When it comes to moving as many people as possible—short of a bus—it’s pretty hard to beat a Van. While only three of the current crop of car-based minivans qualifies as one of the best eight passenger vans, the traditional models fill in the gaps nicely. Of course with those, you’ll forego many of the de rigueur comfort and convenience amenities lavished upon occupants by the contemporary minivan, but what you give up in plush, you more than make up for in passenger capacity. Many of these models are capable of transporting up to 15 people. Here, we should note full-size vans have changed tremendously. The days of the body-on-frame full-size vans are coming to an end. A new breed of more efficient easier handling unibody constructed full-size models has pretty much replaced them.
Chevrolet Express/GMC Savana
The Chevrolet Express and GMC Savana passenger vans are two of the last of the straight up old school full-size vans employing body on frame construction. As such, Express and Savana are basically fully enclosed pickup trucks. For eight-passenger capability, you’ll be looking the 2500-series versions of Express and Savana Power for these comes from a 4.8-liter V8 producing 285 horsepower and 295 ft-lbs of torque. Transmission duties are handled by a six-speed automatic transmission. If you’re after a modicum of comfort, you’ll want to go with at least the LT trim to get rear air conditioning, cloth upholstery, and full-length carpeting. It should be noted however those amenities are available as options for the base LS version of the vans. Other options include remote start, navigation, and rear parking sensors. Pricing starts at $32,685 for Express and $33,185 for Savanna.
Ford Transit Wagon
Ford’s Transit van with its unibody construction is poised to replace the traditional body on frame Ford E-Series full-size van in the blue oval’s lineup. Ford offers the Transit Wagon with three roof heights, three body lengths and the capability of seating up to 15 people. For eight-passenger duty, the Transit Wagon 150 will handle the task. Standard features include full power accessories and air conditioning. Options include a rearview camera, rear parking sensors, full carpeting, rain sensing wipers, and Ford’s Sync voice activated interface. The base engine is a 3.7-liter V6 with 275 horsepower and 260 ft-lbs of torque. You can get the turbocharged 3.5-liter V6 with 365 horsepower and 400 ft-lbs of torque if you feel you need more power. A six-speed automatic transmission routes the engine’s output to the rear wheels. Pricing starts at $29,375.
Lauded as the best of the minivan breed, if you go with the Odyssey’s EX trim level or above, you can get eight-passenger capability in Honda’s minivan. Fresh off of a redesign for the 2014 model year, Odyssey seats up to eight in a three-row configuration. The second row seats can be spread apart to keep kids out of reach of one another, or to create a middle aisle to ease access to the third row. Power for the front-drive powertrain comes from a 248-horsepower, 3.5-liter V6 with 250 ft-lbs of torque flowing through a six-speed automatic transmission. Standard features include a rearview camera, Bluetooth audio streaming and phone connectivity, power adjustable front seats, a 60/40 folding third row seat, and tri-zone air conditioning. Odyssey EX pricing starts at $32,275.
While most manufacturers have left the minivan segment to Toyota, Honda and Chrysler, Kia’s all-new version of its Sedona for the 2015 model year is a nice offering. In an effort to broaden Sedona’s appeal, Kia’s design team gave its minivan something of a crossover SUV profile. As a result, Sedona is easily the most handsomely styled minivan on the market. Eight-passenger seating is standard on Sedona EX, but can be had as an option with LX and SX. Power is generated by a 3.3-liter V6 producing 276 horsepower and 248 ft-lbs of torque. Sedona’s front wheels are fed through a six-speed automatic transmission. Standard features include rear air conditioning controls, Bluetooth telephony and audio streaming, rear parking sensors, and dual gloveboxes. Sedona EX starts at $32,100.
Boasting a low load floor, which in turn eases ingress and egress, the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter is capable of seating up to 12 people in a four-row seating arrangement. Solidly constructed with excellent fit and finish, the Sprinter is also more expensive than all of its rivals. Available features include front and rear parking sensor arrays, a rearview camera, automatic headlights and wipers, navigation, and a heated windshield. The 2015 Mercedes-Benz Sprinter passenger van uses a 161-horsepower 2.1-liter turbocharged diesel engine with 265 ft-lbs of torque as its base engine. A seven-speed automatic transmission feeds the rear wheels. The optional engine is a turbocharged 3.0-liter diesel with 188 horsepower and 325 ft-lbs of torque, mated to a five-speed automatic. Pricing starts at $39,995.
Nissan NV Passenger
Another member of the new breed of full-size vans, Nissan’s NV offers comfort, versatility and capacity n a modern efficient package. Standard features include air conditioning, a four-speaker audio system, water repellant cloth upholstery, and privacy glass. Available features include leather upholstery, a rearview camera, front and rear parking sensor arrays, heated front seats, and dual-zone automatic climate control. Power comes from a choice of two engines. The 4.0-liter V6 makes 261 horsepower and 281 ft-lbs of torque, while the 5.6-liter V8 makes 317 horsepower and 385 ft-lbs. A five-speed automatic and rear-wheel drive complete the powertrains. Pricing starts at $32,570.
Ram ProMaster Window Van
Lighter and more efficient than traditional full-size vans, the RAM ProMaster Window Van is based on the front-wheel drive Fiat Ducato sold in Europe. Basically, you buy Ram ProMaster Window Vanlike a cargo van and then configure it with seating arrangements to suit your preferences. Standard features include air conditioning, cloth upholstery, power door locks, power windows and keyless entry. Options include parking sensors, heated seats, a rearview camera, and satellite radio. Power comes from a 3.6-liter V6 with 280 horsepower and 260 ft-lbs of torque. A six-speed automatic transmission feeds the front wheels. A 3.0-liter turbodiesel is optional with 174 horsepower and 295 ft-lbs. The diesel gets a six-speed automated manual transmission. Pricing starts at $33,255.
The minivan segment, while boasting fewer models than in the past, continues to be something of a highly competitive environment. Of all the players in the minivan segment (OK, all five of them), only one offers the option of an all-wheel drive powertrain—Toyota newly revamped Sienna. Power for Toyota’s family hauler comes from the same 3.5-liter V6 employed in the previous version of the minivan. Output is 266 horsepower and 245 ft-lbs of torque. The engine is mated to a six-speed transmission, which feeds either the front- or all four wheels—in all-wheel drive models. Extensive standard features include a three-zone automatic climate control system, a touchscreen audio system, a rear view camera, blind spot monitoring, and automatic headlights. Toyota Sienna SE pricing starts at $35,785.