Man About Golf: My Private Jet on Land
When I was in my 40s, I did something that middle-age men often do: I bought an expensive European two-seater that my wife didn't know how to drive. I loved redlining around town, but, in truth, the car wasn't suited to my lifestyle. (To fit my golf bag into the trunk, which looked like an attaché case, I had to remove my driver and angle it in first.) So when my insurance company threatened to cancel my policy if I didn't get rid of the car—I'd just gotten a speeding ticket, and my son had just gotten his license—I wasn't that upset.
Lately, though, I've been feeling nostalgic—not for the two-seater, which by now I'd have trouble angling myself into, but for the car my wife was driving during the same period: a minivan. Men, especially, tend to view minivans as suburban clichés, if not symbols of marital capitulation, but I now understand that they're really the ideal midlife-crisis cars. As I first noticed during a buddies trip to Myrtle Beach, back in the '90s, a minivan is exactly the right size for four overweight men, four golf bags and four poorly packed suitcases, and its enormous, shelf-like dashboard could have been designed for drying golf shoes, which are easy to wedge between the windshield and the defroster. More recently, it occurred to me that a minivan is also, potentially, a sexy car. In the eyes of an attractive young woman (I'm guessing), a middle-age guy in a racecar is just another self-indulgent arrested-development case, whereas the same guy in a minivan looks like a sensitive non-weasel who might be willing to drive her kids to soccer practice. Sparks!
I mentioned these thoughts to a publicist at Chrysler, and she offered to lend me a 2016 Town & Country Limited (MSRP, roughly 40 grand). When it arrived, I transferred all my golf gear into it, from the trunk, back seat and floor of my current car, plus some overflow from my garage. I had no trouble neatly stowing everything without piling anything on a seat—a personal first. The interior is filled with hooks, hangers, drawers, compartments and gently illuminated recesses. All those features were designed to hold things like extra diapers and grocery bags filled with Goldfish crackers, but they're also great for organizing golf-related odds and ends. By the time I was finished, I had transformed my loaner into a bespoke rolling locker room.
During my road test, the closely mowed areas in my part of the country were all covered with snow, so playing golf was out of the question. But two of my buddies and I had invited our wives out for dinner and a college hockey game in a town an hour away, and I offered to drive everyone.
The round trip ended up being the highlight of the evening, because the minivan is even better at transporting grown-ups than it is at transporting kids: The seats are as comfortable as La-Z-Boys, there are beer-and-cocktail holders everywhere, and each of the two back rows has a ceiling-mounted drop-down video screen—on which, if the laughter had ever lagged, we could have shown our wives DVDs of our golf swings. The ride was smooth, the visibility was awesome and the sliding doors opened and closed by themselves. The ambience was less that of a family car than of a small private jet.
Later this year, Chrysler will begin selling an awesomely "reimagined" minivan, called the Pacifica. Among its numerous golf-adaptable options will be a built-in vacuum cleaner with a retractable hose and a bag-drop-friendly tailgate that opens when you wave a foot under the bumper. Not long ago, one of the thirtysomething guys in my regular Sunday group complained that his wife had told him she was tired of cramming their children and all their crap into just an SUV, and that she wanted to swap it for a minivan. He was trying to talk her out of it, but I told him he was nuts. "Your kids won't be little forever," I said, "and as soon as they're out of the way that baby could be yours."