Those who say Toyota doesn’t offer any exciting products might want to look at the Sienna. That’s right, a minivan. It has the distinction of being one of the most spirited vehicles in its segment, and it all starts with a swooping, modern design aimed at attracting young families who typically consider themselves too cool for minivans. The most sporting SE model goes so far as to feature a lowered suspension, smoked aluminum wheels, and an aggressive body kit. The SE backs up the styling with unique suspension tuning and sharper, heavier steering. With Toyota’s venerable 3.5-liter V-6 under the hood, the Sienna is genuinely good to drive. Of course, practicality is still the paramount concern in this segment, and the Sienna offers plenty of it. Standard features include second-row seats that fold and slide all the way forward and a large cubbyhole between the front seats. The available rear-seat entertainment system can show two different programs at once on its wide screen, meaning less fighting from the kids over what to watch. The Sienna has more powertrain options than its competitors, from a price-leading 2.7-liter four-cylinder engine that nets 24 mpg on the highway to the aforementioned V-6, which can be paired with all-wheel drive. The four-cylinder manages well enough with 187 hp, but it doesn’t offer enough of a mileage benefit (it actually does worse on the highway) or price advantage to make it worth sacrificing the smooth confidence of the six-cylinder.
Drive: Front-wheel, 4-wheel
Trim levels: Sienna, LE, SE, XLE, Limited
Body style: Minivan, 7- or 8-passenger
Engines: 2.7L I-4, 187 hp, 186 lb-ft
3.5L V-6, 266 hp, 245 lb-ft
Transmission: 6-speed automatic
Passenger volume: 164.4 cu ft
CARGO SPACE: (behind third/middle/front seats) 39.1/87.1/150.0 cu ft
Not much has changed for the two-year-old Sienna. It enters 2012 with minor trim and package changes: the dual rear entertainment system will now be packaged with a sunroof on SE models; a power passenger seat and auto on/off headlights become standard on XLE models; and there’s now a rubber insert on top of the center console storage box.
Front, side, side curtain, and driver’s knee air bags; ABS; traction and stability control; and a tire-pressure monitoring system are standard. Toyota’s Safety Connect emergency assistance and stolen-vehicle locator service is optional, as are parking sensors and a backup camera.
All: 16-19 mpg city/22-24 mpg highway
- I-4 and 4WD unique to class
- SE is actually fun to drive
- Great V-6
- I-4’s fuel economy disappoints
- Lifeless, light steering (except in the SE)
Utility with unexpected attitude.
- Dodge Caravan
- Honda Odyssey
- Kia Sedona
- Nissan Quest