For Mega-Hauling, The Mini-Van Is Still Hard To Beat

May 2, 2004
Outside Magazine
Family Vacations, Summer 1996

For Mega-Hauling, The Mini-Van Is Still Hard To Beat

New this spring is Mercury's Mountaineer
The buzz in minivans for '97 is the Chrysler Trifecta. Three years ago, the manufacturer scrapped its existing blueprints, whipped out a clean sheet of paper, and completely redesigned all of its '96 models--the Town & Country, the Plymouth Voyager, and the Dodge Caravan. Not that they were in need of an overhaul: Au contraire. Last year, Chrysler introduced minivans with sliding doors on both sides that are now the category's hottest sellers. The company that invented the minivans 12 years ago still dominates, with Chrysler's share of the minivan market an unheard-of 46.8 percent. And that slice is certain to grow thanks to this model year.

What's more striking than the plethora of creature comforts is that they spoil us as they simultaneously address real needs. Take the cup-holders: Besides being an endless source of backseat amusement for the kids, a ratchet feature adjusts to accommodate a variety of sizes, from a small juice can to a Big Gulp, with space carved out for a coffee-mug handle. The stereo speakers were moved so that cargo placed against the rear lift gate wouldn't impede the sound system. Additional indulgences include a left sliding door, memory seats, and heated wipers: All that's missing is an on-dash espresso maker.

The Dodge Caravan
Because minivan-buyers like cargo space, "roller seats" make removal a snap, which lets the vehicle morph from a shuttle to a freight van in minutes. Besides the reinforced body, dual air bags, and anti-lock braking system, there are new adjustable seat belts that safety-strap all sizes of passenger. With four-engines to choose from--ranging from a 2.4 liter, 4-cylinder to a peppy 3.8-liter V-6--the strength of the Chrysler line is its blanket coverage of different vehicle options in every price range.

Copyright 1996, Outside Magazine

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