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What Is The Best Minivan For Mountain Driving? (Plus Safety Tips)

If you are planning on taking a trip into the mountains you will obviously want to know which vehicle can handle it the best. But when you have already decided on buying or renting a minivan you will certainly want to know which one will be the best for mountain driving. 

The two best minivans for mountain driving are the Toyota Sienna and the Honda Odyssey. Both of these minivans have plenty of power and the 8 speed (Toyota) and 10 speed (Honda) transmissions work great for shifting while going up or down the mountain. 

All minivans will be able to handle mountain driving without too much difficult but both the Toyota and Honda minivans are incredibly reliable so you will feel much more at ease taking them through the mountain than you will a less reliable vehicle that might break down part way up or part way down. 

If you are someone who has a great interest in taking your family to the mountains and if you are thinking about buying or renting a minivan, almost all minivans will make your mountain trips without any difficulty. However, if you want to choose only the best of the best when it comes to minivans that can handle the hard driving that a mountain brings then you will want to choose the Sienna or Odyssey. 

In the next section I will go into more detail about each of these minivans and why they are a great choice for mountain driving. 

Toyota Sienna

The successor to the Toyota Previa, this minivan from Toyota is as good as its predecessor in handling mountainous terrains but even better in regards to the transmission and safety features that it offersZ 

Many users feel that this vehicle gives great grip even when they are driving through a snowy mountain pass. So even if you are concerned about slippery mountain driving, you can consider this minivan that is known to provide the best road grip. 

In turn, you will get a boost in your confidence level and feel more comfortable on the road while driving this vehicle in the mountains. 

Honda Odyssey

Many users of this minivan expressed that this van gives some of the best control of any vehicle on the market, minivan or otherwise. This feature plays a major role in improving the drivability of this minivan in the mountains. 

Also, this minivan offers paddle shifters that help drivers have manual control over gear selection that will be of great help during mountain driving. When talking about twisty mountain roads, many owners of this vehicle feel that the 19-inch tires and wheels help them keep the vehicle firmly planted to the road they are on. 

While these two minivans are certainly the best for mountain driving, some minivan owners feel that all minivans make mountain driving at least some easier. 

They suggest that when the vehicle offers the best tire grips, then there will not be any issues with driving any minivan in mountain terrain. Of course, as compared to smaller cars, minivans need larger spaces for turning and at times, these vehicles will have to handle very steep turns when climbing or descending a mountain. 

Only the best tire grip can make this type of journey safe for the passengers traveling in a minivan or even any other vehicle for that matter. 

Not just tires are important either as brakes are equally important particularly when driving down from the mountain. If the brakes heat up quickly, it can face issues with handling the vehicle when driving downhill and if they overheat too much the brakes might fail entirely. 

In short, if the vehicle has wider tires, you will get better road grip. Also, the braking system in minivans these days offer better technological advancement to help users handle different terrains with ease.

Safety Tips For Driving Your Minivan On Mountain Roads

Of course, it might feel like fun to drive on mountain roads, but the thing to remember here is that traveling steep slopes or narrow roads in mountains can be highly challenging not just for the drivers but also for their vehicles. However, you can stay better prepared to drive through mountain ranges safely by following some simple safety tips and guidelines. 

Of course, you might be driving a minivan that has been designed to handle tougher terrains. Nevertheless, steep downhill and uphill grades will put an additional strain on the main components of your vehicle from the brakes to the engine. The good news here is that you can do certain things to help your vehicle irrespective of whether you are going up or down the mountain. 

Here are some tips to help you with this. 

Prevent overheating

You should take some careful steps to keep your engine cool especially if you are driving during the summertime. When you climb steep mountain roads, your vehicle’s engine can overheat easily if you aren’t careful. 

Here are some tips to keep your engine cool while driving through the mountains. 

  • If you feel that your vehicle is struggling when you are driving in an upward direction, just shift into a lower gear such that you can keep up a consistent speed.
  • Ensure that your air conditioning is turned off, particularly when you are going up an incredibly steep hill. The reason is that when the AC is turned on, it can create an additional strain on the engine, thereby causing it to possibly overheat.
  • Once you reach the top of the hill it’s a good idea to take some time and turn off the engine and let your vehicle cool down. Simply taking the time to stop at the peak will help immensely and you will get to see the incredible views as well. 
  • If you have to get down immediately and your minivan is beginning to show signs of overheating then turn on the heater of the vehicle to the highest setting. This will help your automobile to throw off some of the additional heat from the engine.

Just in case, you feel that your minivan has become very hot, it would be a good idea to find a safe place to stop the vehicle. Give it some time to cool down before you continue to climb. 

Remember to stop in a place, where the other vehicles can see you clearly.

Use lower gears when you are downhill

When you are heading back downhill, use your transmission and engine to slow down your minivan instead of relying solely on your brakes. Before you begin your journey downhill, remember to shift your vehicle to the lowest gear. This move will help you slow down the vehicle without relying on the brakes. 

If you cannot drive downhill without applying your brakes and if you start to get a burning smell from your brakes, it is an indication that you should stop the vehicle and give some time for the brakes to cool down before driving again. 

However, if you feel that there might be issues with the braking mechanism, it is better not to start the vehicle at all. Once you reach normal roads again, shift back into drive and start using the brakes as usual.


All minivans can handle mountainous driving without too much difficulty but the Honda Odyssey and Toyota Sienna are by far the two best vehicles to use if you have a choice. 

As long as you are careful not to overheat the engine or brakes when you are going up or down the mountain your minivan will work just fine!