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Video | I Bought the Greatest Minivan Ever Made: A Supercharged Toyota Previa

What if I told you there was an affordable mid-engine, supercharged, rear-wheel-drive vehicle out there, basically the recipe for a supercar — except it can haul the entire family, a sheet of plywood, or sleep like a tiny hotel room? Well, say hello the greatest minivan ever made: my newly purchased 1997 Toyota Previa.

For me, it’s always been a tossup between these and the General Motors minivans of the 1990s (known as the “dustbuster” vans for their shape) as contenders for the best looking minivan ever — but the Previa’s underpinnings and overall engineering easily gives it the title of the greatest minivan ever made. I’ve been looking for a nice example to buy for years, and this 1997 with only 140,000 miles wowed me at first sight. It may not be the more desirable all-wheel-drive version, but I’m not going to drive it in snow, so that doesn’t matter to me. Plus, with the RWD setup, this supercharged minivan can do burnouts — yes, burnouts. I did plenty of them in the video, if you don’t believe me.

There are plenty of other features behold with this supervan, starting with the shape. It looks like an egg — but if you’re a Trekkie like me, all I see is a Class 6 or Class 7 shuttlecraft. For non Star Trek fans, those are the little ships that Jean Luc Picard (played by Patrick Stewart) and others were constantly crash landing on various planets after getting caught in various space anomalies. Coincidentally, this Previa is quite the anomaly on its own, since the engine is nowhere to be found under the hood. You see accessories and fluid reservoirs, like an external oil tank you would find in exotic dry sump engine (even though the Previa’s 4-cylinder powerplant isn’t) so all the magic happens inside or underneath the cabin.

In the Previa, the driver’s seat folds back so you can open an access hatch to the engine — yes, the engine is directly underneath the front seats. The drivetrain is totally centered, so this van is not just mid-engine — it’s middle-engined. This is unlike nearly every other minivan, which crams the drivetrain in front of the passenger compartment — which usually doesn’t give these family haulers the best driving characteristics.

Unfortunately, just because the Previa has supercar DNA doesn’t mean it has supercar performance. Yes, the engine is supercharged, but that’s only to 160 horsepower. So it’s not quick, but if you’ve driven other minivans of the era, you know how soul suckingly terrible the driving experience can be. Meanwhile, the Previa is actually fun to drive, though not sporty by any means, not even close — but you can tell it’s not a nose-heavy pig like nearly every other minivan. The suspension is 1990s Toyota perfection, tuned for comfort and not sport, while the seats have the extra cushy foam that modern interiors don’t offer anymore. The visibility is also insanely good — so if there’s a Lamborghini owner that’s tired of not being able to see out of their mid-engined supercar, maybe they should consider trading for a Previa?

So now you understand why I’m so excited to find one of these, and I think it was well worth the $2,400 I paid for it — that is, if it weren’t for one thing. Unfortunately, my Previa is displaying another older exotic supercar trait, as it’s leaking something all over my driveway. Still, it’s a Toyota, so I’m not worried. To quote another 1990s legend like the Previa, Hakuna Matata. Find a Toyota Previa for sale

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  1. As a owner of going on 4 of these with my current the AWD/SC variety, the leak is from the valve covers gauranteed.  Don’t waste your time and buy the OEM Toyota valve cover gasket and spark plug tube gaskets.  ALL aftermarkets will leak again after a few thousand miles.  Swap those and you’ll be living the good life.

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