|Photo Credit: Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A.|
During the early 1990s, the family vehicle market was under the spell of the spacious minivans. Providing enough room for parents, kids, pets and provisions for a weekend, minivans often suffered from a lack of excitement due to underpowered engines as well as bland handling. Drivers demanding a more spirited family hauler were accommodated with a growing crop of sport utility vehicles as well as crossover vehicles in the past 20 years.
While the minivan market lost its lustre to some automotive players, Toyota’s Sienna is currently accepted as a gold standard for hauling the typical North American family. Propelled by a 266-horsepower V-6 engine and available with all-wheel drive, the Sienna proves to be a humble performer on the city roads, suburban streets as well as on highways. If participating a trip across harsh North American terrain, something more ultimate may be needed. At the 2015 SEMA Show, The Toyota Sienna can be shown in a completely different light where the limits for the minivan appearance are pushed way off its normal course with the Ultimate Utility Vehicle.
Appearing like a Sienna on steroids, Toyota’s Ultimate Utility Vehicle (UUV) is actually not as it entirely seems. The unibody minivan structure has been adapted to accept a frame from a Tacoma 4x4 truck. The Toyota UUV is engineered with long-travel suspension allowing up to 15.75 inches of movement designed to be a terrain-conquering setup. Suspension travel reacts to a 33-inch diameter Nitto Mud Grappler tires mounted to Monster Energy 539B wheels. The off-road equipment assures the modified minivan will climb and trek across surfaces varying greatly from what is found in suburbia.
The four-wheel drive fusion of a minivan and small truck also incorporates unique door operations. Due to the Toyota UUV’s design, the Sienna door opening pattern had to be abandoned. Instead, the front passenger and driver’s door is hinged in a suicide-style. The typical rear sliding doors on the UUV are replaced by motorized doors that slide out.
Built not only to like menacing, the Toyota UUV was constructed for a purpose. Following its appearance at the 2015 SEMA Show in Las Vegas, the UUV will be a command vehicle in Toyota’s Ever-Better Expedition. The Ever-Better Expedition is a more than 16,500-mile adventure trek involving nine vehicles travelling through extreme areas. Having already completed a hot, summery portion of the journey in North America, the Ever-Better Expedition will have nine Toyota vehicles challenge cold, ice-covered trails in Alaska as well as Canada.
Featuring a macho exterior that can take occupants far away from civilization, the Toyota Ultimate Utility Vehicle is fitted with all kinds of high-tech gear making the off-roader a mobile home base. Serving as the command centre for the upcoming North American Ever-Better Expedition, the UUV includes Wi-Fi internet access, as well as a TracVision mobile satellite television receiver. A 17-inch computer monitor, 60-inch Sony LED television and a 2,500-watt JBL audio system are outfitted inside the modified interior. Captain’s chairs incorporating laptop tray tables are found inside the Toyota UUV. A Flir M-324xp night vision high-definition imaging camera system is also fitted for the occupants to better monitor surroundings in darker areas. With the technology at their disposal inside the UUV, Toyota engineers will be able to monitor every vehicle taking part in the Ever-Better Expedition. Results will be communicated to Toyota’s headquarters using Skype.
In addition to the UUV, other vehicles participating in Toyota’s Ever-Better Expedition include a Highlander, RAV4 and a LC 200 (an Australian version of the Land Cruiser) serving as a torch-bearer. The entire North American trip is slated to take 110 days.