If you haven’t shopped for a new family hauler in a while, you might be surprised to discover just how far most models have come. As proof, we’ve rounded up six high-end features and gadgets you can now get in a modern minivan. For drivers who remember the minivans of years past, these features may come as a shock. Family vans were once limited to basic transportation with a lot of seats, while these features were once relegated to luxury cars, but our list proves that the line between minivans and luxury vehicles is now blurrier than ever before.
Adaptive Cruise Control
Yes, it’s true: Adaptive cruise control, a feature once reserved solely for the most expensive luxury cars on the market, is now offered on minivans. Currently only available in the Toyota Sienna and Kia Sedona, we expect the feature to become more widespread as models are redesigned — especially because adaptive cruise control is also finding its way into midsize sedans and entry-level luxury cars. We love the feature, which automatically speeds you up and slows you down according to the cars around you, and we strongly suggest ordering it on your Sienna or Sedona if it doesn’t break the bank.
In-car app functionality is becoming more and more common in today’s vehicles, and it has now reached the world of minivans. The most advanced version of this feature is in the Toyota Sienna, where the van’s Entune infotainment system will do just about anything you ask, including letting you book movie tickets and make restaurant reservations. We also like the UVO system in the latest Kia Sedona and the HondaLink system in Honda’s popular Odyssey, both of which offer several unique functions of their own.
No more in-car yelling? That’s the theory behind Toyota’s Driver Easy Speak system, which allows you to speak using your normal voice in the front seat and still communicate with kids in the back. The feature, which is offered on many Sienna models, is surprisingly easy to use: You simply push a button in the front seat and a microphone picks up your voice, carrying it to speakers in back. The result is you no longer have to take your eyes off the road when you want to update your kids, talk to them or tell them to stop fighting.
Sunshades are a feature we wish we had growing up and something we think just about every van should offer. Fortunately, virtually all new minivan models now offer sunshades, which do exactly what they say: They provide shade from the sun. While this may not seem like an obvious option in a van, new parents will love the feature, as it can keep bright sunlight off their infants. Sunshades can also help older children sleep or make it easier for rear passengers to watch movies as you transport them from one activity to the next. We like the feature, and we’re happy to see that it’s become commonplace in many new family vans.
Although a built-in vacuum cleaner is currently only offered in the high-end Honda Odyssey Touring Elite, we think this feature is a stroke of genius that will soon spread throughout the family-van world. The reasons we like it are obvious: For one, kids are messy, and it’s also a lot easier to have a vacuum cleaner built in to your car than it is to lug one into the cargo area each time you need to clean up. We wish the feature had more widespread availability (the Touring Elite model starts above $45,000), but we’re happy it exists at all.
Advanced Rear-Seat Entertainment Systems
Not too long ago, the only form of rear entertainment was looking out the window until we moved on to rear-seat VHS players with tiny screens. Today, automakers offer an amazing range of rear-seat entertainment features, including dual-screen displays, widescreen systems, wireless headphones and HDMI input for all sorts of devices. In other words, it’s a good time to be a kid in the back seat of a family van. And considering how far a rear entertainment system will go toward keeping kids quiet, it’s a good time to be an adult, too.