By on March 19, 2008

06_08_sienna_le.jpgWhen I drove a Buick Terraza around Berkeley last fall, I was overwhelmed by the sense of occasion that came with it. The car had so much ghetto cachet I almost fell in love with it. It reinforced all of the car enthusiast prejudices I harbored about minivans (i.e., they suck). And for that, I thanked it. The Toyota Sienna, on the other hand, proved to be a bigger challenge. Each time I wanted to hate some aspect of the minivan, I found myself pleasantly surprised. I don't think I'm giving anything away saying right from the outset that the world's most boring carmaker has made the best example of the world's most boring type of car.

The Sienna isn't much of a looker. You'll never associate the van with the insanely hot actress of the same name. Toyota's sensibility signature is stamped all over the vehicle, from its unexceptional one-bar grill to its reasonably-sized badge. Viewed from its side, it's obvious the Sienna pays some heavy tribute to the last generation Dodge Caravan. Bloated-bean styling? Check! Bulbous ass-end? Check! Wheels that look goofily undersized? Check! Check! Check! If non-descript is good, the Sienna is amazing.

01_08_sienna_xle_ltd.jpgThe Sienna's interior's Camryness is unavoidable-which, admittedly, is no a bad thing, you know, for a glorified van. [The Camry is, after all, the sedan with the soul of a minivan.] The seats are perfect shaped for protracted posterior positioning. The interior plastics aren't particularly awesome, but they're not particularly Chrysler either. The controls don't snick as much as roll around in imaginary butter, but at least they do what they do, and probably will do for decades. 

One gripe: the center stack. No matter what color the cabin, the center stack is unrelenting black. How much would it have cost to fit the Sienna with a matching center stack? All told, though, it's a near-perfect interior for the car buyer who doesn't want to spend too much time getting to know his car's interior.

The test Sienna was equipped with the eight-seating option, whereby the middle row of captain chairs is replaced by a composite bench for three. Full marks for relatively easy way back access. Equally important, even without the power-folding option, the third row folds into the floor with the flick of a wrist. And anyone who disses minivan man doesn't understand the practical value of what is, let's face it, a fancy, big ass panel van with seats.

That's not to say the Sienna is in any way a crude device; the interior is a veritable sanctuary of silence once the Toyota begins rolling. The minivan is unflustered and unflappable, isolating occupants from anything resembling external stimulus. I swear I couldn't tell you the condition of the roads I drove on without stopping, opening the door and looking down. If a fire truck was bearing down on me, the first indication would be in my rear-view mirror.

03_08_sienna_le.jpgThe Sienna's engine doesn't provide much in the way of stimulus, either. This is, of course, another huge plus. ToMoCo's corporate 266 horsepower 3.5-liter V6 is simply ideal in this application. With 245 ft.-lbs. of smooth, free-flowing torque on tap, the powerplant always has an answer. It never lets the Sienna driver get impatient or frantic or… anything really. Even with four adults aboard.

The Sienna's five-speed automatic gearbox is similarly inconspicuous by its absence. You put it in "D", "P" or "R" as needed and that's the end of it. I repeat: the drivetrain's refinement is literally incredible; it's either pure Zen or automotive monotony, depending on your tastes.

The electronically-assisted steering is a perfect match to the rest of the Sienna's subliminal driving dynamics. You can't help but feel that the minivan's helm is somehow running interference for its "master," surreptitiously autopiloting around road imperfections so as not to interrupt family discussions about what craptastic plastic toys the kids will win at Chuck E. Cheese.

If the Honda Odyssey is the BMW 535i of minivans, the Sienna is the Lexus GS430. The Sienna's chassis is completely dedicated to wafting, not carving. The Sienna plows through curves as you'd expect, but Toyota's designers were thoughtful enough to include anti-roll bars at both ends of the vehicle, which mitigate some of the copious body roll. Coupled with gas-filled shocks at both ends, the Sienna is safe, secure and serene.

07_08_sienna_le.jpgTaken as a whole, the Sienna is remarkably unremarkable. It's a minivan whose space, features, power, ride and handling are so unobtrusive they simply disappear. It is, perhaps, the ultimate automotive appliance: an aid to family life that's as indispensable as it is invisible. Other minivans have their relative advantages, but none offer the Toyota Sienna's mind-numbing tranquility. How great is that?

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72 Comments on “2008 Toyota Sienna LE Review...”


  • avatar
    Brendino

    Ahhh, I had to prep many a Sienna for the lot. For the record, those things come from the factory FILTHY…it usually took over two hours to give it a full wash/wax/vacuum/etch/interior prep cause they’re huge and dirty!

    Anywho.

    The thing that always seemed really incredible to me about the Sienna (sorry i don’t have numbers to go with this) was its turning radius. I could whip this thing around rows of cars like it was a Corolla almost. The engine was surprisingly strong for the size of the vehicle. The base model really didn’t feel all that cheap, either. I never liked that they blatantly copped Stow’n’Go for the rear, and the XLE wood trim is lame, but overall this was a pretty cool minivan. Conservative and elegant.

  • avatar
    starlightmica

    Our 2004 Sienna is a similarly equipped 8 passenger LE – 2nd row has 3 LATCH connectors and the van is wide enough to get 3 huge car seats in simultaneously. The 3.3 V6 isn’t as strong as the current 3.5 but good enough. The plastiwood is fortunately not present, but handling is seriously Spongebob.

    Sienna got the split 3rd row almost a year before the Chrysler or any other US market van did. The fold-down mechanism is also different – Sienna’s (and I believe Kia/Hyundai’s) slides down into the well behind the 3rd row, whereas Chrysler and Honda flip down into it. I would say it’s a good tug to get it down there, rather than a flick of the wrist.

  • avatar

    We have an 04 Odyssey, and it’s a much better drive than the Sienna, but the Sienna is a fine van. Couldn’t fault anyone, really, for chosing one.

    Yes, the Oddy’s back seat is a big tug for smaller folks.

  • avatar
    KixStart

    After 7 years, you’ll really start to appreciate the Sienna.

    This review reminds me that I once thought 15″ wheels were “large.” Most of our cars, prior to our 2001 Sienna, had 13″ and 14″ rims.

  • avatar
    coupdetat

    Seems kind of silly. This review just tells us:

    1.) It’s not a sports car
    2.) Minivans are dull
    3.) Liberal use of sarcasm in writing is great!

    What about the child seat installation ease? Visibility? Cabin ergonomics? Storage features?

    …Who cares if it doesn’t handle like a sports car or have the personality of one?

  • avatar
    Detroit-X

    I can totally appreciate the concept of minivans. Nothing beats them for maximum space/versatility/economy per size.

    A couple years ago, I tested a 2004 Sienna LE, a 2006 Honda Odyssey EX, and a 2005 Chrysler Town & Country 3.8L. The Sienna was the most comfortable, the Odyssey the most sporty/fun to drive, and the T&C landed between the two. Amazingly, the Sienna got 30MPG at 75MPH per its trip computer. I was so surprised at this I ran the (flat/loop) route twice and got the same result; I even ran it in 4th gear, and got 25.5MPG. Wow.

    I did some research online for the Odyssey. What I found was lots of owners gripe about the fuel economy (less than a 4X4 Suburban on the highway, often-times), and still, STILL, since Day-1 of the Odyssey, Honda can’t make a power sliding door that won’t fail. I’d like to see those smug Honda people explain about those two eternal complaints.

  • avatar
    ash78

    In contrast with coupdetat , I was actually going to congratulate Samir on a fairly evenhanded review of this type of vehicle, especially for an enthusiast website. You actually made me want this van. For my wife, that is. ;)

  • avatar
    virages

    coupdetat: Seems kind of silly

    I think that people’s attitudes to minivans are kind of silly. So I don’t feel that such an article coming from here too surprising. If you want to know more about, child seat installation and headroom figures you should go to Consumer Reports or something.

    The sarcasm I think adresses the attitudes that people have towards “bland” minivans. A car is now more than just personal transportation, and indicates social status and hmmm, how do I put it, symbolizes the owners sexual prowess somehow. Minivans as mommy or daddy mobiles have gotten the rep, that has been enforced by designers, that the owners of such vehicles are no longer putting a priority in mating display…

    Sorry for my pseudo-anthropological whimsy… got carried away

  • avatar
    Sammy B

    As the proud original owner of a 1984 Toyota Van LE (5MT :)), I’ve always had a special place in my heart for Toyota minivans (and the general concept/purpose of minivans). While I lament the end of the interesting vans (ie, the 80s Van and Previa), I’m happy to know Toyota still does the minivan very well. As Samir pointed out, a bland vehicle segment from a now-bland company is a good match.

    We’ve been in the market for a minivan for a while now and it always comes down to the Odyssey and Sienna. The mpg advantage for Toyota is compelling, but the Honda’s better driving dynamics (save for the wide turning radius) makes it a tough call. Neither is really a “bad” choice which makes it a difficult call!

    The other minivan fans are going to be chiming in here I think. If I recall, a few past articles and editorials have brought us out of the woodwork. Being an enthusiast doesn’t mean you have to hate minivans. In some ways, it makes you appreciate their mission in life and how well they accomplish it!

  • avatar
    BEAT

    Nice but Not Quite.

    I prefer the Nissan Quest if my futuristic wife will ask me. With multiple sunroof for each seat, 2 Dvd screens and of course a soccer mom’s favorite option is the Stow and go package and the Nissan Quest looks more futuristic than an old school van like the Sienna.

    By the way I am not Kidding Mommy.

  • avatar
    Dayveo

    I have to agree with coupdetat

    Is this a review of the car, or a critique on minivans and the people who buy them? Does the author think that there is no legitimate reason to own one? and if not then why the sourpuss attitude?

    Don’t get me wrong, i appreciate the TTAC style of writing. Thats probably a huge part of why I read the reviews on this site, even for cars i’m not particularly interested in. But sometimes it seems like that style is inserted for its own sake, and not necessarily a good match for the car thats being reviewed.

  • avatar
    Buick61

    GS430? Wow, you skipped right over the GS350 (with the same engine as the Sienna) and went for the full-boat V8 version–amazing!

    I’d take a Town & Country Limited any day of the week over the Sienna. The Chrysler has better looks, great drivetrain, and more imaginative interior features.

  • avatar
    BEAT

    Nice but not quite.

    I prefer the Nissan Quest if my futuristic wife will ask me.

    Why? Because the most important thing of all is the Stow and Go seats on the Nissan Quest ES that all soccer mom will love to have, the multiple sunroof for each seats and 2 dvd screens and much more.

    The Sienna like any other Toyota models ARE OLD SCHOOL. They just need a little more appeal on the cat walk.

  • avatar
    SherbornSean

    I’ll probably pick up a 4 year old Limited Sienna pretty soon. For Northerners, the key advantage Toyota has over Honda is the availability of AWD.

  • avatar

    and if not then why the sourpuss attitude?

    I hardly think it’s a sourpuss attitude, considering I gave it 4/5 stars.

  • avatar

    child seat installation ease? Visibility? Cabin ergonomics? Storage features?

    Since you asked…

    1. I don’t own any child seats nor have I ever installed one in my life, but I’d imagine with the huge aperture afforded by the side doors coupled to the wide benches, it shouldn’t be too difficult.

    2. Visibility is segment-competitive. You’re higher up and you’re surrounded by windows. I didn’t really notice anything obstrusive.

    3. Cabin ergonomics are excellent.

    4. Storage? Put away the two benches and you have more cubic inches than you might ever need. I didn’t count the cupholders.

  • avatar
    92camrywagon

    I’m with coupdetat and daveo. As a general rule, it is safe to ignore any review of a Toyota containing the word “appliance.” Samir tricked me by saving that cliche for the very end.

    Also, I’m not sure how this sentence got past the editors: “The Sienna’s five-speed automatic gearbox is similarly inconspicuous by its absence.” Wha? I’m assuming it has the five-speed.

    I have a 2006 Sienna LE AWD. There is a lot of road noise from the run-flat tires. I would not call it serene on the freeway. However, it is still somewhat quieter than my 2002 Maxima (regular all-season tires).

  • avatar

    So far, I’m liking my ’08 LE. I’m worried about the bumpers. Anecdotally, it seems that Toyota’s Achilles heel is its bumper durability. I’ve seen countless Corollas/Camrys/Siennas here in the Northeast with dimpled corners -more so for the Siennas which have hard to position corners by virtue of their size. No American-branded car I’ve ever owned had bumpers that seem so delicate. Also, the power door mechanisms seem suspect and owners may want to consider an extended warranty to cover the possibility of these things breaking in the fourth or fifth year of ownership, which seems to be happening quite a bit. Last I checked the power door mechanism is a whopping $1,700 repair bill

  • avatar

    I’m with coupdetat and daveo. As a general rule, it is safe to ignore any review of a Toyota containing the word “appliance.” Samir tricked me by saving that cliche for the very end.

    Gotcha! Hey, sometimes it can be a good thing to be an appliance. I’m thinking this is one of those instances. There’s no shame in admitting that the minivan is the one area where emotion really isn’t a priority. By that measure, the Sienna is excellent and the star ratings reflect that.

    Also, I’m not sure how this sentence got past the editors: “The Sienna’s five-speed automatic gearbox is similarly inconspicuous by its absence.” Wha? I’m assuming it has the five-speed.

    It does. It’s figurative. As in, it’s so smooth you forget it’s present. Hence – absent. Too clever by a half?

  • avatar

    The thing I have trouble adapting to with the Sienna–but that many owners probably really like–is that the nose of the vehicle is invisible from the driver’s seat.

    As with the Odyssey and the 2006-2007 Chrysler, reliability has been a little better than the average in TrueDelta’s results.

    We’re having a hard time getting a large enough sample of any 2008 minivans, but have a huge sample (over 200) of GM’s large crossovers. Indicative?

    [url=http://www.truedelta.com/reliability.php]Vehicle reliability research[/url]

  • avatar
    salokj

    I happen to find this review really good. The writing made me read a review of a minivan; a vehicle I’ll probably [hopefully] never be in the market for.

    I find the use of sarcasm well done and as evidenced by the 4/5 stars, Samir obviously doesn’t hate this car.

  • avatar
    jberger

    My wife has finally decided that driving a minivan isn’t going to kill her, but continuing to strap our 2.5 year old in her SUV just might. There comes a point were you really start to appreciate those tall and wide minivan doors. So we’ve been hitting the lots looking at all the options.

    The price of a fully loaded Sienna is stunning, 38-42K is the norm. A Town and Country might have a similar sticker, but is out the door for at least 25% less.

    My sister let us borrow her 2008 T&C that’s loaded with every option but NAV. It’s a nice van but the quality of the interior bits is far below par. You could cut yourself on some of those plastic edges (maybe it’s time for plastictech to really go under) and the headliner shows every fingerprint you could imagine. I don’t want to know what it will look like in another 3-4 years.
    The drive train feels like it’s been lifted from a John Deere tractor. And the transmission hunts like a bloodhound.

    On a whim, we stopped by the toyota lot and tried out a used 2004 sienna with 95K miles on the odometer. Other than paint chips on the front end, the van felt brand new. It drove better than a brand new T&C and had a nicer interior too. It was an amazing comparison of 4 year old toyo to a brand new T&C.

    Honda seems to be the van of choice in the used market, commanding a few dollars more than the Toyota and selling at a faster clip.

    Most surprising of all was driving the Kia clones, they actually drove much better than expected and were just a few rungs below the Toyota and Honda, but the typical resale values are a killer. We could buy an 8 month old Kia for the same $$$ as a 2004 Toyota or Honda.

  • avatar
    whatdoiknow1

    Hey if you have children, you have children! Better to transport the family in comfort and safety than cram them all into a far les comfortable sedan or even wagon. Oh, I am refering to families with more than two small children.

    One thing I do appreciate about today’s modern mini-vans is they do discourage hoonage when you actually do have the wifey and rug-rats aboard yet are powerful enough to make for excellent highway cruising. In all honesty a Odyessy or Seinna does handle better than most cars I remember for the 1980s and some form the 1990s.

    I dont get this notion of a mini-van making a REAL man feel like less than a man? Grow a pair of nuts already! I rent mini-vans all the time, and never feel “funny driving one. Maybe it is because Im in very good shape and do enough “manly ” things on a daily basis for this not to be an issue.

    Children seem to love these things, with all of the gadgets, compartments, screens, captian chairs, etc. Not to mention the view they offer children. I love children so it is always a joy to play “captian mini-van” piloting around my son and his friends.

  • avatar
    92camrywagon

    Too clever by a half?

    Usually. :-)

  • avatar

    jberger. I picked up new ’08 LE 8 passenger Sienna with dual power sliding doors (no leather, Nav or DVD) for $26l in February. I could have taken a $1,000 Toyota discount, but opted for 2.9% APR over 60 month financing instead. The ChryCo vans I priced out were barely less $$ and I’m uncomfortable owning a vehicle from such a troubled company. (leasing-fine, but long term ownership?!) Odysseys were about $2k more similarly equipped.

  • avatar
    trk2

    What’s wrong with placing the shifter on the column where it is out of the way? It seems the only vehicles left with column mounted shifters are full size pickups. I know the console mounted shifter gives the impression of sportiness, but please, in a Toyota minivan? Wouldn’t you rather have that real estate used for anything else?

  • avatar
    50merc

    I’d like to see some minivans that aren’t so big. The early Chrysler minivans are two feet shorter and a half-foot narrower than a current Sienna. Mazda’s last series MPV is a foot shorter. Trimming a quarter-ton of weight from current minivans would be nice, too. Hopefully, worries about gas prices will put a brake on the bloating and horsepower race.

    Seems like there’d be a good market for a minivan with the size and maneuverability of an early-90s Caravan or the late MPV. (I think the MPV suffered for other shortcomings,not its size.) Many older folks enjoy the seating, visibility and practicality of a van, but certainly don’t need seven-passenger seating capacity. Highlanders or Edges might fill the bill but are too pricey.

  • avatar
    rudiger

    One of the things that absolutely baffles me is how long it’s taking Toyota to get a hybrid Sienna to market. Upping the fuel mileage dramatically via electric assist would make the Sienna just about the most practical vehicle possible (much more than the lame, outrageously expensive, full-size GM SUVs).

    Whether consumers would be smart enough to actually buy Sienna hybrids is another matter entirely.

  • avatar

    50merc
    I’d like to see some minivans that aren’t so big.

    Have you checked out the Mazda5 or Kia Rondo?

  • avatar
    Jazzman

    Our family purchased an new ’04 XLE AWD; extremely comfortable but the transmission..ugh. Hesitation that a reprogram and new ECU could not fix. To go along with 14 mpg on premium fuel. And the problems we had in 2 years included a new radiator, new back brake pads, the ECU, numerous recalls, and worn out run flats; all in less than 25k miles of driving.
    With our kids older my wife now drives a Honda Accord; in fact we have purchased 3 Honda’s over the past 2 years and driven over 60k total miles; no repairs to date.

  • avatar
    crc

    50merc

    Frank beat me to saying that the Mazda5 might be exactly what you are looking for. I recently checked some out and was fairly impressed. Most models I saw were around $20k. Whatever they used for the seating material was kind of strange though. It probably accomplishes 90% of everything a “full size” minivan does on a daily basis.

  • avatar
    Robert Schwartz

    “…Who cares if it doesn’t handle like a sports car or have the personality of one?”

    Not me. We owned a mini van from 1986, when we moved out of the city, until last year when our now 6’1″ baby finished his freshman year of college. We replaced the van with a CUV that is smaller and gets better gas mileage.

    My wife drives the CUV, and she does not hoon. In fact, she does not even change lanes. She would not a run red light when she took me to the emergency room at 3 am.

    Cars are tools. It is useless to complain that a hammer cannot make a neat cut in a board. Complaining that a mini-van is not a sports sedan is a waste of pixels.

    If you want to complain about something, complain about the stupid suburban women cruising the malls, yapping on their cell-phones, while their kids zone out in the backs of their house size trucks.

    They should be driving mini-vans, but they won’t because people like TTAC writers will sneer at them.

  • avatar
    Martin Schwoerer

    Very fine review, Samir. And for my three cents:

    The problem with boring cars is that they are sleep-inducing. Literally. When a car is too damp, too soft, and provides too little feed back, the typically tired parent will find it harder to stay awake. Given that fatigue-induced crashes are a major issue, one could consider boring cars unsafe.

    One more thing. In softly-sprung vehicles, kids are more likely to vomit. A Lexus-like minivan sounds like something you’d preferably order with leather (or at least washable) seats.

  • avatar
    KixStart

    trk2, I’m with you on that. If it’s not a sports car, you might as well put the gear selector where it’s out of the way of everything. The ’01 Siennas were like that.

  • avatar
    bfg9k

    # starlightmica :
    Sienna got the split 3rd row almost a year before the Chrysler or any other US market van did.

    You mean except for the Odyssey which had its “magic seat” to market before the Sienna? :)

    I own an ’03 Ody, and compared it with the current-gen Sienna when I was shopping. Things I don’t like about the Sienna (although some may have been upated in the past 2 years): solid rear axle, lower trims have rear drums, poor emergency handling (numb steering, body roll), poor emergency braking.

    The Odyssey may have more road noise, a stiffer ride, no available AWD, and less accelration but its handling and braking are noticeably superior to the Sienna. And that matters a lot when you’re dodging debris off a truck at highway speeds with your family in the car, which I’ve done. You also get 4 wheel disc brakes (at all trim levels) and an IRS in the Odyssey.

  • avatar

    They should be driving mini-vans, but they won’t because people like TTAC writers will sneer at them.

    Well, if they’re not driving purely on account of TTAC, I’d suggest TTAC is only a small part of their problem.

  • avatar
    Riz

    Re:
    50merc – I’d like to see some minivans that aren’t so big
    and
    Frank Williams – Have you checked out the Mazda5 or Kia Rondo?

    Size can be a plus – try getting some luggage into a minivan or Mazda 5 with all three rows full of people and you’ll see the value of the longer wheelbase in the cargo space after the third row. We got an ’06 Mazda 5 instead of the Sienna / Odyssey decision with 4 young kids, and decided the extra cargo and interior space wasn’t worth the tradeoff in driving dynamics. But we need a cargo box on top to go away for a night!

  • avatar
    BEAT

    Great Van but Not Quite.

    I prefer the Nissan Quest with multiple sunroof for each passenger and the dual dvd screen

    Toyota is great but does it have a stow and go options like the Quest and Chrysler mini van?
    An option that a lot of soccer mom will love to have on their van.

    Toyota needs to update its cat walk.
    Tough van but looks old school to me.

  • avatar
    Wheely

    My impression of the 2008 Sienna Limited (FWD, loaded), owned for 3 months or so.

    Likes:

    - Plenty of room to transport two parents, two kids and two grandparents, including strollers and kid stuff.
    - Fits a stack of 8′ 2x4s inside, with the tailgate shut, while still carrying 5 people. Hauling drywall and plywood requires extra passengers to stay home.
    - The drivetrain is indeed smooth and plenty of power (for its class) is available at any time.
    - Acceleration is better than expected. Clearly it’s not a drag racer, but freeway merging is free of drama.
    - Braking, with 4 disk brakes, is fine too. They certainly don’t fade in city traffic, and I’ve never tracked it for obvious reasons.
    - The looks aren’t terrible for a van. To my eyes, it’s crisper than its competition. The designers did a nice job hiding the door sliders, the gaps are small and it doesn’t look as huge as it actually is. While being a vast plastic landscape, the dash is reasonably pleasant, and no worse than (say) a Lexus GX.
    - Power everything (sliding doors, gate, 3rd row) is convenient, but makes one hope that Toyota lives up to it’s perceived reliability.

    Dislikes:

    - It’s not inexpensive, at $40K out the door.
    - The packaging options aren’t flexible, so if you insist on certain options you end up with all options. For example, the rear-view camera (which is a must-have for this type of no-visibility car in places with lots of kids around) requires the nav system.
    - The nanny restrictions on the nav system and entertainment system are excessive. For example, you can control the 2nd row DVD player from the center console, but only while parked. Did Toyota really think it’s safer to have your front seat passenger reach way back and punch buttons on the player itself?
    - The “premium” JBL soundsystem is mediocre.
    - To my ears, it’s not nearly as quiet as the article suggests. Especially at this trim level, at with the already considerable weight of the car, a few more pounds of sound deadening material would be useful.

    Notice that the dislikes have nothing to do with the typical “car enthusiast” sentiments, because, well, that’s not what it is. It’s a family hauler, nothing sporty about that. Handling and performance are perfectly in sync with its basic function. Also, most of the dislikes go away in the lower trim levels, the CE or tested LE.

    A hybrid, or diesel version would be nice. Also, it wouldn’t hurt for Toyota to market a slightly reworked Sienna under the Lexus brand. The price range between the base CE and loaded XLE Limited is quite substantial, but the basic car remains the same. With said Limited trim levels ubiquitous in my neighborhood (same with the Honda Odyssey in Touring trim), I think there is a market for an upscale version of a minivan at $50-55K or so.

    Overall, I agree with the premise of the article that the Sienna is well-executed boring and that’s what makes it good. No fuss, no clutter.

  • avatar
    starlightmica

    @bfg9k: Yes, the 1st gen Odyssey had it first. Sienna was first to have a split seat, which Nissan Quest still doesn’t have.

    @Buick61: I’ve not driven the 2008 Chrysler vans but have spent a few weeks inside the prior gen vans as rentals. The floorpan is exactly the same in the 08′s which means if you don’t get the optional Swivel-N-Go seats, 2nd and 3rd row space and comfort will be less than its competition. The 3rd row of our Sienna can squeeze 3 adults, the 3rd row of a Grand Caravan – get liposuction.

  • avatar
    night driver

    @detroit-x:

    I have a 2006 Odyssey EX and have had no problems with the power doors (or anything else, for that matter) – and they get constant use. We average around 24 MPG. Each segment of the split rear seats of the current generation Odyssey and Sienna are much lighter than the previous generation.

  • avatar
    EJ_San_Fran

    On my last camping trip I took my Sienna south of the border into Baja. I parked it on a deserted beach right next to the waves and lived and slept in it for a few days with my son. I didn’t even pitch a tent.

    I tow my 3000 lbs camping trailer with it (despite front wheel drive). It’s no problem to do a 5 mile gravel road to a remote mountain lake.

    It’s comfortable and fast. I can do 80 MPH for a long time and still get 24 MPG. Try that with an SUV.

    In short, these minivans are simply extremely practical family vehicles.

    So, Toyota, how about a hybrid version?

  • avatar
    silverkris

    I’ve noticed that several makes/models of minivans, past or present model years, have experienced some problems with transmission/transaxle reliability (includes past Chrysler, Honda, and Toyota models). Could this be a function of the vehicle being heavier or often riding with a full load due to its function as a multi-passenger and cargo hauler?

  • avatar
    silverkris

    I’ve noticed that several makes/models of minivans, past or present model years, have experienced some problems with transmission/transaxle reliability (includes past Chrysler, Honda, and Toyota models). Could this be a function of the vehicle being heavier or often riding with a full load due to its function as a multi-passenger and cargo hauler?

    NOTE: This may not be as true anymore for the current Odyssey model – I think the 1st gen and 2nd gen Odyssey had some transmissions that didn’t last all that well. And I’ve heard plenty of stories of the Chrysler minivans’ transaxles going out – at least the 1st generation ones.

  • avatar
    Steven Lang

    My family went on a five year kick where my wife mostly went through minivan after minivan. Samir’s review hit an awful lot of good points. But let me throw in a few more for good measure.

    1) The ‘big square box’ template for the minivans of old has pretty much given way for interiors that are more reminiscent of a living room or first class airplane accomodations. In fact, I would say that the conversion vans of old have more in common with today’s minivans than the ones of yore.

    2) The last generation Chrysler Town & Country was the best looking minivan in the market. The Sienna & Odyseey had better looking interior gear, and Samir’s assessment of ride quality is spot on with all three models.

    3) The Ford Freestar and Kia Sedona are heavily discounted for a variety of reasons. The Freestar’s design was so poor that they couldn’t even put in a proper second row bench seat. The Sedona is amazingly thirsty (16.5 MPG in real world for us) and is more Wal-Mart like as a daily driver than anything my wife has ever driven.

    4) GM’s minivans are at best forgettable. Out of all the ones made, only the Montana had a presentation that was remotely competitive at the time of it’s release.

    5) 1990′s minivans usually have a LOT of transmission problems. The Sienna and Odyssey were just as defect ridden as anything produced by the big 3 at that time… and beware of their fluid recommendations. Whatever they say to do in the manual, halve it, and if they say never do it, don’t believe it. At the most, you should have the tranny fluid changed every 50k and preferably every 30k if you desire to keep it for at least 8 years. The cost of replacing these units is simply too great, and their record, too poor compared with spending $80 for a good flush.

    Believe it or not, the most durable minivans of that time (based on the trade-in and condition reports I see daily is the Quest/Villager minivans. Their low weight combined with the well matched powertrain is why they seem to last quite well.

  • avatar
    Johnson

    First of all Samir, I would like to give kudos for a well-rounded review. I give kudos for actually reviewing the Sienna for what it’s meant to do, as opposed to reviewing it for something you wish it to do.

    Samir Syed:
    If the Honda Odyssey is the BMW 535i of minivans

    To be honest, the 535i has a confident, and composed chassis. The Odyssey, like many other Hondas may be sporty and fun, but it has a nervous and twitchy chassis, far from the solid, composed feeling of a BMW.

    Brendino:
    I never liked that they blatantly copped Stow’n’Go for the rear, and the XLE wood trim is lame, but overall this was a pretty cool minivan.

    Huh? Copied? Are you referring to the split third row flat folding seats?

    For the record, the Japanese were the first to implement fold-flat third row seating in minivans, starting with the 1st-gen Odyssey in 1995. If anyone copied anything here, it’s Chrysler.

    BEAT:
    I prefer the Nissan Quest if my futuristic wife will ask me. With multiple sunroof for each seat, 2 Dvd screens and of course a soccer mom’s favorite option is the Stow and go package and the Nissan Quest looks more futuristic than an old school van like the Sienna.

    I hope your wife can deal with the huge turning radius of the Quest.

    Buick61:
    I’d take a Town & Country Limited any day of the week over the Sienna. The Chrysler has better looks, great drivetrain, and more imaginative interior features.

    I would argue about the drivetrain. The Sienna has a much more powerful engine with roughly the same fuel economy as the 3.3L Town & Country. The T&C with the 4.0L engine still doesn’t match the Sienna’s power, and it gets slightly worse fuel economy.

    As for the rest, looks are arguable, the T&C does win in toys, and the interior is far worse than the Sienna. Overall not too many objective reasons to choose a T&C.

    92camrywagon:
    I have a 2006 Sienna LE AWD. There is a lot of road noise from the run-flat tires.

    That issue has been thoroughly discussed on Sienna owner forums. It’s entirely due to noisy run-flats.

    rudiger:
    One of the things that absolutely baffles me is how long it’s taking Toyota to get a hybrid Sienna to market. Upping the fuel mileage dramatically via electric assist would make the Sienna just about the most practical vehicle possible (much more than the lame, outrageously expensive, full-size GM SUVs).

    Not to worry. The next-gen Sienna, which should be coming soon is strongly rumoured to have a hybrid option.

    bfg9k:
    The Odyssey may have more road noise, a stiffer ride, no available AWD, and less accelration but its handling and braking are noticeably superior to the Sienna. And that matters a lot when you’re dodging debris off a truck at highway speeds with your family in the car, which I’ve done. You also get 4 wheel disc brakes (at all trim levels) and an IRS in the Odyssey.

    The question is, is the Odyssey objectively better when it comes to braking? Are there hard numbers to back that up, or do you simply *feel* that the Odyssey has better braking? Many Hondas are known to have long braking distances.

    I have driven both the current Sienna and current Odyssey, and my opinion differs from yours.

    I found the Sienna to be more refined and composed, especially on rough roads. During aggressive driving, I felt safe and confident in the Sienna. Also during sudden braking the Sienna felt fine.

    The Odyssey to me on the other hand was different. While the ride was sporty and the steering more direct, the chassis was twitchy, and the suspension was nervous. Over rough roads, it felt as if the Odyssey would lose it’s composure, with excessive wheel bounce and the suspension crashing over big bumps. During aggressive driving the Odyssey felt twitchy and I was a bit nervous driving it aggressively. Braking was fine but seemed no better than the Sienna.

  • avatar
    Steven Lang

    “I would argue about the drivetrain. The Sienna has a much more powerful engine with roughly the same fuel economy as the 3.3L Town & Country. The T&C with the 4.0L engine still doesn’t match the Sienna’s power, and it gets slightly worse fuel economy.”

    The T&C has 251 horsepower… if that equates to a power deficit then Calista Flockhart has a weight problem.

    “As for the rest, looks are arguable, the T&C does win in toys, and the interior is far worse than the Sienna. Overall not too many objective reasons to choose a T&C. ”

    2001 thru 2007 models were by far the best looking of the 3 models. The 2008 is a dud. Chrysler’s minivans are actually quite durable and I wouldn’t hesitate to buy one if the overall package was better.

    The used ones are great buys… new one, not so much.

  • avatar
    iNeon

    A friend had one of these as a work van– 200k and no problems, solid and quiet at that 200k miles. An egg the size of a 1970s Oldsmobile. I never got to drive. The ride was acceptable, but never Chrysler plush.

    My Sister owns the non-competitor everyone keeps mentioning– The Chrysler Town & Country. It’s silent, well-built, powerful and dare I say it? Handsome. A SWB Caravan with extra suspension stiffening, 3×2 seating, full console and 2.4 turbo/6-Speed from the SRT/4 is what these guys are asking for, and Dodge should offer it.

    She’s got a friend that traded out of a Caravan for the current Odyssey, and it’s been more troublesome than the both the others.

    When do we see the comparison between these three?

  • avatar

    After sampling an Enclave CXL AWD, Odyssey EX-L, and Sienna Limited AWD, we ended up getting the Sienna. I would have picked the Odyssey were it not for a lack of AWD availability, but we felt that at least one of our vehicles should have AWD for snow and/or heavy rains. The Enclave was more expensive and smaller inside, plus lacked the convenience of three power doors.

    The Odyssey felt like I was driving my Accord until I looked in the mirror and saw all the space behind me (plus the seating position is elevated). But the Sienna’s steering is by far its worst feature; it has zero feel at all. Now that I’m getting more used to it, it doesn’t bother me as much. The turning radius is good, as another commenter said.

    I jokingly refer to our Sienna as the Lexus of minivans because it has navigation, DVD player, leather, “wood” steering wheel and trim, Bluetooth, etc…basically everything my mom’s 2004 RX330 had. It’s a really comfy place to spend time when hauling the family around.

  • avatar
    Larry P2

    I find myself strangely delighted and fascinated with the quality of responses here. This really IS the “Truth about Cars.”

    The responders here have courageously and honestly chosen to buck the SUV craze, which is commendable. I own both a Jeep Rubicon (which is incidently barely an adequate off-road vehicle in its current stock form) and a heavily modified CJ5 (that really shouldn’t be driven on the highway), so it really disgusts me the way automakers have perpetuated the SUV fraud. It has evolved into a clear and present danger to national security and the economy.

    One writer on another thread presented the vivid truism that most SUV buyers actually use and need about the same offroad capabilities of a Dodge Neon.

    And these responses have eloquently demolished yet another faux justification for SUVs: their towing and large passenger hauling capabilities. Clearly, minivans perform those duties with capabilities to spare, as well as having superior fuel economy and on-road handling and ride too boot. I just never thought about towing with a front drive vehicle, but clearly it can be done.

    And it would seem that an AWD Sienna with good snow tires would outperform any SUV in the winter.

  • avatar
    BEAT

    Johnson what turning radius? so you meant it’s easy to turn the Quest on U TURNS and I am only 19 not married yet.

    My mother test drove the 2007 Nissan Quest and turning radius was normal.

    Toyota Sienna needs sex appeal, like any other Toyota cars out there. AWD Sienna are you kidding the consumer with $4.00 a galloon on gas who wants to drive a AWD. by the way questions to Parents out there.
    are you using a Van to compete on rally events? for god sake it is only a VAN not a Rally Car.

    makes me wonder. That’s why I see a lot of moms and especially Dads that drives their Van like a car or should I say LIKE A MANIAC. they want to go faster than a car. You are hauling a huge van that 250 horsepower is good on hauling Soccer team or furnitures but it doesn’t mean you can out run a BMW M3.

    Wake Up Parents!!! It’s a Van not a sports car!!!

    And please drive safely my dear Parents.

  • avatar
    gsp

    I looked at the Sienna and the Odyssey for my wife. I bought the Odyssey.

    My business has a Toyota Tundra and I have never quite got over the cheapness of many of Toyota’s interior parts. It is a reliable truck, but like many Toyota’s it feels cheap sometimes and things break easily.

    The Honda handles much better too, but the run-flats on the Odyssey Touring are like riding on rims without rubber. They will go after the first tire change.

    AWD on a Sienna is OK for puttering around the city in winter. However, it is not going to haul you places in the winter in cottage country like an SUV can. Ground clearance over snow still counts for something.

    Like others, I think that minivans get a bad rap. They are probably the most practical family cars on the road. I looked at the Mercedes R Class. It is a minivan trying not to be a minivan. If that thing had sliding doors on the side instead of those huge back doors it would have sold much more and I might have even bought one. Sliding doors are a big help with kids.

    Lexus or Acura should make a minivan because they would sell well.

    I used to call them Minibrains as people that drive them seemed to not have one. When I am floating along the highway at 75, I try to remember that I a still driving a 4000lb vehicle, not sitting on my sofa.

  • avatar
    bill h.

    I’m waaaay outa date on this subject, since we are two generations behind with a ’95 supercharged Previa (which we call because of its color and shape “the Golden Eggplant”). Even with that funky mid-under-engine mounting scheme, the propeller shaft driving the front accessory belts (and the poor frontal crash protection as a result), it’s been a bit harder than we might have thought to pull the trigger and get rid of the thing, since it’s still running quite fine.

    That said, I’d be happy to try out the Odyssey, except that I can’t get over that bulbous front end styling. So the cleaner look of a Sienna might still be the ticket for us, all other things being reasonably equal.

    Oh and as for the issue of driving minivans FAST, I distinctly recall an article in the press quoting one well known racing driver (maybe Dan Gurney, but I could be wrong) saying that that he and other drivers have been known to modify minivans and then drive them as fast as sports cars on the road, because of their Q-ship factor with the constabulatories. Note: he said “modified”.

  • avatar
    Larry P2

    It snowed two inches of snow last night where I live, so I know a thing or two about driving in snow. We had over six feet of snow on the ground at one point this winter and had to evacuate our building due to dangerous snow load on the roof.

    A Miata with good snow tires will outperform my Rubicon or CJ5 any day of the week on snowy roads. Why? Both of the Jeeps feature genuine off-road mud terrain tires, which are conversely abominable in snow. They are also too short and tall and will swap ends easily. On icy roads, the Jeeps are a life-threatening menace. Most SUVs come equipped with All Season light truck tires, which are only one marginal step better than mud terrains in snow. Additionally, since most SUVs have far less clearance than the Jeeps and are a lot longer (making them far less capable off road), they do not swap ends as easily as the Jeeps on snow or ice packed paved roads.

    You would be really surprised how easily standard SUV’s with open differentials bog down on level “country roads” with a foot of new snow. Most of them have at best 8 or 9 inches of clearance under the differentials, which eventually becomes the deciding factor in maintaining forward momentum.

    Conversely, any car sepcially including two-wheel drive pickups(clearance), that are equipped with good snow tires are mindblowing in their capacity to maintain critical foward momentum. Snow tires convert a mild mannered minivan or FWD anything into a superstar. Coupled with AWD, they are clearly superior over the usual SUVS at a reasonable snow level. Above a “reasonable” level, things get dicey for anything.

    I have personally witnessed many many times stardard SUV’s stuck in the middle of an unplowed road and get unstuck behind a minivan with snow tires, or even a school bus equipped with tire chains (don’t ask me to elaborate on that last still-humiliating example)

    With two or three feet of new snow or more on top of a winter’s accumulation on unplowed roads, you need to air down to 10 psi, have superb driving skills, ridiculous levels of “articulation,” and have lockers at both ends. (It’s just astonishing how bad that Rubicon gets when you turn off the lockers. It makes you appreciate the dire plight of normal SUVs) Ya stay on the gas enough to keep going but not start spinning, but not so little as to sink in and start clawing to the bottom. Too fast or slow is a recipe for deploying the old snow shovel traction devise.

    This analysis is hotly-debated every day in little hole in the wall cafes in the real snow country. But by and large, I can honestly say it is a consensus of the accumulated practical experience.

  • avatar
    tiger260

    I have to agree with many other posters here. This is a reasonable review but it just can’t quite detach itself from that undercurrent of sneering contempt for the whole minivan concept and anyone “uncool” enough to actually buy or drive one.

    I think you have to decide what you are aiming for. If you are a site for pure uncompromising piston-heads that can never accept anything less that 100% dedication to the cause of driving excitement and enjoyment – then why bother reviewing a minivan? It obviously isn’t designed to provide that kind of experience? If on the other hand you want to embrace all aspects of the motoring cosmos, covering the complete range of vehicles available to the consumer – then for Pete’s sake review the minivan in the context of what a minivan is designed to deliver. I am interested in whether or not it’s a good minivan. Is it now better than the competing Odyssey? How does it compare to the revamped Chrysler vans?

    What use is there is implying that it will never keep up with a Lotus Elise on a track day, or it will get left for dead at the traffic lights by a Corvette?

    You describe the tranquility inside the cabin as “mind numbing”. What would you prefer, a little more wind noise or road noise from the tires, some rumbling and creaking from the suspension maybe, a really thrashy noisy engine maybe? I would guess that most owners would see low interior noise levels and serene ride quality as a major plus point rather than a demerit?

    In general you just seem to lend credence to the (rather dumb IMHO) bandwagon prejudice that the more shallow and insecure members of the public have against the minivan in general. People who would never consider a minivan even though it may be the perfect vehicle for their vehicle needs profile.

    If you have a family with two or more kids, often need to do long road trips, and have no need for heavy towing capacity or off-roading capability ( no, I mean REAL need – not the fantasy “well one day I might WANT to go off-road one day or haul a 10 ton trailer across the Rockies” B-S ) then the minivan probably represents the optimum combination of practicality, flexibility, reasonable running costs and initial affordability.

    Sadly the reasons that people give for not wanting to buy a minivan are often very telling. I’d say that you hear the phrase “I wouldn’t be SEEN dead in a minivan” more often than you’ll hear “They are no fun to drive” or “they don’t really do what I need them to do”.
    The truth is that people are more worried about what other will think of them than they are about getting a vehicle that really works for them.

    Why are so many women with children (many of whom play soccer) so keen to avoid the stigma of being a “mom”? Are they ashamed of the fact that they have kids? Are they that ashamed of who they really are? I don’t want to digress too far into the realms of pop-psychology here, but I can’t escape the feeling that this is pretty sad indictment on society. OK, I am a realist. I understand how cars are marketed to the “want” more than the “need” – but it is still a sad fact that it works that way.

    So please, try and avoid the thinly-veiled sneering. Minivans are fine vehicles for what they were intended to do. And please also avoid the inference that no self-respecting piston-head would drive a minivan. It is possible to a life-long enthusiast for all things mechanical and also to take the sensible decision that one of your family vehicles should be a minivan.

  • avatar
    silverkris

    Minivans are what they are. They are marketed as practical family haulers and do a pretty good job of that.

    Heck, I was one of those who couldn’t see myself driving one. Until I rented one out to carry customers around and found it very, very practical. It’s a heck of a lot more driveable than the traditional big van, and much easier to enter/exit from. And once I had a child, then my thinking really changed, with all the gear that you need for a kid.

    The step over is a lot lower (important for my petite wife), it has better space utilization and driving dynamics than a typical family hauling SUV, and probably better fuel economy to boot.

    As for the players – I’ve seen partisans of either the Odyssey vs Sienna. They’re both pretty nice vehicles and you won’t go wrong with either. The Sienna has all these option packages that make buying one a bit more complicated or you have more choice, while the Odyssey has pretty set trim lines.

  • avatar
    Larry P2

    tiger 260, very well put.

    “Soccer Mom SUVS” are far more contemptible in my mind than are soccer moms. And you are right, I suspect that 99 percent of the time SUVs are sold only on their “image.”

    Someday, I want to meet someone that has really taken a Porsche Cayenne or a Cadillac Slade or a Lincoln Navigator off-road. I read that statistically Grand Cherokee owners are more likely by an order of magnitude than other SUV drivers to take their vehicles off-road, and yet only 20 percent of GC drivers do.

  • avatar
    ajinsac

    I have to say that this Sienna looks REALLY SAD! I’m vacationing in Hong Kong at the moment and the Previa here is much nicer than the new Sienna. This is so boring and there are so many nice looking cars outside of the US its sad that car manufactuers have to give us the conservative boring crap.

  • avatar
    BEAT

    http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=mini+van+accidents&search_type=

    Mini Van Drivers in the real world.

  • avatar
    EJ_San_Fran

    Oh, yeah, snow.
    When I go skiing and it ends up snowing I just put on chains. Gives you more traction than a 4WD, except you can’t do 70 MPH anymore on the mountain roads.

    Which affords me to take a good look at the SUVs upside down by the side of the road.
    The SUV people are too lazy to put chains on and think they don’t need them.
    Have you ever seen a minivan or a Corolla for that matter upside down in the snow? I haven’t. It’s always SUVs or pickup trucks.
    Have you ever seen an SUV with chains on? Only the police…

  • avatar

    Perfectly analyzed, Tiger260. But as to your question about soccer moms and avoiding stigma, Dan Neil provides a pretty entertaining answer:

    “Apparently, it all goes back to the savanna. According to evolutionary psychology, females’ value as potential mates was signaled by their youth (fertility) and sexual availability. A minivan, however, sends out the opposite signal, that the driver is older (old enough to already have offspring) and spoken for — off the reproductive market, so to speak. In a culture where women spend billions to create the illusion of youth, it’s no wonder minivans have been fighting a market headwind.”

  • avatar
    tiger260

    Thanks crunchycookie.

    That Dan Neill quote probably captures is well. That makes sense at least at a sub-conscious level. In Keith Bradsher’s book “High and Mighty” he details the psychological profile that the auto manufacturers came up with themselves for their typical SUV buyer. One of the characteristics they documented was that this archetype buyer had kids – but liked to project the image that they didn’t. The book then went on to suggest that the almost universal popularity of tinted windows in the rear sections of the SUVs was influenced by the fact that the driver didn’t want the outside world to be able to see their kids in the back and label them as a soccer mom/dad? Now I am not sure if I entirely swallow that explanation of the popularity of tinted windows, as it may just as well be due to their positive practical benefits – but it is an interesting thought.

    The “High and Mighty” book is a good read. It certainly is not a balanced examination of the debate on SUVs (the guy just flat-out hates them, and sets out to build an argument as to why they are a bad thing) but it is well written and very well researched.

  • avatar

    A car is now more than just personal transportation, and indicates social status and hmmm, how do I put it, symbolizes the owners sexual prowess somehow. Minivans as mommy or daddy mobiles have gotten the rep, that has been enforced by designers, that the owners of such vehicles are no longer putting a priority in mating display…

    As someone who sometimes has dated minivan drivers, I see them as secure enough not to need to flaunt anything. I’d much rather date a woman who drives a minivan than an SUV. I’d rather date a woman who drives a minivan than one who drives a BMW strictly for status. (Of course, if she drives it for the dynamics, that’s another matter entirely.)

  • avatar
    Larry P2

    Its a very good thing that the overwhelming majority of SUV owners never take their rigs off-road, because most SUV’s are disturbingly terrible at doing the job they were allegedly designed and sold to do.

    I had the misfortune of driving a Hummer H3 for a few days this last winter. As long as you were on roads that had been plowed daily, it was nearly as good as elderly Saab 900s with decent snow tires.

    Offroad, it was a helpless, pathetic joke. On anything resembling slightly-difficult off-road terrain, it was so nerve-wracking that I immediately went home got the Rubie and attacked the same snowy hill. To allay my panic that I had suddenly lost my driving skills. Nope, the Hummer really was astonishingly awful.

    Offroad capable?

    Where?

  • avatar
    p00ch

    The Mazda 5 seems like a good compromise between practicality and driveability. If the Odyssey is the BMW 5-series of minivans and the Sienna the Lexus GS, I suppose that would make the Mazda 5 the BMW 3-series of the lot.

  • avatar
    jberger

    p00ch,
    I’ve been impressed with the 5, but it’s just got a few really weird issues that keep it out of our top 3 on the shopping list.

    Pros,
    It’s a heck of a lot bigger on the inside than it looks. Hell of a packaging job by Mazda.

    It’s certainly top of the “fun to drive” list of minivans. Not true Zoom-Zoom, but it’s not a dodge caravan either.

    Zippy motor and a fuel sipper.

    Cons,
    The seat fabrics must be made of some type of rodent fur. Aftermarket leather is a requirement here.

    No power doors, no power seats, no power liftgate. Not a deal breaker, but these are great features when loading up the kiddos.

    No *&(&@(*E$&@*&$(#@ armrest on each seat. It’s weird and probably related to a side impact safety score, but most seats only have 1 arm rest. WTF?
    I’d be in pain on a long trip in just about any seat.

    VERY little room for luggage if you use all 3 rows of seats. I’m not sure we could hit the grocery store with all 3 rows in use.

    So, I’d say the 5 is more like a pre-GM SABB than a BMW given all those quirks.

  • avatar
    gsp

    I used to be one of the SUV haters, then I bought one. I didn’t want a “three box” car, because I load customer product in the back on a regular basis (over 500 lbs. every time). Minivans do not offer much in the way of handling. Wagons don’t have the options here in NA that are offered in Europe. At the end of the day it was BMW 5 series wagon VS BMW X5. Since option for option the BMW X5 is about $15K less I held my nose and bought an SUV.

    While I have nothing against minivans, there are simply none on the road that offer the handling or luxury of the BMW X5.

    Regarding the subject of handling in snow, I must admit that many drivers of SUV’s think that they are invincible. But to compare an SUV without snow tires to a car with snow tires is silly. Both vehicles should have snow tires in snow conditions, without excuse.

  • avatar
    C. Alan

    My wife has put 26k miles on our 2005 Sienna LX in the past few years. This is a list of a few observations I have made during that time.

    Having 3 kids under 5 means I have a lot of experience with installing and maintaining the child seats. One thing I do like is the easy access to the child seat latches in the middle row. All you have to do is flip up a velcro cover, and you can easily get to the latches. It sure beats hunting for them like I had to do in my Dodge.

    The interior is pretty durable, and so far everything we have spilled on it has washed out.

    We only have the one power door, and to this date, it has not given us any trouble.

    The milage is pretty good. We still get consistant 25 to 27 mpg while driving at around 70.

  • avatar
    Mark Morrison

    Despite the appeals of some in this thread, I personally subscribe to the notion that minivan drivers are dying slowly on the inside

  • avatar
    KixStart

    Mark Morrison: “Despite the appeals of some in this thread, I personally subscribe to the notion that minivan drivers are dying slowly on the inside.”

    I guess it depends on how you derive your identity and self-esteem. If you get it from what you drive, then it’s not unimaginable that, for some, the minivan would have an adverse effect.

    However, some of us don’t work what way. My minivan is a tool that affords transportation to people and cargo. It’s been filled with kids, bikes, camping gear, wedding clothes, vacation luggage, tools, maps, books, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts and all kinds of other stuff and goes to state parks, oceans, mountains, lakes, other countries (well, OK, just Canada), museums, Capitols, factories, big cities, small towns and a whole lot of other places. And it offered good value in transportation, good fuel economy, effective power, reasonable comfort and great capacity in seats or cubic feet, whichever was needed.

    None of that has me dying on the inside.

  • avatar

    If Minivans where men would their drivers be the Stepford Wives?

  • avatar
    p00ch

    Despite the appeals of some in this thread, I personally subscribe to the notion that minivan drivers are dying slowly on the inside

    Aye, dying some of us may be but what can you do when you’ve got a wife, 2.5 kids and a dog to haul? I drove a 911 for a bit but as much as I loved that car, I’d shoot myself if I had to strap kids into the back seat twice a day.


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