Steve’s Top Picks
If you’re shopping for a new minivan you’ve picked a good time. First of all, there are only 4 models from which to choose so that makes life simpler but more importantly they’ve all been recently refreshed or completely redesigned with the Honda Odyssey and Chrysler Pacifica midway through their product cycles and the Kia Carnival and Toyota Sienna the all-new vans on the block. So minus the Pacifica’s ace in the hole with its more creative seating configurations – the personal importance of which only you can decide — Can the Sienna bump itself to the top of the class? From its provocative new styling that now presents as even more premium and handsome than the Pacifica’s to its Lexus-infused aura I, and everyone I’ve been transporting this week have been raving about the Sienna’s sophistication and family-friendly personality. I won’t bury the lede. This Sienna is arguably the best minivan of all-time.
When I think back to the thousands of car I’ve tested over the past 23 years, there’s a shortlist of those that have left an indelible impression; the ones I’ve placed in my fantasy garage and the NSX is one of them. This is no doubt a supercar but it’s arguably the most practical supercar you can buy. 0-to-60mph in 2.9 seconds with a top speed of 191 is enthralling and this powertrain just keeps pulling. And the way Acura has programmed the traction and stability control systems to scrub out unwanted wheel spin and keep the NSX pointed straight is very impressive. Loaded with all of the options including the extensive use of carbon fiber both inside and out, this car totals $191,995. Too bad you can’t get the Acura as a convertible…something all of its competitors offer. For me, this is a dream car.
The 2021 Pacifica will offer an advanced all-wheel drive system that preserves Chrysler’s coolest and most proprietary feature – Stow ‘n Go seating – the ability for the 2nd row seats to disappear into the floor. There’s also a new bougie Pinnacle model with standard all-wheel drive and a bunch of add on goodies such as the Premium and Safety Sphere Group and the Uconnect Theater Family Group which includes a new feature called the FamCam Interior Camera – a way for parents to keep tabs on the little ones, even in rear facing car seats. And the seatback video screens have always been a big hit right from the start. With a MSRP at $55,665, this isn’t your blue collar minivan, but it still does an excellent job of making family travel as easy and as enjoyable as can be and offers big time flexibility with a heaping dose of Chrysler cleverness.
A 702-horsepower 1500 designed to eat the outdoors for lunch. This is the new Ram TRX. When your truck comes standard with Launch Control, 35” tires, nearly 12” of ground clearance and a feature called Jump Detection you just know insanity will ensue. And that’s exactly what Ram delivers in this extreme version of an off-road truck. Ram has given this truck all the proper tools you’d ever need and they’re integrated with a modern touch that makes the TRX even cooler. From the many drive modes detailed beautifully up here to the TRX and Performance Pages on the big screen, this is the most comprehensive package of gauges, hero measurements, and driver assist features you’ll find anywhere. It’s all so brilliantly complete and exhaustive that it just adds to the feeling that there’s nothing this truck can’t do.
If I could have ANY truck I’ve ever tested over the past 23 years – and I’ve driven all of them – this would be it, hands-down. What RAM has done with the standard issue 1500 is already very impressive but this? This is nuts. The TRX is massive, looks completely apocalyptic, chews up the earth and spits it out without breaking a sweat, runs with an insanely powerful engine whose supercharger sounds just as insane, and yet possesses the most advanced, luxury and tech laden cabin in the truck segment. This is supremely modern and beyond spacious; the very epitome of having your cake and eating it too. Yes, the gas mileage is atrocious and at over $87,000 it’s basically relegated to rich guy fodder but this is the AMG S-Class of trucks, holding nothing back.
This is the nicest, most modern new Toyota cabin in a long time, but is it just a fancier RAV4 Hybrid? Fact is they do share the new Toyota platform like several other of their sedans and crossovers. This new Venza feels like a completely different vehicle; much more luxurious and upscale. And I’m really digging this Limited grade. With a starting price of $33,645 including delivery, the Venza slots in between the RAV4 and the Highlander occupying the space of a quasi-midsize 5-seater but in reality its interior dimensions are more compact. Going into my test week I can’t say I was really expecting too much – Toyota has been the target of my criticism of late – which is why I’m so surprised at how well they’ve executed the Venza’s return. It’s as smartly crafted and perfectly positioned as any model in their vast lineup.