I am a minivan expert.
I have never strapped a child seat into a LATCH position. I have never needed to pack a crib, a diaper bag, and a Fisher-Price My Little Snugabunny for a two-hour visit with my parents. And I have never consciously run a red light while racing to the kids' soccer practice, slamming a cinnamon dolce latte, and screaming at a spouse on the phone. I am a twenty-five-year-old male, and I am a minivan expert.
You see, I -- along with the rest of my generation -- grew up in minivans and, during road trips and rides to school, became a connoisseur of people haulers. In grade school, I'd fight with my sister for the seat next to the second-row audio controls. As a high schooler, I came to appreciate my mom's van for the six-cylinder engine that helped it to easily dust my peers' used Honda Civics off the line. By college, I'd learned to use every ounce of a van's capability, packing it with seven guys, cramming every bit of empty space with luggage, and hitching up a trailer full of triathlon bikes for a budget spring break. To top it all off, each of the five minivans that my parents owned was a Mercury Villager, so I'm well trained in spotting mediocrity among such vehicles.
My motivations may be atypical, but my minivan needs and wants have never differed from those of a typical family: decent driving dynamics, comfortable space for seven, and the ability to haul like a cargo van when necessary. For 2011, the competition has been reset with brand-new versions of the Honda Odyssey, the Nissan Quest, and the Toyota Sienna and a significantly revised Chrysler Town & Country.