Why buy an Alphard?
- If you want luxury motoring for your family and chattels in a superbly well-built vehicle, you’ve found it.
- Hugely flexible and comfortable seating arrangements for up to 8 people.
- Powerful, smooth and quiet, with the option of four wheel drive.
- Can be converted into a campervan.
- Also works quite well as a driveable office!
Background to this Toyota Alphard Review
The Alphard is Toyota’s luxury 8 seater minivan / MPV / people carrier. This Toyota Alphard review is going to focus on the first generation car, produced between 2002 and 2008. Why? The first generation cars are currently the most frequently imported, due to the UK rules about cars over 10 years old only requring an MOT prior to registration. You can read more about this here.
The Alphard is still in production today and is now in its 3rd generation.
Engine and Drivetrain Choice
The Alphard has 2 engine choices, both petrol: a 4 cylinder 2.4 litre or a V6 3 litre. The 3 litre V6 1MZ-FE also features on the Lexus RX300 and Toyota Camry, amongst others. The 2.4 2AZ-FE has previously been seen in the UK in the Previa and RAV4. All Alphards have automatic transmission and both engine options are available with 2 or 4 wheel drive.
“Should I buy the 2.4 or 3 litre?”
I see this being asked frequently.
My answer will always be the 3 litre. The V6 has a very satisfying, purposeful burble that feels completely in keeping with the grandeur of the whole car, and that isn’t matched by the 4 cylinder engine. It has plenty of power but doesn’t shout about it. The choice really depends on what you’re used to driving, and how much emphasis you place on running costs, but I think the 2.4 Alphard is underpowered.
Want a more numbers-based answer? Look at the power to weight ratios:
- The 2.4 litre 4WD has 85 bhp/tonne (and 144 lb.ft torque).
- The 3.0 litre 4WD has 113 bhp/tonne (and 230 lb.ft torque).
In its favour, the 2.4 litre has cheaper maintenance costs. Only 4 spark plugs to buy instead of 6, and no timing belt to replace. Finally, the 2.4 is intended to run on standard unleaded, whereas the 3.0 is intended to run on super/premium higher octane fuel.
There is so much flexibility in the Alphard’s seating arrangements: bed, cafe, table, straight forward 3 rows and a boot space big enough for a chest freezer are all possible. The middle row of seats has 2 ISOFIX points and can rotate to face the rear of the car. This video explains the options.
There are a lot of variations in equipment levels, but in most cases ‘loads’ would be a good summary.
- HID headlights (dipped beam) and driving lights.
- Lane assist.
- Cruise control (only on some models).
- Reversing camera and/or parking sensors.
- Front blind spot cameras.
- TEMS (Toyota Electronically Modulated Suspension, only on some models).
- Space to seat 8 adults in comfort.
- Power sliding rear doors.
- Dual zone climate control, with separate controls for the rear seat passengers.
- Power curtains (some models only).
- Adjustable arm rests.
- Dimmable ‘room’ lighting.
- Front and rear AV screens with headphone sockets.
- Driver and passenger airbags (plus side/curtain airbags on some models).
- 2 x ISOFIX points (on the outer middle row seats).
- The rear seat passengers aren’t sat right up against the boot lid – much safer should something crash into the back of the car.
Driving the Alphard
There is a real sense of occasion in driving the Alphard. I think the burbling V6 engine adds to this.
Once you’re behind the wheel, the Alphard doesn’t feel as big as it looks from the outside. The 3 litre V6 engine has plenty of power and is quiet, smooth and feels effortless. It can pick up speed surprisingly quickly and without any fuss when required.
Unsurprisingly for a 4WD car weighing 2 tonnes, there are disc brakes all round. They pull the car up well, but there is almost no pedal feel under braking. I think this is fairly typical for this type of vehicle.
Cornering performance is OK for the size, weight and intended purpose of the car. There is some body roll and it doesn’t like being asked to change direction quickly. Setting the TEMS to sport helps matters a little. I think expecting amazing cornering performance from a car like this is missing the point of the car really!
Why you might not like the Toyota Alphard
Reason #1: fuel consumption
Despite fuel prices being (relatively) low in the UK of late, most people are concerned about fuel consumption on a car like the Alphard. If you budget for about 25 mpg, you should be in the right ball park. Some will get less and some more. It isn’t necessarily the case that the 2.4 litre engine will give better fuel consumption. Unless you’re really light with your right foot, this engine will need to be worked much harder to get the car moving, resulting in more fuel being used.
Reason #2: looks
I’ve seen a variety of less than complimentary words used: the Alphard ain’t that pretty when viewed from the front. Viewed from the side, back or any 45 degree angle its just fine, but the front view isn’t so great in my opinion. This is something I could easily overlook as the overall ‘package’ is so impressive, but you might not be so forgiving. I certainly concede the Alphard’s main competitor, the Nissan Elgrand, is a better looking vehicle.
Reason #3: driving dynamics
Definitely built for wafting along rather than pressing on, so if you’re looking for sporty handling, particularly in corners, look elsewhere. Remember it is a 2 tonne van with 2 sofas, 2 armchairs, 2 TVs and a carpet better than you’ll find in most rented accommodation.
I hope this Toyota Alphard review has been an interesting / useful read. I’m certainly a fan of the car and I’d love to know what you think of it.
If the Alphard is a bit too much for you but you want a similar type of vehicle, have a look at a Toyota Noah.