• FLIGHTS OF UTILITY

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    TOYOTA-ALPHARD-3.5L

    Toyota Alphard’s captain’s chairs have folding ottomans, table. Nice.

    Toyota Alphard’s boxy package wraps over a mix of power, posh, practicality
    THERE’S no need to get the seatbacks upright or stow away the tray tables at any point during a flight—er, drive—in the Toyota Alphard. But it’s easy to make the mistake; this car boasts business-class digs.

    All right, the Alphard is nothing but a van, however fancy it may be. From the outside there’s no mistaking it for any other type of vehicle, except for a bus. It’s big and boxy and the only stuff bling-blingy on it are its huge chrome grille and equally large headlamps. Oh, there’s a bit of funkiness to the shape of its side windows, and there are some swoopy creases in its flanks and front end, but these are too subtle to notice in the flesh—or sheet metal, if you will. Now consider too that the Alphard is sold locally in any color so long as it’s in either black or pearl white paint job, and the result is a vehicle that won’t draw its owners any lifestyle-check concerns.

    Beneath the skin the Alphard tells a different story. The car pictured here is the top-spec 3.5-liter variant that costs P3.175 million, and if you’ve got that much in loose change and want a vehicle to shuttle you and six other kin around, it would be pretty wise to go for this one. That’s because the Alphard is crammed with all manner of luxury stuff—leather wrapping on the tilt/telescopic steering wheel, gearshift lever, seats and on some other panels; trick instrument lighting; multi-information display; multimedia system with satnav that plays DVD/CD/MP3, links via USB, aux jack or Bluetooth, and whose functions can be accessed through steering wheel buttons; cruise control; front and middle-row seats that adjust electrically in a multitude of ways (the middle-row ones are a pair of captain’s chairs with ottomans); rear seats that fold away to increase room for cargo; auto climate in front and elsewhere; a pair of power-operated moonroofs; side doors and a tailgate that shut and open by pressing buttons; parking sensors; ambient lighting in every nook and cranny; smart keyless entry—this car has it all. There’s the usual surfeit of airbags and other safety kit, too. The Alphard hides the nice things inside it quite well.

    Matching the posh is power, thanks to a 3.5-liter V6 engine whose 24 valves are controlled by two camshafts and Toyota’s variable valve-timing tech. The setup is good for 271 horsepower and 340 Newton-meter of torque—that’s the grunt you feel when you put the throttle down and the car begins accelerating—while still adhering to Euro4 emission standards. An electronically controlled six-speed automatic gearbox sends the power to a front wheel.

    What this tech-speak means is that, predictably, the Alphard is brisk when you want it and will cruise effortlessly until you run of fuel—which, compared to a four-cylinder car, happens way sooner. It’s the manner in which the Alphard runs in traffic or cruises the highways that’s exemplary. It accomplishes these smoothly that there is no hint of the proceedings except visually. A stout construction and supple suspension no doubt help here, because the car just moves along in space like it were skimming over jello—virtually noise- vibration- and harshness-free.

    The Alphard takes van ownership to new heights.

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