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Nissan ELGRAND Features:


Toyota ALPHARD Features:


The luxury multi-purpose vehicle class (MPV) offers two excellent choices including the Nissan Elgrand and the Toyota Alphard. The MPV is a step up from the traditional minivan that made its debut in the 1990’s. Loved by mothers, the minivan achieved an early reputation as a slow, soccer mom transport. In the 1990’s the image was reinvented in order to better profile the versatility of the vehicle. With the added luxury features, MPVs began rivalling traditional limousines due to the added headroom and capacity for both passengers and cargo. As a result, MPVs were sought after by elite drivers. The addition of 4wd and more powerful drive trains only improved the image.

The luxury MPV craze was begun with the introduction of the Nissan Elgrand in 1997. Toyota followed in 2002 with its own version of luxury MPV, the Alphard. The name is borrowed from the brightest star in the Hydra constellation. As an MPV, the Alphard has been the best Toyota sales story. For this comparison, the focus is on the 2004 models. In 2004 Nissan was in its second generation model with the E51 Elgrand whereas Toyota was still in its first generation offering.

With the added luxury features, MPVs began rivalling traditional limousines...
As a result, MPVs were sought after by elite drivers.

The MPV luxury class of vehicles conforms to a shape that is boxy in the rear with a swept forward design in the front. Both the Toyota and Nissan emulate this shape which has a large grill with a large bumper and lower air foil. Both models integrate the headlights into the side of the grill while providing fog lights in the lower spoiler. A swept windshield completes the design. A shorter nose and higher stance provides better visibility with some sacrifice in handling over a traditional sedan.

The common body design is a five door setup. Two front doors hinge behind the front wheel while the side doors are electric sliding versions for easy curb side loading and access. The rear door is a lift gate style. Three row seating allows up to nine passengers. Folding seats transform the cargo area from small to carnivorous in a few short movements and lever activations.

Power Train

Toyota offered both an inline four cylinder engine and V6 version while the two offerings from Nissan were both V6 dual overhead cam models. The common timing belt maintenance requirement is present in all of these offerings with the exception of the Nissan V6 which offered a timing chain instead of a belt. Belt maintenance intervals are 80,000 km for Nissan.


The Nissan is a rear wheel drive vehicle with an available four wheel drive options. The 2.5L V6 model CBA-ME51 is rated at 187 HP while the larger 3.5L model UA-E51 comes in at 240 HP. Each of the engine offerings is larger than the Toyota version in terms of displacement and horsepower. The added boost helps propel the Nissan better as it weighs about 15% more at 2 kg when compared to the 1.7 kg Toyota.


The smaller engines and lighter weight of the Alphard offerings provide an edge in fuel efficiency. Toyota offers a 2.4L, 160 HP inline four cylinder model CBA-ANH10W or 3.0L 220 HP V6 engine, model TA-MNH10W selection backed by a four speed automatic transmissions. Five speed transmissions as well as hybrid versions of the Alphard were not available until after 2004.



Pictured clockwise from top left: Drivers Seat, Trunk, Front Seats, Rear Seats


The Nissan Elgrand is very luxurious on the inside. Certain little features such as foot rests and a centre table make travel more enjoyable. Power curtains on the side and rear windows enhance privacy with a touch of the buttons located above the rear view mirror. Lighted steps illuminate the foot well below the power side doors. Easy entry to the third row seat is offered by the sliding second row seat. European leather seats and trim enhance the luxury.

The dashboard layout is much the same as the Toyota’s. An ability to shift the vehicle manually is offered by moving the shifter inward to a second operating slot. The display offers a variety of selections including entertainment, navigation, and vehicle control functions. Luxury extends to the upper and lower portion of the steering wheel as an appealing polished wood grain. The Rider model had many exclusive features in trim, lighting, and sound systems.

The third seat on the Elgrand folds into a table. The front captain’s chairs then swivel to access the table with those sitting in the third row having access as well.


Pictured clockwise from top left: Drivers Seat, Trunk, Front Seats, Rear Seats


The interior of the Alphard is a three row configuration with full bucket seats at the front and rear of the vehicle. The middle seat is a three seat arrangements of two bucket seats on the outside with a centre jump seat that features storage and folds to function as an arm rest. The two front buckets feature arm rests and are available as fully manual control or electrically controlled on the higher end models. All of the seats are adjustable for maximizing leg room and cargo space. The middle or second row has a wide adjustment range to optimize leg room for the third row as well as second row passengers. The rear two rows of seats fold down to form a cargo platform. The seats are also removable if desired. Each of the front seats feature a fold down table that is accessible from the second row in a manner that is similar to that of an airplane seatback table.

The Toyota interior is very functional however it does lack the more luxurious features of the Nissan. Still this is a very versatile vehicle with loads of functions including privacy curtains on the rear side windows and rear wind screen. Lighting is adequate with two rows of three lights placed above each row of seats. There is also a cargo light located on the lower driver’s side at the rear of the vehicle.

The front passenger and driver compartment provides ample leg space and an open centre area between the dashboard and console. This makes it easier to store a purse or step into the back without having to exit the vehicle. A double, stacked arrangement of glove boxes is present on the passenger side dashboard. Ample storage is provided in the doors, console, and dashboard. There is a small compartment above the driver’s visor for papers and light objects that can easily be secured with the netting retainer. Rounding out the front cabin is a trim mostly comprised of plastic with a small fabric insert in the door panel.

The driver views analogue gauges with indicator needles. LEDs backlight individual function symbols for monitoring common functions. A dash mounted lever is used to select the gears. The steering wheel has volume controls on the left side. Some options add additional controls on the right. The top of the steering wheel is an attractive wood grain with the remaining 60% a typical padded version.

Rounding out the interior are fore and aft climate controls and an entertainment centre that can be viewed from the second and third row seats. Door controls are available at the front dashboard on the driver’s side as well as the rear of the console. Doors also activate electrically with a slight movement of the door lever. Activation is also controlled wirelessly using the external key fob.



Pictured clockwise from top left: Passenger Side Profile, Rear Angle, Rear View, Front View


The Nissan Elgrand experienced an upgrade in 2004. Several models were available including 8 passenger VG, Highway Star, Rider, Rider S. Seven passenger models include the XL, VG, X, and Highway Star. The Rider version included exclusive features such as the front fog lamp, billet grill, side sill protector, rear under protector, a low-height suspension, and three paint colours.

The Elgrand has twin sun roofs and a remotely operated rear door that flips up for easy loading.


Pictured clockwise from top left: Passenger Side Profile, Rear Angle, Rear View, Front View


Outside the Toyota offers a rear mounted, overhead convex mirror for seeing obstructions. This is an added safety feature that supplements the rear vision provided by the backup camera in the hatch. The camera’s image is displayed on the centre mounted display. A backup alarm is also included where required.

Lighting includes side signal indicator lights in the side view mirrors. The low swept design of the front spoiler and side panels restrict the off road ability of the vehicle relegating the four wheel drive version to more of an all-weather, boulevard four wheeler.

Driving Experience

The vehicle dimensions are very similar at a wheelbase of 2.9 meters, height of 1.8 meters, width of 1.9 meters, and overall length of 4.84 meters. The height could restrict use in certain areas. For example, multi-story parking height restrictions in Japan are limited to 1.55 m which is well below the 1.8 size of MPVs. The combined height and width of the boxy van styling makes handling very similar.


Many of the Nissan videos show the model UA-E51 Elgrand easily handling mud and sand. A set of dash mounted switches allow traction to be selected based on driving conditions. Each selection illuminates a different dashboard light in the symbol that includes an aerial view of the wheels, driveline, and differential. The driver is made aware of the state of the drive train at all times.

Driveability is said to be sports car like with the proven 3.5L V6, model UA-E51. Other features include ABS, EBD electronic brake-force distribution system, and seat belts with load limiters and pretensioners. Four wheel disk brakes assist in stopping.


The Alphard handles well due to the proven front wheel drive arrangement that Toyota has perfected in many of their vehicles. Four wheel drive enhances the traction on slippery surfaces on the models that are so equipped. The feedback on drivability was positive for the Alphard. Handling was exceptional for a top heavy vehicle. The ride was quiet with the exception of a rattle observed by one driver.


The MPV class of vehicles combines luxury with passenger and cargo capacity. No longer relegated to economy status, these vehicles enable stylish and comfortable travel. In addition to luxury transportation, the vehicles are popular for camping. The 2004 offerings from Toyota (Alphard) and Nissan (Elgrand) were in direct competition for this market. The real winner was the customer who realized many benefits that were limited to cars just a decade earlier. Both of these vehicles are of typical Japanese quality and therefore offer long term reliability. The advanced engineering combined with rugged construction result in vehicles that hold their value for a decade and well over 200,000 km. The edge for luxury, power, and performance goes to the Nissan Elgrand. For economy and a more basic offering, the Toyota Alphard is an option. Either vehicle is a beneficial addition to your transportation needs. BE FORWARD has the Elgrand and Alphard in stock to meet your luxury MPV transportation needs.