage, and console layout. But the Toyota salesman assured us that after a few years of use the Honda would rattle apart and spontaneously dissemble itself in our garage. He said we would one day come out to the garage and find nothing but a pile of parts, each one trying to crawl away from the others. The Toyota, by way of contrast, was built tight, our salesman explained. It would survive a nuclear attack without the tires getting out of alignment. This was all suspiciously difficult to verify, given that it involved the future. And Google was silent on this issue. So we went with the comfy back seats. It seemed the quieter option.  

Our minivan is packed with so many features that it changes the entire driving paradigm. In the old model you had a driver and several passengers. Now you have a pilot and a full-time manager of tech support in the front, with several disgruntled users in the back. From the moment the humans enter the minivan, the manager of tech support gets busy. My wife, who I call Spock during family drives, is responsible for the navigation unit, synching the BlackBerry to the speaker system, adjusting the XM satellite stations, loading the DVD, instructing occupants about how to move seats, locking and unlocking doors, and so on. Her job is never done because the users never stop submitting change orders.

As pilot, I try to tune out everything but the sultry and sometimes scolding voice of the navigation unit. If I allow myself to get invested in the tangle of tech support and political issues bubbling over in the rest of the vehicle I will lose concentration and drive into a ravine. Although I'd be lying if I said it isn't a tempting option after the fifteenth change order gets submitted, just before I fire up the rear bumper video camera, and the distance sonar, and start backing out of the garage.

The XM satellite radio is a wonderful invention. It has an endless variety of music. But for reasons I haven't yet discerned, all we ever hear is Daughtry and Lady Gaga. I would be fine with this arrangement if Daughtry didn't sound like two mules dragging a barn door over crushed stones. I need to talk to Spock about that, but she is always buried in work orders.

My point is that minivans are wonderful. If you like Daughtry.
 
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+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Apr 6, 2009
Toyota Highlander -- There can be only one.
 
 
+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Apr 6, 2009
I feel your pain, Scott -- because it's MY pain. I, too, entered stepfatherhood in my later 40s, and sidegraded from a pickup truck to a Honda minivan. Fortunately for me, my stepkids are a wee bit older and we have no real tech support issue. The kids did put me in one bind, though -- they insist that the Garmin navigator device MUsT use the "Proper British Lady" voice. Every time I don't make a turn fast enough, the way she says "Recalculating", it's like she's scolding me.
Seriously, I love my minivan -- I can get all the kids in the back, behind a protective layer of in-laws, friends, camping gear, bicycles, what-have-you.
 
 
Apr 6, 2009
When you're driving by yourself, tune in to XM202 (Sirius197). Opie & Anthony RULE from 6am-12noon (EDT) followed by Ron & Fez noon-3 with replays throughout the day. O & A are quite the Dilbert fans, too, I might add.
 
 
Apr 6, 2009
Bought a Sequoia, minivan room, full size power, full size towing capacity. Good luck hauling a boat, camper, jetski, snowmobiles, or other junk with that pop can on wheels. Problem is I'm running out of space for my trailers.
 
 
+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Apr 6, 2009
We went from small sedan, to several minivans, to small coupe, and are now back to minivan. People thought we were nuts to want a minivan now, that the kids are grown and out of the house. But we love it! Comfy, roomy, awesome cargo room.
 
 
Apr 6, 2009
We've got the '04 Sienna. It's all good except it's all wheel drive, and Toyota chose to put on run-flat tires which cost $300 each and last only 12,000 !$%*! and there's no room for any size spare.
 
 
+4 Rank Up Rank Down
Apr 6, 2009
No trekers here. Sulu was the navigator and Spock was the science officer. Although Scott, you should call your wife Uhura since she's in charge of the communication systems.
 
 
Apr 6, 2009
great post
 
 
Apr 6, 2009
I am shocked, shocked, that a Toyota salesman would have anything bad to say about a Honda or any competing manufacturer. Aren't all car salesmen completely unbiased?
 
 
Apr 6, 2009
Thank you! I love my minivan too and was beginning to think I was the only member of the male race who felt this way. It is the ultimate utilitarian vehicle for a family.
 
 
Apr 6, 2009
The funny thing is that Chrysler INVENTED the Minivan, and for years and years, theirs was the only choice (or the only one that mattered - GM and Ford were trying by adding extra seats to their small contractor vans...). We bought one in '90 (no other options), and it lasted 12 years, even though it did get a new (free) transmission (and our local Dodge dealer had had to replace enough of them that he had it down to a science, took only 2 days- same for the ABS system, which we replaced 2x). So come 2002, we need a new van. Toyota and Honda look good, but upon reading on the web there are many posts that say "if you expect Camry quality in a Sienna, or Accord quality in an Odessey, you will be disappointed. The Caravan was $5K cheaper, and the dealer was 5min away instead of 30min away, so we gambled on the Caravan and kept $5k as insurance.

We're actually very happy. No real issues, and the ability to remove each of the 4 rear seats -individually- turned out to be a real win (sometimes we just put in the LEFT seats, which gives us a long narrow cargo space on the right. Often we put in 3 out of 4 seats, and so we seat 5, and still have significant cargo space).

STILL - Lee Iacocca was often quoted as saying "if we don't sell minivans, we don't eat". Too bad Chrysler forgot that when he left.. Our local Dodge Dealer recently went under, and it sounds like Chrysler is not far behind, I hope if we need dealer service in 2-3 years we can get it. 8-{

The car companies did it to themselves, letting the unions suck them dry, and reasoning they could grow their way out of their problems, (or more likely, executives reasoned they'd be gone before the s--t hit the fan). Why exactly should we bail them out? Let's solve the 'jobs' problem by improving unemployment insurance, instead of prop-ing up companies to just maintain jobs...

just my $.02
 
 
Apr 6, 2009
I'm confused. Was Scott allowed to breed?
 
 
Apr 6, 2009
Does your wife refer to you as Mr. Scott, or Sulu?
 
 
Apr 6, 2009
Please let me know if you disagree with this assessment:

Minivan drivers drive like they are the only ones on the road.

SUV drivers drive like they own the road.

By the way, I drive an SUV, and whenever I am frustrated with another driver, 90% of the time it is a minivan.
 
 
Apr 6, 2009
It doesn't surprise me that you did not consider a domestic minivan during your recent shopping trip, the pickings are slim and what is available isn't worth the money. It is no wonder the domestic automakers are in such financial distress with what they are trying to pass off as high quality automobiles these days. My wife and I finally had to give up our 12 year old Dodge Caravan last september as it was dying a slow and painful death, costing more to fix that a year's worth of new car payments. The first place we went of course was to look at a new Dodge Caravan, seeing as how the last one served us and our three kids so well, but we were very disappointed. The vehicle had no power, even with only 2 adult and 3 kids loaded in, the seat backs for all the rear seats barely reached mid spine, with the headrest extending up 2 feet to reach your head, and the road noise was horrible. We were unable to look at Ford because earlier ownership of a Ford vehicle proved to us that they can't make good vehicles, and GM does not make minivans anymore, we had to look at what are called imports, even though they are made here, in a plant about 20 !$%*! away. Anyway, after test driving Honda, Toyota and Hyundai minivans, and reading all of the available literature and comparison charts, we settled on the Hyundai because of the included features, warranty and price. It was only once we went in to sign on the dotted line that my wife had a tinge of mid life crisis and asked if we could take their larger SUV for a spin. She instantly fell in love with the Santa Fe, and argued with me that we rarely take 7 people anymore, mostly just 5 of us and a load groceries or camping equipment, or other such gear. The XM satellite radio is nice, but not nescessary, I didn't think I'd like the heated seats, but I used them on a few cold days this winter. It is comforting to know however, that the warranty will run out by the time I'm done making payments on the vehicle, but now I'm thinking with the economy going even lower, I probably could have gotten a better deal if I had waited. Unfortunately, between the tires, brakes, exhaust, rocker panels, shocks, air conditioning and the trunk release failing, my old caravan would not have made it through the winter.

As for the minivan only playing Daughtry, does your navigator put him on when the kids are not in the vehicle? If she does, you may want to make sure she doesn't starting playing that music in the bedroom or she's going to forget what you look like.
 
 
Apr 6, 2009
Have you actually referred to your wife as "Spock" yet or is this only in your head? I don't see my wife really appreciating that nickname too much.

We never did buy a minivan...but rented one for a trip and were totally blown away that it seemed people who actually had kids designed it. It had all these storage places and other great little features that you always wish you had when dealing with kids and the infinite amount of stuff that comes with them.
 
 
Apr 6, 2009
How come the word !$%*!$% got axed by your anti-obscenity filter? In case it gets hit again, the word following "321,000" in my post was m-i-l-e-s.
 
 
Apr 6, 2009
Dum, dum, dum, dum, another one bites the dust. . .

Your story makes me recall that of a friend of mine. His pride and joy was his red Porsche. He loved that car. Then he got married. Another mutual friend and I howled with laughter when he said he was going to keep his Porsche. We set up a pool in the office to guess how long it would be before his Porsche became a fond memory.

He actually made it longer than I thought he would: four months. When his new wife informed him that a blessed event was on the way. Then it became a "mutual decision" to off the Porsche and "move up" to a minivan. Our peals of laughter could be heard in Sonoma county. So don't feel like too much of a wuss, Scott. Your friends aren't secretly laughing behind your back. They're probably laughing right to your face. You wuss.

By the way, there are more US-made parts and US labor hours in most Toyotas than there are in most Fords. People need to understand the automotive industry better. The reason US car companies still can't compete on price, even though their quality is as good as the imports now, is because of union costs - GM, for example, pays more money to retirees than to its current labor force. The average GM employee, when all his/her benefits are figured in, is being paid about $70/hour. Twice as much as Toyota pays to its US employees.

And as far as quality goes, I can't speak to Honda, but I am still driving my 1992 Toyota Camry XLE V-6. It still has its original engine and transmission, the A/C still works and It has a smooth ride and crisp acceleration. It also has more than 321,000 !$%*! on it.

You might come to regret not listening to that Toyota salesman.

 
 
+2 Rank Up Rank Down
Apr 6, 2009
Enjoy posting items like this while you can Scott. The FTC will soon be cracking down on you (yes, you) for misleading advertising. All it would have taken here was getting a good deal from your Honda salesman.

http://tinyurl.com/ftc-bloggers
 
 
Apr 6, 2009
ROTFLASTHOOTC at Dautry burn! I hate that B S channel, the boss who is a yuppie redneck b i t c h plays that XM station EVERY HOUR OF EVERY DAY. I am glad someone else hates it.
 
 
 
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