Sporty minivans? Plenty of people search for them, desperate to enjoy the undeniable people- and cargo-carrying benefits of the segment, yet equally desperate to avoid the stereotypically dull styling that’s usually on display there. Well, believe it or not, many automakers are responding to that demand. And if you don’t believe it, Autobytel experts dare you to read on and discover exactly how athletic the current range of minivans has become.
10 Sporty Minivans
Photo Credit: Toyota
2016 Toyota Sienna
It turns out that the 2016 Toyota Sienna is called the Swagger Wagon for good reason: It takes pole position among our sporty minivans backed by both racing roots and an athletically oriented SE edition. In terms of motorsports, two Sienna concepts—both based on stock Siennas—successfully competed in this year's One Lap of America event, a 12-state, 3,000-mile marathon that included timed racing at eight different courses. Moreover, the starting point for each of those Sienna racers was the same SE model that’s available in dealerships today, complete with a sport-tuned suspension, lowered ride height, 19-inch wheels, aero-style side skirts and dramatic, model-exclusive instrumentation. A 266-horsepower, 3.5-liter V6 motivates Toyota’s muscular minivan.
Photo Credit: Dodge
2016 Dodge Grand Caravan
Though the 2016 Dodge Grand Caravan doesn't have quite the same factory-back on-track credibility as the Toyota Sienna, it does provide two sporty minivans for customers—and a 3.6-liter V6 with 17 more horsepower than its rival, for a total of 283. In the Grand Caravan R/T, that engine is complemented by a sport-tuned suspension, a black-leather cabin with red accent stitching and bold 17-inch polished-aluminum wheels that feature Gloss Black pockets. The R/T also wears a sophisticated, monochromatic exterior, and for an alternative take on athletic good looks, Dodge offers a Blacktop package for a number of the other Grand Caravan trims, with this bundle delivering blackout-style exterior accents and an all-black cabin treatment.
Photo Credit: Chrysler
2017 Chrysler Pacifica
It may have gotten lost in the hubbub surrounding the vehicle's available hybrid powertrain—detailed in our next entry—but the 2017 Chrysler Pacifica serves up "handling capability approaching that of a premium sports sedan," while also packing the most powerful engine in the minivan segment. It's a retuned version of the award-winning Pentastar V6 found in the Dodge Grand Caravan and Chrysler Town & Country, but bumped up to 287 horsepower and 262 lb.-ft. of torque. Beyond its slick suspension and powertrain, the Pacifica sets the pace for sporty minivans when it comes to sleek exterior design, too, thanks to cues ranging from a low ride height to a high-mounted rear spoiler for what Chrysler calls class-leading aerodynamics.
Photo Credit: Fiat Chrysler Automobiles
2017 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid
Now, about the 2017 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid: Although its mission isn't to compete with today's sporty minivans, it does so by sharing the same dynamic exterior design and sport-sedan handling as the version powered solely by a gas engine. Thus, the Pacifica Hybrid has the same streamlined silhouette and relatively nimble proportions, and features a MacPherson-strut front suspension with a twist-blade independent rear setup. Chrysler engineers also put significant effort into reducing the vehicle's weight, boosting efficiency and performance at the same time. Of course, that said, it’s that first trait that really distinguishes the Pacifica Hybrid. Actually a plug-in hybrid, it combines hundreds of miles of gasoline-fueled travel with a 30-mile all-electric driving range.
Photo Credit: Kia
2016 Kia Sedona
If you prefer your sporty minivans to reflect the rugged, active appearance of the latest crossovers, the 2016 Kia Sedona may be more to your liking. Leveraging the brand's penchant for aggressive and modern design, the Sedona has a sheer, upright grille treatment that's right out of the SUV playbook, and its long daylight opening gives it a somewhat "fast," windswept look in profile. Beneath its broad hood, a 3.3-liter V6 gives it 276 horsepower worth of motivation, and Kia’s Amplitude Selected Dampers ensure crisp handling under extreme maneuvers and a smooth ride in all driving scenarios—all without sacrificing its family-friendly versatility. In fact, it raises the bar with features like a hands-free rear liftgate.
Photo Credit: Honda
2016 Honda Odyssey
Growing customer interest in sporty minivans has had an impact on the 2016 Honda Odyssey as well. True, the Odyssey is better known for its ability to meet family needs with innovations such as the segment's first in-vehicle vacuum system, along with its Top Safety Pick rating from the IIHS. That's why Honda's popular minivan also was named one of this year's Best Cars for Families, and one of the Best Cars for the Money, by U.S. News & World Report. Yet the brand additionally points out dynamic design cues like the Odyssey's available 18-inch aluminum-alloy wheels. Meanwhile, the vehicle’s standard V6 showcases both 248 horsepower and Honda’s i-VTEC variable valve-timing and lift technology.
Photo Credit: Nissan
2016 Nissan Quest
The 2016 Nissan Quest comes from the same company that builds spectacular sports cars like the GT-R and 370Z, and as that company points out: "Dynamic performance is a hallmark of Nissan vehicles and the Quest is no exception." For example, its Xtronic continuously variable transmission relies on Nissan D-Step Shift Logic and Adaptive Shift Control for a performance that is surprisingly responsive in a CVT. As for the engine hooked to that transmission, it's a 3.5-liter V6 with 240 horsepower on tap. The Quest also stands out for an expressive exterior design that's highlighted by a swept-back style and a "floating" roof with a hidden rear pillar—just like on the Nissan Maxima 4-Door Sports Car.
Photo Credit: Fiat Chrysler Automobiles
2016 Chrysler Town & Country
To thoroughly consider all contenders for our roster of sporty minivans, we have to consider the 2016 Chrysler Town & Country, too. After all, it furnishes the same standard Pentastar V6 engine that’s standard in the Dodge Grand Caravan—and that provides the foundation for the unit in the Chrysler Pacifica—and that means drivers enjoy a robust 283 horsepower and 260 lb.-ft. of torque. That’s more output than found in any other minivans except the Pacifica. Also, as a result of the hard work of the Chrysler suspension team, the Town & Country is specifically engineered to supply a “fun driving experience, whether the drive is the neighborhood carpool, a family vacation or an exhilarating adventure on twisty roads.”
Photo Credit: Mazda USA
2015 Mazda Mazda5
Okay, the Mazda Mazda5 went out of production last year, but they were still being sold when this story went to press, and the Zoom-zoom brand’s mini minivan had a sterling reputation for agile handling and an ability to keep drivers connected with the road. Just remember that part of the reason for Mazda5’s sharp reflexes had to do with its dimensions. It put three rows of 2-across seating into about the same footprint as a traditional compact sedan, so it was more than 20 inches shorter than traditional minivans, which—at 200 inches or more—actually are some of the longest vehicles on the road.
Photo Credit: Fiat Chrysler Automobiles
1989 Dodge Caravan
Finding a 1989 Dodge Caravan for sale might be even harder than locating a Mazda5, but it might also be worth it. That’s because that year’s Caravan helped launch the sporty minivans segment by sporting a turbocharged 4-cylinder engine and a 5-speed manual transmission—the latter from Getrag, no less. There wasn’t that much output involved, since the turbocharged Caravan only carried 150 horsepower and 180 lb.-ft. of torque, yet it also weighed about 1,000 lbs. fewer than a modern-day minivan, making up in lightness for what it lacked in absolute power.