When it comes to making a seriously sexy minivan, you have to bring every design vision in the book to life. In many ways, the proportions of a giant van make the goal of stylish and sporty themes harder to deliver than any other type of car or truck.
So many ideas have been tried over the years – from the Pontiac TransPort Montana to the Ford Aerostar and then Windstar — the cool minivan can be a time-suck extrordiaire. It is just a black hole for resources, in many ways.
This is partially why the unique and egg-shaped Nissan Quest of the late 2000s was replaced by today’s funtional cube of a van. Nissan, following Pontiac and Ford and many others — simply gave up on the idea of a sexy van. These are practical vehicles, bought by families for their practicality.
But what if you could design a sexy van? SOmething that dads would like driving as much as moms? A van with a road-hugging bodykit, huge wheels and cool LEDs? SOmething with a pure line a tinted and uninterrupted glass across the sides?
The result would be the F3R concept from 2006. This is a hot shape. The success of this F3R concept is a huge part of why the 2011 Sienna went from the back of the minivan style class to the front row.
Please enjoy this look back at the Sienna’s origins ahead of lots of coverage of the 2015 Sienna this week!
2006 Toyota F3R
TOYOTA F3R CONCEPT: LIVING ROOM ON WHEELS
Toyota has introduced living-room like space and style to the motoring world with its latest concept vehicle, the funky F3R.
The surprising F3R, which makes its debut at the North American International Automobile Show in Detroit today, is a creative, sporty extension of a concept all but forgotten in today’s automotive world – that of the minivan.
The project was a joint undertaking of Calty Design Research Inc., Toyota’s California design studio, and the company’s California-based Advanced Product Strategy group.
“Younger people are hanging out in their cars. When they do that, the car becomes an entertainment area. The F3R expands on that concept. It’s a sophisticated extension of the home,” said the car’s designer.
To create that extension, the design team came up with three very modern looking sets of seats. Each is unique, composed of modern, metal-edged bottoms and asymmetrical backs whose symmetry is completed by semi-integrated headrests. They can provide roomy, comfortable seating for eight adult passengers.
Up front, the driver’s seat reclines and swivels, and the passenger seat reclines to form a comfortable bench. In the middle, the seats split and fold to form, with the rearmost or third row, an avant-garde sofa built around the sort of conversation area you might find in a designer living room.
This is surrounded by a casual, wrap-around backrest formed by the continuous, flowing curve of the instrument panel, doors and rear seatback panels. These are accented by fibre-optic lighting panels in the seat sides, and in the F3R’s side door, that can be lit to provide illumination during lounge chat sessions.
But there’s more to do here than just chat. That’s because the F3R is equipped with two track-mounted flat-panel video screens. These allow the vehicle’s occupants to enjoy movies or games whenever they want, and to do so in complete comfort, with control supplied by an audio/video/lighting remote unit that docks in the F3R’s dash.
The F3R’s design emphasises environmentally sensitive materials, in keeping with the theme of environmental sensitivity suggested by the Hybrid Synergy Drive badging. These materials include floor panels made from Ecoresin, a specially formulated resin that can be recycled; and a skin-friendly simulated leather seating material called Mythos that, unlike most plastics, does not produce the harmful chemical dioxin when it is burned.
The starting point for the F3R’s exterior shape, meanwhile, featured a van that conveyed maximum volume, with a tall, wedged body shape that incorporated wide, dynamic shoulders, with its sporty 22-inch wheels and wide performance tyres planted at the extreme boundaries of all four corners.
The result is that the F3R looks like a stylish performance vehicle, but with a feeling inside that is very airy and light.
The F3R is a concept vehicle filled not only with intelligent drama, but with exactly the fresh take on three rows of seating, and on the usable space that vans so effectively provide, that Toyota was looking for.
Toyota wanted anything but a minivan. What they got was a sporty new vehicle that defies an easy label; with a dramatic, iconic shape that is as distinctive as that of the Toyota Prius and an interior that is more adaptable and more family friendly than anything previously seen.
Tom Burkart is the founder and managing editor of Car-Revs-Daily.com, an innovative and rapidly-expanding automotive news magazine.
He holds a Journalism JBA degree from the University of Wisconsin – Madison. Tom currently resides in Charleston, South Carolina with his two amazing dogs, Drake and Tank.
Mr. Burkart is available for all questions and concerns by email Tom(at)car-revs-daily.com.