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THE SEIS­MIC SWITCHOVER be­tween laugh­ing at the no­tion of buy­ing a mini­van and re­al­iz­ing its real-life util­ity comes at child #2 in the Amer­i­can house­hold. The first gen­er­a­tion of mini­vans many of us grew up in were bru­tal. But times have changed: a new wave of fun-to-drive vans might be the less-than-SUV-size an­swer to your ski-trip needs. And now they come with built-in vac­u­ums. What will they think of next?

The orig­i­na­tor of the mini­van rev­o­lu­tion, Chrysler looks to rein­vent the genre with its new Paci­fica, an eight-pas­sen­ger mini­van with cross­over-SUV looks and more kid-friendly fea­tures than a theme park. It’s still a van, of course, but with 287 horse­power, the vir­tu­ally ef­fort­less sec­ond-row Stow ’n Go fold­away seats, and smart

bits like built-in elec­tronic bingo for the young ones, the Paci­fica is ac­tu­ally pretty cool. What’s more, a hy­brid ver­sion con­trib­utes to a 530-mile range on a tank of gas. But a vac­uum with a 12-foot hose may be the bright­est idea yet for any­one wran­gling the Cheez-It crowd.

For a snow-ready mini­van ex­pe­ri­ence, the stylish Toy­ota Si­enna ups the ante with an op­tional AWD sys­tem, the only van to do so in the U.S. mar­ket. Like the Paci­fica, the Si­enna has be­come a sculpted piece of de­sign, in­side and out, though it will still carry eight pas­sen­gers and boasts 150 cu­bic feet of stor­age if you drop the seats. With 296 horse­power and avail­able 19-inch wheels, it’s also a classy ma­chine, ac­cen­tu­ated with dual moon roofs, a du­alview Blu-ray en­ter­tain­ment 2017 Toy­ota Si­enna Base price $31,610 High­way MPG 19 Ski-trip nicety Holds 15 pas­sen­gers sys­tem, and the in­ge­nious Driver Easy Speak—am­pli­fy­ing your com­mands so the kids will hear all the way in the third row.

The ac­claimed eight­pas­sen­ger Honda Odyssey has also con­tin­ued to spruce up its looks and its per­for­mance, pro­vid­ing a smart and com­fort­able fam­ily haul­ing ex­pe­ri­ence that drives with much more grace and style than in the old days. Sim­i­lar to its com­pe­ti­tion, it’s got a 248-horse­power V-6 and 148.5 to­tal cu­bic feet of stor­age— with ad­di­tional cargo/seat­ing flex­i­bil­ity of­fered by the stow­away third-row seats. The Odyssey was the first with the built-in vac­uum op­tion, and it also of­fers a roof rack that

ac­com­mo­dates gear boxes for ski­ing fam­i­lies.

Should you want to take your whole neigh­bor­hood to the slopes, Ford has lo­cal­ized its in­ter­na­tional vans to cre­ate both the full-size Tran­sit and the some­what more cityfriendly Tran­sit Con­nect wagon as full-strength peo­ple movers. The Tran­sit comes in three lengths and three roof heights, pro­vid­ing space for up to 15 pas­sen­gers plus an un­be­liev­able 487 cu­bic feet of max stor­age, in case you’d like your own tun­ing shop on wheels. Three en­gine choices, in­clud­ing a slick five­cylin­der diesel, pro­pel a ve­hi­cle that’s com­modi­ous but en­tirely con­tem­po­rary and com­fort­able on the in­side. ●

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