This is actually my in-laws' vehicle, but I've been doing some maintenance on it and have had enough seat time to tell the good story. I know so many others have had problems with their vans, and maybe they got one of the good ones (a Tuesday car?) but it helps to tell the other side of ownership. Yes, brake parts are expensive, but they are pretty sizeable units for a van this heavy. The transmission has been solid and reliable, without so much as a hiccup since they bought it in Jan. 2002, and to my knowledge they have not had the tranny fluid flushed since new (I'm not advocating that!).
As for the electrics in the door; there is a service bulletin on that regarding corrosion in the wiring under the plastic sill plates, so it doesn't hurt to pop those off and give a cleaning. One dealer near me sprays the floor and metal under-plate with a rust paint to keep it from going bad again, and also checks the drain holes underneath (some were mistakenly filled with sealer either at the factory or by undercoating, which lets water stand on the wires.) WD-40 is a good tip too. Anyone with brake light problems: be aware that there are bulletins from NHTSA and Transport Canada regarding brake fluid possibly leaking into the electronics and also into the cruise control module wiring. We haven't seen this problem ourselves.
We took a family trip to Florida from London Ontario (over 5000km trip) with 4 adults and 3 kids, plus all of our luggage, and the van consistently returned 22MPG and never had a problem maintaining at least 110km/h, even through the mountains of Tennessee. No transmission problems happened at all, despite being (my guess) over the GVWR for the whole trip. It did not lack for power or search through the gears at all. In fact the only problem we had was right before we left town, when a piece of glass punctured a tire before we got to the highway.
This van has been solid and reliable enough that my wife and I are looking at getting our own this week. I am a mechanic myself and will of course be checking our prospect with a fine-toothed comb, but I'm optimistic that the 2001 we are looking at will be OK. I've talked to the dealer's mechanic (we have a mutual friend) and am confident that I'm getting the straight goods from him. Best advice for anyone having trouble with all this stuff: check NHTSA and Transport Canada for recalls (some dealers may not be doing the recall work, or could be charging you for it) as I know for a fact some models are affected by issues relating to the sliding door function. Research the heck out of your problems, and if you're not happy with one dealer, try another! Don't forget that you can get the federal agencies involved for safety issues ( but likely, not transmission issues).