Ever since it launched in March 1990 for the 1991 model year, the Toyota Previa was unlike any other minivan. The standard formula, established by Chrysler, contained a transversely mounted engine driving the front wheels. The Previa with an inline 4-cylinder engine lying on its side, mounted amidships, driving the rear wheels through a 4-speed automatic and a driveshaft. Another shaft runs forward and drives the air conditioning, alternator and supercharger (if fitted) under the hood. Toyota said it was designed this way to facilitate its all-wheel drive (called All-Trac).
Despite the unique layout, the Previa still competed against the more conventional Chrysler Town & Country and Mercury Villager, both upscale vehicles with 6-cylinder engines. The Previa's Roots supercharger was added as an option to compensate for the lack of a larger engine.
In 1995, the supercharged version is the only one available in California and other states that share its emissions standards. The floor is flat but higher than that of a typical front-drive van. Toyota has upgraded the Previa to meet passenger-car safety standards, the only minivan to currently do so, unless fitted with privacy glass. Side-impact standards are met through 1997.
The Previa is available in DX and LE trim versions, with rear-drive or All-Trac. The supercharger is available on the DX for the first time. Leather is available on the LE only, ABS is available on both the LE and the DX (rear discs are part of the DX package), and dual air conditioning and cruise control, standard on the LE, are options on the DX.
Previa carries over into 1996 virtually unchanged. The more powerful supercharged version of the dohc 2.4-liter engine has become the sole powerplant. Likewise, the model line becomes more concise: DX, LE, All-Trac DX and All-Trac LE, all with the S/C (supercharged) suffix. Compared to all of its minivan competition, the Previa is different in terms of drivetrain layout. Rather than installing the engine and 4-speed automatic transaxle in the usual location at the very front of the vehicle, the Previa slings its powertrain under the floor between the front seats and drives the rear wheels. This unconventional setup is necessary to accommodate the optional All-Trac system, which drives the front as well as the rear wheels.
Routine engine fluid and accessory drivebelt services are still performed from under the hood. Other maintenance must be done on a lift, however. As a practical hauler, the 7-passenger Previa offers a cargo volume of 32.5 cu. ft. with the third seat in place and as much as 152.3 cu. ft. with the third seat folded up and the second seat removed. The DX includes dual airbags, center console, cup holders for all seats, tinted glass, tilt-out middle and rear quarter windows, heavy-duty heater, rear-window defogger and variable front and rear wipers.
LE versions carry all of the above plus upgraded seating materials, power door locks, windows and mirrors and dual-zone climate control. Options include the dual moonroof feature (2wd only), alloy wheels, 4-wheel ABS, privacy glass, cruise control and a 6-speaker cassette/CD player.
The last 96 units of the 1997 Previa were sold in 1998, before the car was succeeded by the Toyota Sienna.
As of December 27, 1993:
- $22,918 (1994 Toyota Previa DX)
- $26,148 (1994 Toyota Previa DX with all-wheel drive)
- $26,578 (1994 Toyota Previa LE)
- $29,718 (1994 Toyota Previa LE with all-wheel drive)
As of October 5, 1994:
- $22,318 (1995 Toyota Previa DX)
- $25,648 (1995 Toyota Previa DX with all-wheel drive)
- $26,578 (1995 Toyota Previa LE)
- $29,718 (1995 Toyota Previa LE with all-wheel drive)
As of April 7, 1995:
- $23,338 (1995 Toyota Previa DX)
- $26,808 (1995 Toyota Previa DX with all-wheel drive)
- $27,788 (1995 Toyota Previa LE)
- $31,068 (1995 Toyota Previa LE with all-wheel drive)
As of October 1, 1995:
- $24,318 (1996 Toyota Previa DX)
- $27,858 (1996 Toyota Previa DX with all-wheel drive)
- $28,858 (1996 Toyota Previa LE)
- $32,198 (1996 Toyota Previa LE with all-wheel drive)