Propelling the Sienna is Toyota's innovative 3.3-liter DOHC V-6 with VVT-i variable valve timing. Mated to a smooth five-speed automatic transmission, the 230-horsepower motor, with 242 lb-ft of torque, moves the Sienna down the road at a respectable pace, in minivan terms, at least. Upshifts are quick and downshifts are unnoticeable to all but the most sensitive of drivers. EPA fuel economy for front-drive models is 19/27 mpg--two miles per gallon less than a Camry sedan with the same engine--and mid-pack for minivans, with some Honda Odyssey models bettering it on the highway by one mpg. The only drawback is the sticker under the gas cap demanding pricey premium fuel.
Behind the Wheel
The driving experience in the Sienna is one of confidence and security. The suspension does an admirable job managing bounce, pitch, and roll, giving the Sienna a surefooted feel and a comfortable ride. Steering is light and buttery smooth. The modest 3.3-liter engine delivers impressive off-the-line performance, though it's much less responsive during part-throttle conditions, where the vehicle's weight and mannered transmission seem to limit verve. Brake responsiveness and stopping distances are merely average, with a gradual reaction requiring added attentiveness in stop-and-go traffic. All told, the Sienna provides a refined, daresay soft, driving experience conducive to passenger comfort. Most drivers will be quite satisfied with the dynamic performance for such a large vehicle, though the Honda Odyssey does have an edge in this department.
The Sienna is great for drivers who require the people- and cargo-toting versatility a minivan offers, yet want a refined, civilized vehicle. Those looking for more flare and performance might be happier in the handsome Honda Odyssey, and Chrysler's clever Stow 'N Go seating/storage system and minivan-pioneering heritage may be more attractive to some others. Drivers begging for attention will be drawn to Nissan's artsy Quest or possibly GM's awkward, snout-nosed vans. But those who prize quality, safety, reliability, and a touch of Lexus refinement in their people-mover will undoubtedly revel in the many pleasures the Sienna offers. Even on a diet of premium fuel, the 2005 Sienna earned an Excellent IntelliChoice Ownership Cost Value rating, solidifying it as a smart buy.
Though not the outgoing valedictorian of its class, the Sienna is a straight-A student with a promising future in the business of safe, efficient transportation.