We were on our way to peak minivan in 1995 when, in the comedic thriller Get Shorty, John Travolta’s character Chili Palmer kept passing off his rental Oldsmobile Silhouette as the “Cadillac of minivans” (probably the movie’s most memorable line). Back then, just about every major American and Japanese carmaker offered a minivan. Even the final iteration of the Volkswagen bus was still sold here.
Twenty-five years later, you need only one hand to count the minivans on the market in the U.S. Why? Demographic shifts, in part. But mostly, the decline stems from the emergence of three-row SUVs. Minivan sales have been dwindling for decades as drivers ditch the symbol of suburban surrender, the automotive equivalent of drawstring sweatpants, for something they like to call their “truck.”
But having spent Thanksgiving week hauling my extended family around town in a 2020 Honda Odyssey (MSRP $34,690, EX trim), I am again reminded that when it comes to putting a lot of humanoids in a box, you just can’t beat a minivan. Most of the credit goes to the sliding doors. The ability to not just unlock but open these giant access ports remotely is huge. While still fussing with locking up the house, I could pop open the doors and let the nieces and nephews scramble into the back row, as the elder generation followed into the middle row with far less acrobatics (and grumbling) than when entering any vehicle in my own fleet (which, yes, includes a big three-row SUV).
My friend Jody Danforth Root, who considers herself a big van fan, notes another plus. “My van’s sliding doors meant there was never a wind gust or thoughtless kid that blew the door open, dented the car next to us, and left me paying for someone’s body work,” as happened with her other vehicle, a GMC Yukon Denali, a big ol’ SUV.
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