Have I mentioned to you before that my favorite part of any trip is getting to the destination? And that if you told me five years ago that the most relaxing and joyful way to do it was in a people-carrier, I would've thought that you were delusional? Oh, how time changes everything.
You see, for a very long time now the minivan or the people-carrier has been right about the most practical vehicle anyone can ever own. It is relatively spacious, it can transport your entire neighbourhood, and with a pull of a lever - you have enough space for a month's supply of groceries. It is spartan and purposeful. Its only job is to take as much people as possible to their destination. Any luxurious appointments? None that I can remember. A buttery smooth V6 engine? With the exclusion of the Americans, none that I know of. Swagger? Zero across the board. How about some business class reclining seats? In your dreams. Until now...
Forget everything you know about a people carrier. The Toyota Alphard has been around in the Philippines for a couple of years now, but in all honesty, it is only this current version that has really caught my attention. I know that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but my eyes see something epic. It reeks of old money and quiet confidence. It looks like a non-conformist and I've always had a deep respect for those who were very comfortable under their skin. With a black paint job, it looks like Darth Vader is being shuttled around. The fantastic LED lights compliment the ostentatious chrome grille rather well.
I love how it seems like someone drew a silhouette of a 1950's Le Mans racer on the side profile. Sure, it isn't a timeless beauty, but has there ever been a van that's been?
While I do like the exterior, the interior is a whole new world. At the press of a button on the keyfob, the automatic sliding doors welcome you to your very own private executive lounge complete with reclining seats and a foldable table. This sea of tan leather holds the seats of 7 privileged passengers. The front passenger seat along with two second row seats come fully equipped with reclining airline seats. The interior is bathed with soft LED ambient lighting to give the full effect of a first-class suite. As you step in to take your seat, you most certainly feel special. Almost everything in the Alphard can be operated at the push of a button.
While fully reclined with my legs up and staring at the night sky through the gargantuan moonroof, I really did feel that the age of opulence has made landfall in the people-carrier. This is most certainly not how I remember a "van" to be, but goodness am I grateful for it. I honestly can't think of a more comfortable way to travel on land, and at less than 3.3 million pesos, it's a bit of a bargain when it makes you feel like a million dollars.
"You can pay attention to the things that really matter - family, friends, business, and quality time."
While the best seats in the house can be found on the second row, the experience wouldn't be complete without giving the driver's seat a go. I decided to go on a trip to Taal Lake with Maan, and Miguel's and Kaye's family. We occupied all seven seats. At first, it felt a bit awkward driving a "van". I mean, nobody really jumps for joy when they're tasked to drive one. Most of the time, it's done out of necessity and never for leisure. While I'm sure that 90% of the Alphard costumers have purchased one to be chauffeured around in, I urge those that can to hop onto the driver's seat to give it a go. It is certainly one of the most relaxing vehicles I've ever driven. It's almost therapeutic. The 275 horses from the V6 engine do their job well in galloping this monument of an automobile. The seats matched with the height give a very commanding view of the road. It's almost as if you are driving a command battle station with sophisticated technology.
"I am sure that our heart rates were roughly three beats less per minute than those in the cars beside us."
For instance, I fell in love with the way the Alphard illuminated the road at night. The LED technology of Toyota is brilliant and the cornering lights came in very handy. I personally think that cornering lights should become standard on all vehicles, especially in the Philippines where road lighting is poor. We spent a good hour pretending with my nieces that we were in first class airline cabin heading to their very own make-believe destination. At this time, the rain started to pour, and it was an absolute non-issue in the Alphard. We were cozy inside and we felt quite detached from the nasty weather outside. If anything, it made the trip a whole lot sweeter. It really made the vehicle shine.
The creature comforts are good too. You can pretty much operate everything from the front, from the sliding doors, rear climate control, ambient light, all the way to the automatic boot. Soon the people that have Alphards are bound to lose all their muscles. Everything can be done at the push of a button. It is packed with more features than necessary, but there are some essential equipment that are lacking, such as the absence of a rearview camera. The 2-din stereo unit was completely out of place in a vehicle as luxurious as this one. It was a stark contrast to the very expensive interior. Also, there was only a makeshift USB port inside the glove compartment. What happened there? Toyota must've been too busy putting all the luxurious appointments in the Alphard that one guy forgot to do his job. It would've been nice if some USB ports were scattered around the passenger area.
I'm really nitpicking here. Chances are, the people that have bought this van probably wouldn't ever notice it. The people that will be chauffeured in this have much more substantial things to think about. They are the wealthy old-moneyed parents who just bought their son a bright blue Lamborghini. These aren't the nouveau rich, oh no. I'm not talking about the selfie-driven celebrity nor am I talking about your controversial athlete. I'm talking about the family that signs their pay check, you know, the family that owns the color blue.
"Whether you are driving this behemoth or kicking your legs up at the back, it is road trip perfection."
Unless you plan to carve corners, there isn't a better vehicle to do a road trip in. Whether you are driving this behemoth or kicking your legs up at the back, it is road trip perfection. In a two hour road trip with my family, I am sure that our heart rates were roughly three beats less per minute than those in the cars beside us.
It is a tranquil environment, and with a vehicle as comfortable as this, you can pay attention to the things that really matter - family, friends, business, and quality time. You see, there is so much more to life than a car, and that's why you should have a Toyota Alphard. It is bewitching, and for what it is, utterly sensational.