Despite the demise of minivan programs at other automakers, Toyota plans to press forward with the traditional people mover formula. For those of you who still enjoy a minivan, feast your eyes on the 2011 Toyota Sienna which debuted at the 2009 Los Angeles auto show. Toyota hopes to become the segment leader by introducing more technology, comofort, and economy in its new minivan.
Designed in Southern California and engineered in Michigan, the very-American 2011 Sienna will offer a choice of two engines when it launches next year, the initial offering being the same 266-hp 3.5L V-6 as is available in the current Sienna. Later in the launch period, Toyota will also offer a 187-hp 2.7L I-4, the same engine that's currently available in the Toyota Venza (and is holding a 50% take-rate in that model, according to execs). Toyota expects EPA ratings to increase slightly for the four-cylinder-equipped models, rising from 18/24 mpg city/highway with the front-drive V-6, to 19/26 mpg city/highway with the four. Both engines will arrive with a six-speed automatic transmission with sequential shift mode. All-wheel drive -- a segment exclusive according to Toyota -- continues as an option for the new model, and towing capacity with the V-6 is an SUV-like 3500 lbs.
Toyota has made efforts to push the feel and layout of its minivan upmarket, and the effort shows in some of the Sienna's luxury and technological features. A Dual View Entertainment Center makes its debut on the 2011 Sienna, offering the choice of displaying a single source in 16.4-in. widescreen movie format, or two separate sources, each occupying half of the screen. Additionally, a Panorama Camera rear monitor gives two views behind the Sienna, allowing for a full 180-degree view as well as on-screen back-up guides.
Meanwhile, concessions are made to passenger comfort with additional storage bins, cupholders, and cargo spaces, all strategically placed for maximum benefit. Designers strived to maintain an open field of view throughout the cabin, giving a light, airy feeling to the interior, while improving visibility for all passengers. The cabin is configurable for seven-, or optionally, eight-person seating and in the former, the second-row captain's chairs allow for 23-in. of forward mobility, enhancing third-row legroom substantially. New to the top-flight Limited trim level is standard second-row Lounge Seating that includes leather seats with retractable built-in ottomans. Flagship Limited Sienna models also receive a power 60/40 split third-row folding seat, front and rear parking sonar, and a dual moonroof.
Toyota also catered to a special group of minivan buyers with the 2011 Sienna - the ones that really wanted to buy a sports car, but needed the practicality of a van. For that market, Toyota created the Sienna SE. With a more aggressive looking front fascia, aerodynamic side skirts that also visually lower the vehicle, 19-in. alloy wheels (an SE exclusive), a sports-tuned suspension, and smoked tail lamps.
Three other trim levels are available including Sienna grade and LE - the two bottom-most trims - and XLE, which slots in beneath Limited. If you want the four-cylinder engine, however, you'll have to opt for the first two trim levels - the SE, XLE, and Limited are available with the V-6 only.
The Sienna is set to hit U.S. Toyota showrooms in February 2010, with pricing to be announced closer to the on-sale date.