May 25, 2006 By Kevin C. Limjoco

TOYOTA PREVIA GL

 

Alright, so the new Toyota Previa GL may not be the best in the world, but it is the best in the Philippines. As you may have noticed, we have a soft spot for sporting minivans, hence our EVO Fastfleet Nissan Quest SE. We appreciate these types of minivans because they were considered enthusiasts when they were being developed. It’s not by chance, which is fast becoming seldom these days. Some manufacturers have figured out that some of us enthusiasts have big families that like taking the weekend off and would appreciate some form of allowance in making these long trips fun instead of a pure chore.

The handsome new Toyota Previa is aesthetically inspired by the Gunto samurai sword. It looks heavy-bladed but it’s very fluid and svelte. It’s slightly longer and wider than the previous model, but a little lower to improve handling and complete the overall design. The wheelbase is also slightly longer to improve interior dimensions while at the same time enhancing high-speed stability and summed comfort. Ai think the Previa looks brilliant with its clean lines and bigger wheels up by an inch in height now at 17” and half an inch wider at 7” to accommodate Yokohama’s ultra-smooth and quite dB E70 215/55R 17 94V Decibel tires which contributes to the minivan’s excellent ride comfort while still maintaining a pretty good grip. The Previa’s handling dynamic is ultimately compromised by the rear torsion beam suspension system, which I admit is very comfortable and allows the minivan to have just that bit more interior room, so it’s an appropriate compromise.

Besides the obvious good looks of the new body, there are other notable features that we found outstanding like the adaptive projector HID headlight system with accompanying washers that improve visibility therefore safety dramatically. The AFS system, as it’s called, automatically compensates for elevation and directional changes, this is a feature found in considerably more expansive European luxury sedans. The steering system, beginning with a great-looking leather-clad steering wheel with audio controls and attractive light wood accents, features Toyota’s new electric power assistance system (ESP), again a feature found in very premium vehicles meant to preserve engine power efficiency. The telescopic and tilt adjustable steering feels excellent, and with the more commanding view, a real joy to drive within reason of course. If you do start to get anxious and start driving aggressively you be reminded that the Previa is still a minivan albeit a very good handling one. You may be led to presume that the minivan drives even better than some sedans, and you would be correct when comfort is in question, but physics will still dictate otherwise. You’re driving swifter because you can see better and the suspensions absorb road imperfections better, but you will not out-handle a car; it’s an illusion.

Even in our fast fleet Nissan Quest SE boasts a 245bhp 3.5-liter ungoverned V6 engine with fully independent suspension with anti-roll bar5s both in the front and rear, and an exceptional braking system with a vented disc on all corners and huge twin-piston front calipers, its weight, dimensions, and design still limits it to a very swift minivan. Throw in light corners and the 225/60HR/17 Good Year LS2 tires will scream for mercy. The Quest even features vehicle stability and traction control to help you curb your enthusiasm. But it’s still a minivan that can almost hit 220km/h and accelerate to 100 from rest in 7.8 seconds. The Previa on the other hand does sport a slightly better-tuned engine than its previous model, yielding a modest increase of 13bhp, but at 300rpm more revs, through friction reduction in both the intake and exhaust systems combined with a more willing 4-speed automatic that can now be controlled manually when needed. And after our test-run, I will honestly tell you that the Previa will out-handle the Quest mainly because of its size and weight. Acceleration is marginally better than the previous model and is sufficient for 95% of regular driving activity.

The most important facet of the Previa however isn’t how it drives but how comfortable the interior is for everyday use. It’s a given that the Previa has the mandatory safety equipment, both active and passive with SRS front side airbags and all-wheel ABS and EBD ( which is progressively better than the outgoing model), but its emphasis on passenger comfort is its biggest draw. The new interior is not only refreshing and elegant but supremely comfortable. Every leather seats from the three rows are adjustable, but the second-row captain’s chairs have got integrated adjustable ottomans! Brilliant! The other great interior feature is that the sliding doors (with power windows) and rear hatch are also powered. Lastly, the Previa now has the push-button ignition switch combined with a smart proximity key fob that also remotely controls door locks and activation controls. Mini storage is plentiful but with the third row in use, rear trunk space is a bit limiting. Thankfully, for long-distance trips, the 60-40 split third row can be adjusted and stowed to accommodate more capacity.

At the suggested retail price of over a P2million, we would have wanted to see a moonroof, independent rear suspension, a 3.0-liter V6 engine, and an even better audio system that could fill the full range of the van’s interior acoustics. Still, the new Previa is the very best and most balanced premium minivan ever.

Specifications

Engine

Engine Inline-4, 2362cc, dohc 16v, VVTi, 4-speed AT S-ECT
Max Power (bhp @ rpm) 170bhp @ 6000rpm
Max Torque (lb/ft @ rpm) 165lb ft @ 4000rpm

Performance

Top Speed 186km/h (116mph)
0-100 km/h | 0-62 mph 10.9sec

Ratings

Price as Tested (PHP) 2,200,000
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