Contemporary new product report/review originally published in Popular Science April 1994; republished by the author
It seemed that Toyota had painted itself into a corner. The four-cylinder 2.4-liter 138-horsepower powerplant in its Previa minivan just didn’t have the guts for towing or hauling heavy loads. And the under-the-floor placement simply didn’t allow much room for a bigger engine. Constrained by space, Toyota engineers came up with a clever solution by borrowing and modifying the supercharger from the 1990 MR2 to boost the previous power output.
The 1994 Previa’s supercharger is larger, however, and is not mounted on the engine; rather, it is located at the front of the vehicle, and is built-driven off the same shaft that turns the alternator and air conditioning compressor. The supercharger pumps power output to 161 at 5000 rpm, making passing and freeway merging less hair-raising. Even more impressive, the torque is up to 201 at 3600 (from 154 at 4000 rpm); this gives the Previa the grunt to pull boat trailers and climb hills with a full load.
The supercharged Previa, outwardly marked with only an “S/C” badge on its liftgate, is available in either rear-wheel drive or with Toyota’s All-Trac all-wheel-drive system. Only a four-speed electronic automatic transmission is being offered; the five-speed manual has been dropped from all models for 1994.
Addendum: The supercharger on the Previa S/C isn’t the ubiquitous turbocharger but as mentioned, a mechanically, in this case belt driven, roots type supercharger. I had thought at the time that the Previa was indeed a preview of cars in the future, with its engine laid on its side under the vehicle. It’s hard to get to but Toyotas have been famous for reliability, so why not?
We took a family road trip with a Previa and my daughters were rather enchanted with the vehicle. They named it The Egg.