The Toyota Alphard has been a favorite of luxury auto buyers for the past few years, and with good reason. The Alphard is the Japanese automaker's minivan made for Asian requirements, bringing with it a combination of space, comfort, style and luxury.
Now there's a new generation model, and we're going to see if this new statement of luxury levels up the Alphard's prominent position as the premier Asian minivan.
The first thing you'll notice about the Alphard is its styling. Unlike the family-friendly American minivans like the 2012-2015 Honda Odyssey, the Alphard is more sophisticated with its design statement. The hood is short and the front is bulbous, looking nothing like the previous model. The front end is dominated by the massive grille which, incidentally, appears to be inspired by the spindle grille that Lexus has.
The side of the Alphard looks like it was redesigned with nicer details to break away ever so slightly from the typical slab-sided nature of vans. The glass area of the rear cabin has been extended to the front and the rear, creating a more flowing greenhouse. The taillights wrap around the sides a bit more and extend to accommodate a part of the sliding door rails. The rear has also been redesigned, thereby generating a more stylish statement than before.
One thing that sets the Alphard apart from typical U.S. minivans is its dimensions. At 4915mm long, 1850mm wide and 1890mm tall, the Alphard is shorter, slimmer yet taller when compared to typical American minivans; good for narrower Asian roads.
Pop open the driver's door and it becomes apparent that the Alphard's interior design, dashboard, buttons, controls, leather, inserts and other details are just a couple notches shy of deserving an L badge instead of a T. This Alphard 3.5L V6 comes standard with creature comforts like a tri-zone climate control system, power adjustable and controllable equipment, a smart key, power sliding doors, a tilting moon roof in front and a sliding sun roof in back. For entertainment, the Alphard has an AVT head unit with USB input, Bluetooth, satellite navigation and DVD playback, though the last one is quite pointless without a separate monitor in back; the main shuts off when the Alphard is on the go. What was also odd was how Toyota seems to have opted to not put in a back-up camera to make parking even easier, so you'll have to rely on the rear parking sonar instead.
Unlike vans such as the Toyota Hiace LXV that we reviewed earlier, the Alphard's driving position is much better, and whoever is behind the wheel won't feel left out of the luxurious party. That is until he/she gets a feel for any of the Alphard's three plush first class seats for the front passenger and the two in the middle row; all of which have motorized ottomans.
In the city, the Alphard drives, rides and handles like big, heavy SUV; it actually doesn't feel van-like, unless you have to negotiate tight streets, small parking lots or even your friendly neighborhood drive-thru. Visibility is good though, surprising for a massive vehicle. The ride comfort is superb, offering absorbency of the worst potholes or roads-yet-to-be-constructed that you would normally find in a top-of-the-line luxury saloon rather than a van. One thing that could have used a bit more improvement was sound deadening; motorcycles whizzing by can be an annoyance to the clientele riding in the back.
As expected, fuel economy isn't very high up on the list of the Alphard's priorities, as the big 275PS, 340Nm 3.5L Dual VVT-i V6 engine carried over from the previous model. In urban traffic, the Alphard returns 4.9 km/l (18 km/h average) and 5.6 km/l (23 km/h average). On the highway it does get much better with the Alphard's 6-speed automatic, delivering 11.0 km/l (90 km/h average). A good and refined diesel engine should do the trick, but that's not in the cards for the Alphard.
On the highway, the Alphard really is a luxury cruiser. It's nice to drive, but it's better if you hire someone to do the driving for you, just so you can prop your feet up and enjoy the ride on the best seats in the house. It's a vehicle you buy to be driven in, not a vehicle you drive to take the kids to soccer practice.
That's the thing with the Alphard; it's a minivan designed, built and engineered around a concept that's very removed from the American minivans. Instead it is a more viable, larger and somewhat more practical alternative to getting top-tier luxury saloons from German brands. Far more affordable too, all things considered, as this model costs PhP 3,277,000.