Growing up I remember desperately wanting my parents to get a minivan. All my friends parents’ had them. They seemed so cool. As time went on however, I began to see just how uncool they were. Nothing screams “parent” or “slow driver” more than the dreaded minivan. I also remember having conversations with friends post-college, fervently vowing none of us would ever drive minivans. We would pack our future children into SUVs and who cared if they were comfortable? SUVs were much cooler and ambiguous. After all, anyone can drive a SUV, not just those saddled with carpool duties, football practices and dance classes, right?
I thought I was completely set in my ways. Then I rented a minivan for a road trip to Vegas. And that’s when it happened. My inner third grader came rushing back and suddenly minivans were no longer so terrible.
My Vegas road trip consisted of 5 adults and 5 suitcases. Now, theoretically, we could have all squeezed into my 328i and technically fit. But who wants to “squeeze in” for the painful 4-9 hour (depending on traffic) Vegas drive from LA? SUVs provide almost no added interior room other than additional cargo space in back for luggage. That’s when we decided to go with a minivan. And it must be said, it was the BEST decision ever.
Here’s what I loved about the minivan experience:
1. The Room. The minivan had so much space, each of us had ample room to keep snacks, drinks, luggage, magazines, you name it, all within close proximity. Not only that, no one was sitting on top of one another. The middle row had comfortable bucket seats and my sister-in-law got the entire back row to herself. Brilliant.
2. The Ride. Minivans have definitely taken a step forward since I was in the third grade. The ride was so smooth, I barely felt the road. I mean, it’s no BMW, but for a vehicle that size, I was definitely impressed. There are too many potholes to count on the road to Vegas and we barely felt one.
3. The Gadgets. My husband and I took driving duty, while the rest of our passengers, dubbed “The Kids” for the trip, put on a DVD and the drive time passed quite quickly for them. The van was also kitted out with several modern conveniences such as blue tooth, media streaming, navigation, and reverse camera. All of the features we have all come to rely on. I mean really, who can be bothered to drive without a reverse camera? It’s too difficult once you’ve had one.
4. The Gas Mileage. I would think a minivan would suck through fuel like a kid with a Slurpee. Nope. The Dodge Grand Caravan we rented got arguably better gas mileage than my Beemer. Granted, the engine doesn’t quite have the same get up and go as the BMW, but it’s got enough power to accelerate at a decent rate without sounding like it’s going to explode. The Grand Caravan engine, the Pentastar V-6, boasts best-in-class 283 hp and 260lb.-ft. of torque. It also provides 3,600-lbs. of towing. The fuel efficient engine also does an average of 25 mpg, or 500 miles per tank of gas. Definitely a win for the pocketbook.
5. The Doors. Being able to open the side doors and the lift gate with a simple push of a button is amazing. We traveled with all adult passengers and it was amazing. I can’t imagine how much easier it is for parents with three children in tow and the double-wide stroller to contend with.
All in all, the minivan was an excellent experience. I’ve had a couple of friends over the years who have deviated from the college pact and have gotten minivans as family cars, and they all say the same thing. They absolutely love them. They can’t get over how easy it is to transport their families. They use the push button remote to open the side doors and their kids easily climb in and sit in their booster seats.
To answer my initial question, is the minivan a do or a don’t? I wouldn’t go out and buy a minivan at this stage in my blissfully childless life. However, once we become a family of 4-5, I just might be found at the dealership picking up my new minivan, with all possible features, the biggest engine available and pimped out rims, of course. No need to trade style and speed for functionality completely, no matter how many children you have.