Sunday, August 31, 2014

5k: Mid-Engine 4WD: 1991 Toyota Previa

When you start discussing mid-engine all-wheel-drive vehicles, most people think of cars like the Lamborghini Diablo VT or Audi's Quattro equipped R8.  However, Toyota beat them to the mid-engine all-wheel-drive setup with manual transmission (or supercharger) way back in 1990 with the launch of the XR10 series Previa minvan.  Find this 1991 Toyota Previa offered for $3,900 in West Seattle, WA via craigslist.  Tip from Fueltruck.

The Previa was available from the factory with optional all-wheel-drive (standard was rear wheel drive), a manual transmission and an optional supercharger.  The supercharger boosted the 2.4 liter inline-4 (in the car shown here) from the base 135 to 160 horsepower.  If you ever want to known if a Previa is equipped with the roots-type blower, there is a very simple test -- start the engine and if you hear something that sounds like someone has shoved a flute into a cat's rear-end and is trying to play it like a bagpipe, its got the blower.  The ear piercing shrieking sound indicates the supercharger is equipped and functioning.  This one won't have that problem unless you swap the S/C from a slushbox equipped Previa because Toyota never sold one with manual trans and supercharger together.

See a better super sized mid-engine car for the family man?


  1. Shame that no S/C could be had with a stick.

  2. I had a previa rwd with an auto, they were/are still pretty uncommon here in the midwest, and the manuals so were so rare, I only learned of them from a footnote in the owner's manual.
    Still, surprisingly fun to drive in spite of the leisurely accelleration, with well-balanced handling. Just a blast in the snow, very controllable, super-easy to drift around every corner.
    I remember hearing the Tappet Brothers on "Car Talk" once say, whenever a previa would pull into their shop, all of their mechanics would run in the other direction. Beautifully engineered, hideous to work on.

    1. If you ever have a chance to wander a u-pull-it type junkyard with a Previa in it, bring a joss candle or something and worship for a moment at the altar of the supreme cleverness of the engineering that went into these things.

      Toyota was at their peak in the 1980s, and sometimes their cleverness just ran a little overboard. Even just the radiator fan drive on these things would send a Ford accountant running for his heart pills. The whole idea of reengineering one of your powertrains to lay on its side is something only the Germans would do, and probably not get right for a decade. Or American circle-trackers back in the '50s, but that's another story.

      If Toyota hadn't existed in a RHD world all those Previa powertrains would be wonderful source material for building laydown-roadster hotrods with the driveshaft thru the passenger's footwell, alas they flopped the thing the wrong way unless you want to build a RHD rod.

  3. I picked up a loaded, super charged mid nineties Previa from the local Lexus dealer that had every available option and it served us well for many years. My kids are grown now but still talk about "that awesome van we had that had seats that would flip around so you could face each other!". It was a remarkable vehicle but ultimately my love for it died one night while watching 60 minutes. They did a piece on offset frontal crash tests that caused me to cringe every time my wife pulled out of the driveway.


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