On the Road: Drives like a normal xBWhen the xB's engine is started, the air system for the rear suspension releases a burst air with an almighty hiss; it's blowing out any residual moisture. The noise from my test car was loud enough to turn heads. The compressor growls for a few seconds and then the Rampvan quiets down to its normal idle.
Once on the road, the xB Rampvan drives like an ordinary xB. As with the regular xB, the 1.5 liter four-cylinder engine needs to use every last bit of its 103 horsepower to haul the car around. With a load of around 200 lbs -- less than a quarter of the xB's carrying capacity -- the four-speed automatic frequently had to downshift to 3rd gear to keep pace on the freeway. The xB is definitely happier around town.
except for the headlights
I noticed only one major problem due to the conversion's nose-down attitude: The low-beam headlights illuminated an area only a few carlengths ahead. This is a potential safety issue, and Braun should consider modifying the headlight mounting so the lights can be properly aimed. I was concerned that the xB Rampvan's stance would throw off the car's emergency handling by altering the weight distribution, but the Rampvan was just as nimble, responsive and predictable as any other xB, even without a heavy power chair or scooter in the back to keep it planted.
Journey's End: A huge step forwardThe xB Rampvan is a giant leap for accessible motoring. It offers a less expensive, more fuel-efficient, and more mainstream alternative to accessible vans.
The 50" clearance under the tailgate is the xB Rampvan's limiting factor. If you can fit underneath, you've got a reserved seat in the back of the Rampvan. If you can transfer yourself into the front seat, you can drive. The optional power transfer seat will help, but only if your legs are short, nimble or non-existent.
The xB Rampvan is an excellent choice for families with a disabled child. If you don't need to haul a large brood, the xB is a lot more cost-effective than a van (and, for self-conscious kids, it's way, way more cool). If you have a companion who drives you and can help you into the passenger seat, the xB is also a good choice; rolling a wheelchair or scooter into the back is a lot easier than using a hoist. And for little adults, it's just about perfect.
But wait, there's more
The best news about the xB is that it is just the beginning. Our xB had a prototype non-power swivel-out passenger seat that Mike thought was brilliant. I would love to see this seat put into production; for people who are ambulatory but have limited mobility, it takes three-quarters of the effort out of getting into a car. The bad news: Toyota isn't currently using the seat in production models, though they might do so if there is sufficient demand. The good news: Toyota has a similar power seat that swivels and lowers to transfer height which is currently available in the Sienna. Toyota will soon be offering this seat in the passenger position of the RAV4 and Highlander SUVs. Let's hope that the Scion xB Rampvan is just the beginning of a new chapter in accessible motoring.