Vehicles Archive

The Family Minivan Gets Disrespected

Minivans get no respect.  They’re the Rodney Dangerfield of the vehicle world: plucky vehicles that can haul loads of people or stuff, drag boats or campers behind, and still get no respect.  It can be overt or subtle.  You’re probably guilty of disrespecting a minivan at one time or another—I know I am and I drive one!  Think about it—you’re pulling up to an intersection with a red light, you have a choice of lanes and there’s a minivan stopped in the center lane, a Honda sedan in the inside lane, and a Cadillac in the outside lane.  Who do you get behind?  Of course!  The Honda!  You don’t want to be behind the minivan because the driver will likely be driving too cautiously or singing songs to the rearview mirror, right?  Ugh, so frustrating!  And the Caddy likely holds some elderly people and will go 10 mph under the speed limit, so the Honda is the correct choice.  Bueno!

2011 Nissan Quest Review: Is the Newly Redesigned Minivan for You?

It’s been 7 years since Nissan came out with the original Quest and it was overdue for a redesign. They’ve had a history of having forward-thinking design with their minivans—no stuffy styling here.  And the Nissan engineers have continued in that tradition with sporty styling that says “Outta my way!”  I’ll be honest: I wasn’t all that impressed with the appearance of the 2011 Quest by what I saw on their website.  It was very 2-dimensional (and yes, I’m aware they haven’t come out with a 3-D home computer yet ;) ), even as I dragged the slider around to spin the virtual van every which way and back.  I just didn’t see the lines that were supposedly there.  So, first impressions were dim.

But, I was excited to get away—an overnight mini-vacation in an awesome hotel—L’Auberge Del Mar!  For the rest of the journalists there covering the “ride,” it was yet another day away from home.  I don’t get out much evidently.  When my driver pulled up in front of the hotel, there was a Quest parked right there in front for all guests to see.  I was impressed!  It looked *so* much nicer in person than on the website.  It looks small, but the length is within a half-inch of the new Sienna.  Perhaps it’s the shininess that caught my eye, the newness.  It is a very different-looking van from all the competition, and that is what Nissan is known for doing with the styling on its mini-vans. 

2011 Honda Odyssey Touring Elite: The Ultimate Kids & Carseats Review! (with tons of pics & videos)

Truthfully, there are probably a hundred different reviews and blogs of the new 2011 Honda Odyssey all floating around the internet by now.  Two of them were written by our own fabulous Darren Qunell who had a chance to preview this 4th Generation Ody at a press event in La Jolla, CA this past September.  So, what sets this particular 2011 Odyssey Review apart from all the others?  Read on, my friends.  There are specific details here pertaining to kids, carseats and safety that you’re just not going to find anywhere else.  Guaranteed.  I mean seriously, only a nutcase would drag 20 different carseats & boosters home and then spend countless hours in the driveway (much to the amusement of her neighbors and random passersby) installing them in various seating positions just to give perspective consumers and our faithful blog readers as many specific details as possible on this vehicle. 
Now a little background info and some prerequisite homework for our readers.  First, a huge shout-out to Honda and to STI Fleet Services who so graciously delivered this vehicle and then picked it up a week later.  Additionally, since I have no desire to duplicate all of the numerous details in Darren’s original review – I’m going to urge you to read Part I and Part II of his review first if you haven’t already done so.  His impressive 2-part review covers the features, specs and options of this newest generation Odyssey.  Consider my review “4th Gen Ody 102″ as it will supplement and build-upon the things that Darren has already covered.

Thinking about a New 2011 Ford Explorer with Inflatable Seatbelts?

You may want to rethink that option package and buy the regular old-fashioned seatbelts.  While a great idea in theory with adults and with older kids in backless boosters, if you’re still installing carseats, these belts can cause problems for you depending on your carseat manufacturer.  Now sure, this technology is old news by now since Darren talked about it a year ago.  But carseat manufacturers are just now putting the warnings in their manuals about installing their carseats using these inflatable belts.  Britax is the first to put the warnings in their manuals and Combi is set to follow.  Ford has stated that they have tested carseats with the “airbag” seatbelts and the carseats have performed as expected. 

What do you do?  You follow the carseat manufacturer’s guidelines since they have the best knowledge of how their carseat will perform.  If the manufacturer says no inflatable seatbelts, try using LATCH instead to install the carseat or use a carseat from a different manufacturer that doesn’t have the inflatable seatbelt warning.  If you’re buying a 2011 Ford Explorer, check the options list on the window sticker carefully to see if the inflatable seatbelts are included.  Some dealers are automatically choosing this option when ordering the vehicles from Ford, so you may not have a choice if you’re choosing from a vehicle on the lot.  Inflatable seatbelts are also on some commercial airplanes in the bulkhead seats and on many private planes.  They are thicker than regular airplane seatbelts, so they should be easy to detect.  And there is another 2011 car with the inflatable belts: the Lexus LFA.  But I dare you to install a carseat in that car ;).

I Need Help Finding A New Ride

It’s time for the Sienna to move on to another family who will appreciate it more than I do.  I’m over it.  Done.  Finis.  I was done driving a van when we bought it back in ’05, but my dd was still rear-facing and you just can’t deny the ease of getting kids in and out of vans.  It’s a great people hauler and the stuff we’ve fit into it has been amazing—beds, gigantic TVs, wood, a grill, etc.—but it’s nearly as big as a bus!

I’m at a crossroads as to which vehicle to buy and I could use personal experience input because I’m really torn.  After a recent rental car experience with a Kia Optima (heh, that car had some pickup, I tell you—I finally gave in and drove at 80 mph because that was *its* speed), I’ve crossed sedans off my list because they sit too low to the ground.  I simply had too much trouble seeing around the mammoth vehicles in front of me on the freeway to anticipate what was coming.

I’ve loved SUVs since we bought our first, a RAV4, in 1996.   The smaller SUVs sit just high enough to give me visibility, yet are easy to drive, and they have 4-wheel/AWD, which is something I think I need, but dh disagrees since we already have one.  More than anything, I want to drive something that I *love* to drive, not a utility vehicle, which is what the van is to me.  Sure, the van has some great features that I appreciate, but I don’t love it.