I am an active touring musician with a five-piece band, and the Nissan Pathfinder wasn't coming close to fitting all the crap that we needed for a show. It was also dying. I began to think about vans. I needed something that would mainly function as a comfortable vehicle for my personal life, but that happened to store a lot of stuff when I needed it for gigs.
I started in the obvious place: Ford Econline. Nothing says "yo bro, do you have our drink tickets?" like an all-white, 10-passenger band van. However, driving that beast around on a Sunday with my girlfriend looking for parking in Brooklyn seemed like it would get really old, really fast.
Next, I test drove a Ford Transit van. Ford transit vans are the ones that look like flat-tops. At the time, they were very new to the US, and I mainly test drove it as a joke. Wistia video guru and dear friend Chris Lavigne and I found Transit vans so silly-looking that for months we sent each other iPhone videos of them in the wild:
The choice was obvious and I had to face it. A minivan was, and still is, the most practical vehicle for my lifestyle. And once I started doing some research on which minivan was for me, it wasn't long before I was incredibly surprised with the progress they have have made in the past 20 years. Today's minivan is much different from the minivans we grew up riding in the back of in the late '80s and early '90s (in my case, my mother's dark green Dodge Caravan, nicknamed the "Nan Van". Yup, Nancy… you got it).
However, minivans, now more than ever (or maybe I'm just more sensitive because I drive one), have this incredibly uncool, soccer mom stigma. Friends laugh at me when I get out of my car. I've received "baby on board" stickers as a gag gift on a few occasions. I’ve even talked to parents with two young kids and a dog who have told me that they wouldn’t even consider driving a minivan. As if driving a minivan is announcing to the world, "I give up, I'm boring. All I can do now is reproduce and shop at wholesale clubs." Oh, get over yourselves. We aren't in high school anymore, and you know what I say is cooler than subwoofers and rims? Practicality.
And now, I'd like to share my top five features/reasons that minivans are cool.
This is by far the coolest feature of the modern day minivan. Back when I was a kid, the minivan's second row (which was commonly a two-seater bench, t-boning the port side of the van) was removable. It wasn't an easy task, and it left you with an awkward gap in the middle of the van destroying any chance of engaging conversation between the driver and passengers.
Nowadays, the back row folds down into the trunk of the car, creating a cavernous storage space in the rear of the van. This third row folded down, outfitted with a weather-tech rubber mat on top is my default setting.
This storage was obviously what I was seeking for the band's equipment, but I can't tell you how incredible it is for moving furniture, loading groceries, going to the beach with sandy chairs/boogie boards, naps, and beyond. Then, if I find myself in a situation with over five passengers, I fold the seats down and roll the weather-tech mat into the now-available trunk space (which is ample). The back row seat also has a 60-40 split, which gives all sorts of options for fitting passengers and their luggage/gear.
Did I just hear you call shotgun? What are you, 17? In case you didn't notice, every seat in my car is shotgun. The Odyssey has four captain's chairs (two in the front, two in the middle row). On average, I don't travel with more than four people in my car, which means everyone has legroom and arm rests.
The middle-row-middle-seat is removable and has storage under the cushion, but mainly, I leave it folded down to expose the table top for the back passengers' dining needs. Ever since I got my Odyssey, sitting in the back of an SUV or sedan is like being on a crowded subway car. I can't tell you how many road trips I've been on with three passengers all fully reclined and snoozing. I get an overwhelming sense of pride seeing my bandmates so relaxed in these late-night road trip moments, and yes, I realize how creepy that sounds.
The Odyssey has 12 cup holders. Deal with it.
The rear doors have motors in them, and I can open and shut them from either the two buttons located on my dash, or the two on my keychain. This makes me look constantly chivalrous with very little effort. They are a great conversation piece for first-time riders, and it's a lot of fun to catch people who are leaning on my car in the city off guard from afar.
Unlike the doors from our childhood vans, the large windows on them roll all the way down, rather than just popping out like vents. When you are seated in the back with one of these windows down enjoying the summer breeze, it's hard to not feel like the president touring a small town in the motorcade.
Knock on wood, I have never been pulled over for speeding in the minivan. My theory is that no cop wants to deal with a couple of crying babies while asking for a license and registration. When cops see me speeding, they probably think I’m a just a young dad in a minivan driving his wife to the hospital for their third or fourth child birth. Stealth.
If for some reason my life takes a weird turn and I start selling illegal guns or smuggling drugs, I would follow the rules of Gustavo Fring and never upgrade to a flashy car. I would continue to drive through life unnoticed in my practical, classy-yet-understated Honda Odyssey.