Need 4x4 minivan

hadleyJuly 28, 2005

As much as I love it, our FWD MPV minivan just didn't get me where I needed to go last winter (like home). We have three kids (two in boosters, one teen) and possibly another teen on the way (long story) so really need the space. $27K or more on a comparable AWD Sienna just isn't in the cards. We paid a little over $22K for the 2003 MPV (leather, etc.) and Kelly is now around $16.5K.

Not having researched very far yet, that would seem to leave us with a choice of maybe a new AWD Grand Caravan (maybe a little extra) vs. a low-mileage (under 50 or 60K) used Town & Country (fairly straight trade).

MPG is a consideration, too, as we live pretty much 10 miles from "anywhere."

Does anyone have any other suggestions? If not, which strikes everyone as the better long-term strategy (we normally keep cars till they can't be resurrected).

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I don't think Chrysler makes an AWD minivan anymore, so any of those would be used. You might consider the Chevy Astro AWD. It isn't that luxurious, but the 4.3l is a proven engine, and they have been making the same basic van for about 15 yrs. And since it is the last year of production, you might get a deal.

    Bookmark   July 29, 2005 at 2:49PM
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The only new 4WD minivan that matters is the Toyota Sienna. Excellent van all around, nice fold-into-the-floor 3rd-row seats, run-flat tires, the usual Toyota reliability, and excellent safety features (and it aced both the NHTSA and IIHS crash tests). But it is a bit pricey. DaimlerChrysler doesn't make AWD vans anymore because the hardware won't fit under the new "stow-and-go" folding seats. That leaves GM's vans (Chevrolet Uplander, Pontiac Montana, Buick Terrazo, Saturn Relay) as the only other AWD minivans. They are quite dated and aren't competitive with the Toyota - the high rear load floor and small cargo space is particularly annoying. But you can probably pick one up for less than a Sienna AWD, particularly with the current employee-discount program. The Chevy Astro/GMC Safari are also available with AWD, but those are truck-based vehicles that barely qualify as "mini" vans, and are about to be discontinued.

Amongst used 4WD vans, there's the Chrysler/Dodge (through 1994), but I have a soft spot for the old Toyota Previa All-Trac (1997 or earlier). Those are very reliable, use supercharged 4-cylinder engines rather than the usual V6 for better fuel economy, save space by mounting the engine amidships under the floor, and have 3rd-row seats that fold against the sides when not in use. Some of these have 2nd-row captain's chairs that swivel for easy entry/exit.

The first-generation Mazda MPV (1999 and earlier) was available with 4WD too, and they are quite nice, although they're rather more like SUVs than minivans in some ways (hinged rather than sliding side doors for example, and the load floor isn't flat when the seats are removed) but they're reliable and affordable.

    Bookmark   July 31, 2005 at 9:13AM
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Chrysler/Dodge had the AWD through 2004. As for the Previa, if you are interested in safety I would avoid those. They did not do well in the offset frontal crash test. Among the worst if memory serves correct. I think that is why they went to a longer front end on the Sienna.

    Bookmark   July 31, 2005 at 7:51PM
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That is true, although it did do quite well in the full-frontal crash test. However, the Previa has been around long enough now for a good deal of real-life safety data from actual collisions to be collected, and it has faired quite well. Actually slightly below average for minivans, but since minivans as a group protect their occupants much better than cars, you're still better off getting hit in a Previa than in, say, an Accord or Camry sedan. And I don't hear people calling those cars unsafe.

If safety is a high priority though, best to pony up the dough for a new Sienna or Odyssey since they are more crashworthy than older designs (or the current Chryslers), and also have features that help prevent accidents in the first place (like stability control, etc.)

Another old 4WD minivan I forgot about is the Ford Aerostar. I can't remember when they stopped making them. They are based on the Ranger pickup truck platform, but not as tall and trucky as the Chevy Astro, and not as unreliable.

    Bookmark   August 1, 2005 at 12:52AM
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Just avoid the Astro at all costs! It's not crashworthy and the history of repair is dismal! I have a friend that bought one and is regretting it. He says it's in the shop more than on the road. And if it were for only one thing he could have it classified as a lemon but the law is sticky. He bought it to tow a trailer but now he's afraid to travel with it.
It's a design that's been around since 1984 and they haven't done much to bring it up to date. Let the commercial delivery companies drive it. Not consumers.

    Bookmark   August 1, 2005 at 6:55AM
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Nobody mentioned the Ford DeathStar - er, I mean, Windstar/Freestar, and with good reason. Avoid them. I think Freestar is available with AWD, but I don't believe it was ever available on the Windstar. Not like it matters anyway. They're actually rated well for safety, but unreliable, and lack features that have been available on other makes for years.

I remember when the redesigned Nissan Quest came out, people were either ga-ga over them or aghast at the styling. Does anyone know whether they're available with AWD? If so, they may be worth mentioning (or, maybe not).

    Bookmark   August 2, 2005 at 8:28AM
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Neither the Freestar nor the Quest offers AWD.

    Bookmark   August 4, 2005 at 12:41AM
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But why a minivan? They're the same size as an SUV but don't get the bad press.
Why not look into the Ford FreeSTYLE or Chrysler Pacifica? Both have seating for the family and have AWD. And unlike the Toyota minivan they don't require premium fuel. And they're priced at the same point as the minivans.

    Bookmark   August 4, 2005 at 7:57AM
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I love my MPV as well! The first winter was rough... but here is what I have learned that helped me through many Ontario winters:
1) Winter tires. Need them with FWD
2) Couple of bags of kitty litter. Weight in the back that is compact and out of the way. They lay flat and I was told they can be useful sprinkled on icy roads.
3) Practice "spinning out". When we get the first snow fall and no one is around, I try my winter defensive driving.

    Bookmark   October 10, 2006 at 8:52PM
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Hadley, Pinkey is right on, before you go trading you van, get 4 snow tires (NOT 2) get 4 put them on simple steel rims. Look at , they have all sizes and prices. I have 3 vehicles and all 3 have their own set of snow tires and yes I have a Honda minivan, and with the snows on I can go anywhere on the road... not offroad but on road. I live in WI. and travel many times to very norhten WI. in the winter, the tires are a world of difference. I was in the same boat as you until I got the tires, when I get another van I will by a Honda and get it a set of winter tires.
Thanks Dave

    Bookmark   October 13, 2006 at 1:20PM
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I thought 4x4 minivans were now called compact SUV's.
I could be wrong but I don't think you're missing any seats with durango vis a vis caravan.

    Bookmark   October 13, 2006 at 8:06PM
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I will second the recommendation for four real snow tires. I'm always amused that people think they have to spend several thousand extra dollars to buy a four-wheel-drive model of whatever they're buying when 95% of their needs could be solved by less than a thousand dollars of real snow tires and extra wheels. It's kinda like spending big bucks on a workshop and then filling it with tools from the dollar store. If you need it, you need it.

    Bookmark   October 15, 2006 at 8:43AM
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