CARS.COM — The main mission of a minivan is to haul people, more so than even the more popular SUVs that account for more than 30 percent of new-vehicle sales.
Yet, whereas more than half of SUVs are equipped with all- or four-wheel drive, Toyota stands alone among minivan manufacturers in offering all-wheel drive, which is installed on about 17 percent of Siennas sold in the U.S. In contrast, about 60 percent of Toyota Highlander SUVs are equipped with all-wheel drive.
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That percentage apparently is enough to satisfy the bean counters at Toyota, which has the all-wheel-drive minivan niche all to itself; the Sienna’s main rivals seem to be in no hurry to try to crash that party.
Todd Breneiser, product planning director for the Chrysler Group, said Chrysler’s minivan owners aren’t clamoring for all-wheel drive. Chrysler offered all-wheel drive on its minivans starting in 1991 but dropped it in 2004 because the rear drive shafts interfered with the then-new Stow ‘n Go seats that fold into the floor.
“There’s a vocal minority that would really like to have the all-wheel drive, and that’s in the same parts of the country where we see the high take rates for other all-wheel-drive vehicles, but for the general population, I wouldn’t say it’s in high demand,” Breneiser said in a telephone interview.
“Every year we go out and we do research about what customers like about the vehicle, what they don’t like. Our customers continue to return to us, and we don’t have all-wheel drive,” he added.
With front-wheel drive, minivans are well equipped to handle at least moderate amounts of snow, Breneiser said, and winter tires can improve traction, so all-wheel drive isn’t a must for most drivers.
Cars.com Executive Editor Joe Wiesenfelder agrees that all-wheel drive, though good to have, may not be necessary.