By on June 30, 2010

My in-laws live in an Arkansas county that only received its first traffic light in the late 1990s. So it goes without saying that there’s no major airport nearby. Pay airfare for six then still need to rent a three-row vehicle and drive for a few hours? We simply drive the full 800 miles. Extend the route to include Nashville, Memphis, and Chicago, and could there be a better way to test the redesigned 2011 Toyota Sienna?

Manufacturers are well aware that exterior styling isn’t a high priority for minivan buyers. So with a minivan, designers are generally given a box and told to do what they can with it. In this context, the designers of the 2011 Toyota Sienna did well. Where the previous Sienna suffered from a droopy face and bland styling, the new one looks solid, bold, and even a touch sporty without the bloat that afflicts the current Honda Odyssey. Credit a higher, more horizontal hood, squarer greenhouse, and subtly sculpted bodysides. While not pretty the way the 1990s Chrysler minivans were, the new Sienna stands a much better chance of competing with crossovers. All of this said, hardly anyone over the course of two weeks commented on the new Sienna’s exterior styling.

Inside, the new Toyota Sienna’s designers appear to have enjoyed a bit too much freedom. As in other current Toyotas, the instrument panel appears overstyled, with many details that neither serve a purpose nor meld to form a coherent whole. What’s the point of the swoosh in the instrument cluster, and why is the gear indicator to the left of the speedometer? The shifter is, of course, to the right of the steering wheel. The way the faux wood sweeps across the dash might be interesting if it formed part of a coherent whole. As it is, it joins forces with the shifter to squeeze the HVAC controls into a narrow band that extends far beyond easy reach of the driver. Everything on the right side of the center stack, including the radio-tuning knob, similarly requires the driver to lean well out of position. A protruding center stack as seen in other minivans would greatly improve ergonomics, even if it would cut into perceived roominess.

Much of the IP and door panels are covered with the textured hard plastic that Toyota has been using in everything lately. It looks like hard plastic from ten feet away, feels like hard plastic, and clearly communicates that even with a copious amount of faux timber you’re not in a Lexus. But minivans tend to be abused vehicles, so the hard stuff is more defensible here than elsewhere.

Aside from the IP ergonomics, the 2011 Toyota Sienna’s driving position is excellent. The instrument panel has been raised just enough that you don’t feel like you’ve got nothing ahead of you as you rocket down the highway. It’s still plenty low to provide excellent forward visibility. With a much lower beltline than you’ll find in a crossover, visibility to the sides and rear is about as good as it gets in a vehicle this large. Compared to the Flex we drove last year, the Sienna is much easier to drive on Chicago’s city streets and in crowded parking lots. My wife also found the Sienna surprisingly easy to drive for such a large vehicle.

A rearview monitor helps when backing up. The monitor has both normal and wide-angle views. There could be a situation where the latter provides an advantage, but I didn’t encounter it.

The moderately cushy driver’s seat proved comfortable during 400-plus-mile stints behind the wheel. My lower back isn’t the best lately, but any soreness during this trip was the fault of some overly soft hotel mattresses. The driver’s seat also provides better lateral support than those in some supposed sport sedans. The active headrest does not jut uncomfortably far forward. Too many do these days, and this would have made a long drive unbearable. The perforated leather-wrapped steering wheel deserves special mention. It is unusually comfortable and almost too good for a minivan.

The center console includes a bin large enough to hold a two-liter caffeine supply, camera, and whatever else we cared to chuck in there. The nav system was less accommodating. You must be fully stopped to enter a new destination using the touchscreen, even if the weight sensor for the airbags registers a co-pilot. Want to find lunch while cruising down the highway? Then the tedious voice control system is your only option. A decent portable system is more handy.

The Sienna XLE AWD (tested) and Limited include recliner-style legrests in the second row. Being male, I was eager to try these out—hence the hour my wife spent behind the wheel (for some reason she hates to drive when I’m in the car). My main takeaway from these seats: minivans are going to get even less mini. Like the current Chrysler minivans, the new Sienna could use at least another six inches of length, and ideally a foot, to fully take advantage of its innovative seats. My inseam is only 30 inches, yet I had to sit behind my 5-4 wife AND slide the second-row seat nearly all of the way back AND empty out the map pocket AND remove my shoes to get barely enough room to use the legrest. I could not slide the seat all of the way back, because I had to leave a few inches for my young son’s skinny legs. When the second-row seats are all the way back they press firmly against the third-row bench. So for adults to fully utilize the second row, there cannot be anyone in the third row. Kids in both rows? Then no problem.

I learned other things from my stint in the second row. Relatively low front seats and generously sized windows make it easy to see out, so there’s none of the closed-in feeling you get in some crossovers. The ride isn’t nearly as smooth or quiet back there, no doubt because your inner ear is directly over the rear axle. Also because three kids are very noisy. Would a soundproof partition be too much to ask for? Driving on the shoulder (construction!) induced a repetitive rear end bounce-and-shimmy, which from the second row felt like airliner turbulence. The sunshades don’t cover the last few inches of the side windows, so you can still end up with sun in your face (I did). The rear HVAC controls are mounted far forward in the headliner—they appear to have lost the battle for scarce space along the window header. On the other hand, the rear ceiling vents are located so that my son could too easily reach one and direct it to blow cold air directly onto my sparsely covered scalp. Which was simultaneously cool and totally uncool.

Without the kids (or anyone else in the third row) on a smooth road the second-row lounge seats would be outstanding. You could nap, watch a movie, or even play a video game. The 16-inch screen is essentially a pair of 8-inch screens mounted side-by-side. Each side gets its own screen, but there’s only one player. To use the second screen, attach another player or a game console using the supplied AC outlet and A/V inputs. I almost brought along a Wii, but thanks to my sons’ inability to put things where they belong I couldn’t find one of the two controllers. Probably a good thing—I wouldn’t have wanted arms waving about in the rearview for 2,200 miles. In single-screen mode, the image can be set to various widths and either centered or positioned in the left or right screen. The wireless headphones have two channels.

Even without the second row all of the way back the third row is less roomy than in the previous Sienna, but it is at least higher off the floor that the third row in a crossover. The official specs suggest that legroom across all three rows is down a substantial eight inches compared to the 2010 Sienna. Some of this must be a change in how legroom was measured, but at least part of the decrease is real.

The third row does flop easily into a well to leave a large flat cargo floor. Even without stowing it there was plenty of room for our family’s luggage for two weeks. Stuffing the same amount of luggage into a Ford Flex last year was a challenge. My largest suitcase was swallowed by the subfloor well, which you won’t find in the large GM crossovers. So, aside from their full-size SUVs, GM and Ford no longer offer a vehicle that can compete functionally with the new Sienna.

The new Toyota Sienna is a couple hundred pounds heavier than the old one, yet for the first time is available with a four-cylinder engine, specifically a 187-horsepower 2.7-liter. The four manages a single additional MPG in the city, 19 vs. 18, and ties the 266-horsepower 3.5-liter V6 on the highway with an EPA rating of 24. The price difference is $1,240 on the base model, but only $620 on the LE. It seems Toyota doesn’t want to actually sell many four-cylinder minivans.

The tested Sienna XLE included another 205 pounds of all-wheel-drive handware, for a total of 4,735. Add in six mostly small people and their luggage, and the V6 was motivating 5,500 pounds. Assisted by the smooth six-speed automatic, it performed without strain even when ascending hills with the front and rear A/C blasting. This being very much a minivan, some will pooh-pooh the automatic’s manual-shift feature, but it does aid selecting a lower gear for steep descents and curves. We encountered no snowstorms in the mid-South summer, so I cannot attest to the all-wheel-drive system’s benefits aside from noting an absence of torque steer.

Observed fuel economy ranged from 11 in downtown Chicago to 18 in the suburbs and 21 cruising in the mid-70s on the highway. Jettisoning the kids and luggage and driving mid-60s on rural highways bumped the figure to 24. The EPA suggests that the front-wheel-drive Sienna would go a couple miles farther on each gallon. These figures are similar to those for GM’s and Ford’s large crossovers. They should further improve if and when Toyota fits the six with direct injection.

Even with the regular suspension (the SE model includes a sport suspension) the new Toyota Sienna leans moderately and understeers minimally when helmed through curves. Unlike in the Camry, the electrically-assisted steering isn’t overly light, loads up naturally as the wheel is turned, and even provides a bit of feedback. Add in good grip from the 235/55R18 run-flat tires and excellent forward visibility, and corners can be taken at speed with confidence. Not that all is perfect with the handling—bumps induce some float and bobble in the underdamped rear end, especially if the van isn’t heavily loaded. Ride quality is similarly very good but not perfect. Over most road surfaces the Sienna rides very quietly and smoothly, but over patchy roads the rear end gets a little busy, especially for people in the rear two rows.

Would the SE’s firmer suspension and lower-profile tires help, or hurt? Good question, but I haven’t the answer. Opting for the SE would certainly involve other tradeoffs—many features are only available on the XLE and Limited. If the SE’s steering and suspension tweaks are beneficial, Toyota should consider offering a sport suspension option on the XLE and Limited.

The new Sienna isn’t cheap. The tested XLE AWD with nav and entertainment listed for over $42,000. The most comparable 2010 Sienna listed for about $4,000 less, about half of which can be justified by the 2011s additional features. This being the first model year of the new design, Toyota has dropped last year’s “Extra Value Packages.”

If you want a minivan with all-wheel-drive, then the Sienna is your only option. Drop the all-wheel-drive, and the Honda Odyssey (with a redesigned 2011 coming in the fall) and Chrysler Town & Country are key alternatives. Using TrueDelta.com’s car price comparison tool to configure vans with leather, sunroof, nav, and entertainment indicates that the 2010 Odyssey EX-L lists for $850 less, but that the Toyota includes about $1,600 in additional features, such as the double-wide screen and venting windows in the third row. The 2011 Odyssey will no doubt narrow if not close the feature gap. Even without including rebates the Chrysler is the value play. Comparing list prices it’s about $2,800 less. But invoice-to-invoice the difference is only about a grand. Large crossovers are thousands more than any of these minivans.

After two weeks in the 2011 Toyota Sienna, my family wished we had one for this trip every year. I was the only person with any complaints at all, centered on IP ergonomics and not quite enough room to lounge in the lounge-style second-row seats. Everyone else was surprised and delighted. And yet, even with the bolder exterior, this remains a place my wife and I prefer to visit rather than live. Neither of us can imagine driving a minivan or even a large crossover day-to-day. But then every time we make this trip we’re offered the choice between the road to Success (MO), and a road leading elsewhere, and we always take the latter. For anyone ready, willing, and able to make comfortably transporting five-plus people a top priority, the new Sienna warrants a very close look.

Toyota provided the vehicle, insurance and one tank of gas for this review

Michael Karesh owns and operates TrueDelta, an online source of automotive pricing and reliability data

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53 Comments on “Review: 2011 Toyota Sienna...”


  • avatar
    PaulieWalnut

    Michael,

    Lots of comparisons to the Flex.

    Which one do you prefer?

    • 0 avatar

      I compare the Sienna so often to the Flex because I made the same trip in the Ford last year.

      The Flex is “cooler,” but the Sienna is far more functional except for one thing: the front passenger seat no longer folds forward in the Sienna, and the second row doesn’t fold flat in the Sienna.

      So I should add to the review that the Sienna isn’t optimal for those focused on hauling cargo.

      I can more easily see myself owning a Flex, and it would probably suit my needs around town better. But for trips the Sienna is much better.

    • 0 avatar
      NulloModo

      Michael,

      When you say functional, are you referring just to the larger cargo area and the improved visibility? Just from the pictures it looks like the Rlex has more third row legroom, has more ergonomically located controls, and has a navigation system that isn’t tedious to use by voice – actually, the Ford nag system is easier to use by voice than any system I have used by touchscreen.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      the Sienna is far more functional except for one thing: the front passenger seat no longer folds forward in the Sienna, and the second row doesn’t fold flat in the Sienna.

      If I recall, the Sienna’s second row can be completely removed from the vehicle, or at least unlatched and folded forward. The space difference heavily favours the Toyota.

      I know that in the 04-10 model you could indeed fold the second row flat, so perhaps this is either a feature they eliminated—which would be surprising—or a function of the Barcalounger chairs in the XLE.

    • 0 avatar

      The new seats collapse forward, much like those in the Lambdas. But even in the old Sienna they didn’t stow below the floor or fold to form a flat load floor.

      Removing seats is a PITA.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      The new seats collapse forward, much like those in the Lambdas. But even in the old Sienna they didn’t stow below the floor or fold to form a flat load floor.

      I’m not sure that this is a problem, per se. The flat floor is a symptom of the lack of space in the Flex (and, say, the Uplander, Mazda5 and Rondo); it makes up for the seats’ being permanently affixed to the floor. You can approximate a Flex-like flat load floor in any minivan by folding the backs of the second and third row (and not collapsing the third row into the trunkwell) if you’re looking to load a long object on short notice.

      I’ll agree that seat removal is no fun, but it’s also more versatile than the Flex’s folded seats (the difference is several feet of useful interior height) and results in a much more comfortable seat than the Caravan or Quest’s thinly-padded stowables.

  • avatar
    gottacook

    Two questions:

    1. What excuse is there for a vehicle that is several hundred pounds heavier than its predecessor, yet with noticeably less rear passenger legroom? (By contrast, I’ve read that the Subaru Legacy and Outback now offer a substantial increase in rear legroom with only a very small weight increase over the 2005-09 cars.)

    2. The reclining lounge-style seats: Aren’t such seats dangerous when the vehicle is moving? From the New York Times (6/24/10) review of the Sienna: “Toyota is saying that passengers should not use the leg rests while the van is moving, for safety reasons. In a crash, having your legs extended could cause the lap belt to slide up past the hips, concentrating crash forces on the abdomen. Or the shoulder belt could come into contact with the neck, increasing the risk of a neck injury. But [Toyota spokesman] says you won’t find any cautionary information about the ottoman feature in the Sienna owner’s manual. Rather, the warning will be on a tag hanging from the gearshift lever in dealer showrooms.”

    • 0 avatar

      Heavier is the rule rather than the exception these days. I suspect the benefits are in safety and refinement.

      On the seats, I’m no safety expect but the thigh remains in the same position, so I don’t see how using the legrests has an impact. Reclining the seatback is another matter, and perhaps the assumption is that you’ll be reclining the seatback if you use the legrests. I suspect that the official recommendation is to never recline any seat much while the car is moving. Have any lawsuits resulted from this commonly violated recommendation?

      I frequently check that my children properly wear their belts across their hips.

    • 0 avatar
      lawmonkey

      MK raises a good point – and there was a lawsuit recently filed where a front passenger had the seat reclined while asleep, and as a the result of a direct collision, ended up with a fatal injury from being hurtled forward underneath the seat belt instead of behind it. I think it was against Hyundai/Kia for one of their trucklets, but it may as well have been against any manufacturer.

      Moral – relax at your peril. As someone whose mom used to fill the backseat of our tiny Sentra coupe with pillows and comforters for me to sleep on long trips, the adult me considers the kid me lucky (and much better rested).

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      What excuse is there for a vehicle that is several hundred pounds heavier than its predecessor, yet with noticeably less rear passenger legroom?

      This isn’t the case. What they did do was significantly increase the seat-track travel in the second row. I’ve been in both the current and new model, and there’s maybe a foot or two of travel in the old and something like five feet in the new one.

      It’s a huge benefit if you’re playing magical chairs with child seats because you can now fit a rear-facing seat in the third row.

      Aren’t such seats dangerous when the vehicle is moving?

      The danger is in the recline, as noted. It’s especially a problem for small people and children. The footrest simply encourages you to recline.

    • 0 avatar

      The official stats show less legroom in all three rows, for a combined reduction of about 8 inches, which is huge. So it’s not a matter of the second row’s extra-long travel. I do think much of it could be a matter of different measuring techniques.

    • 0 avatar
      sastexan

      I see idiots all the time with their feet up on the dashboard. Seriously, people, you get what you deserve if you are that stupid. Let Darwin take care of it.

      And yes, I don’t see the IIHS testing the Sienna with a dummy reclined – nor Toyota – if you want to recline like that while in motion, get a 5 point harness like a kid’s car seat.

  • avatar
    roger b.

    It’s too bad that I can’t retrofit a pair of those sweet second row reclining seats into my 2004. I am sure that my 6-foot tall son would think that’s a good enough reason to buy a new one.

  • avatar
    Contrarian

    I’m not a van guy, but if I had to stare at that fugly IP for days on end, I’d need to borrow some of Mommy’s Paxil.

  • avatar
    werewolf34

    A minivan for 42k? wow, that’s a lot for a swagger wagon

    If / when kids show up, I am buying a used Oddity

  • avatar
    cdotson

    While I generally agree with being somewhat forgiving of hard plastic dash material in non-luxury vehicle types that are as utilitarian as vans, for a family vehicle I find the *texture* Toyota uses these days to be unforgivable. While some people may find its appearance attractive (I think it’s hideous), such deeply textured plastic looks like a magnet for spills/marks/dust/stickies. Any kids that get loose and stick things on or rub things on the dash, or throw things from their seats, will near permanently disfigure the plastic. There’s a fine balance between texturizing to hide whatever ills the molding process leaves in the plastic surface while maintaining cleanability. Toyota has thrown cleanability out the window, likely because they don’t give a crap about making well-designed plastics.

    • 0 avatar

      I didn’t observe any trouble keeping the hard plastic clean. The cream leather was another matter.

      I did mean to include a photo of the texture up close. I’ll send one to Ed later today.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      The cream leather was another matter.

      I missed this. Anyone who buys cream leather in a minivan is not thinking clearly. God help me because I normally hate these fabrics normally, but you want beige or grey with some kind of obnoxious but stain-hiding pattern.

      The 2011 base model, for no reason I can understand, uses a monotone cloth which will look wonderful for about ten minutes.

  • avatar

    Despite a common problem with the door hinges, the 2004-2010 Sienna has been consistently better than average in reliability, based on hundreds of responses to TrueDelta’s Car Reliability Survey.

    I’d love to find out how the 2011 fares. Just a matter of getting enough owners involved.

    For details on the survey, and to sign up to help us provide the best possible reliability info:

    http://www.truedelta.com/reliability.php

  • avatar
    dcdriver

    I’m not sure a used Odyssey is a good buy. They hold their value pretty well. We bought our 2007 Odyssey new for just over 32K. It was an EX-L with DVD. It’s pretty loaded. At nearly 3 years old and at 50k miles, I would guess it would be a relatively expensive used car right now compared with the original purchase price.

    I think if you want a used minivan- a Caravan or T&C is a much better buy.

  • avatar
    SherbornSean

    Great reivew, although I spotted a couple of typos: You probably had the sun in your face, and not your son. And I suspect your scalp is sparsely, not sparely, covered.

    One question: do you recommend the AWD system? My intuition is that most folks are better off with FWD and a set of winter tires, but was wondering if you had found any advantages to ourweigh the higher fuel and maintenance costs.

    • 0 avatar
      SVX pearlie

      AWD primarily makes the car handle better, with less sensitivity for load. I like AWD for my wife to drive.

      AWD is only secondarily a snow feature, where good snow tires are the real answer.

    • 0 avatar

      I don’t see much handling benefit with a minivan. My guess is that the main benefit would be snow traction on hills and/or in deep snow. Where winter tires would also be advisable.

    • 0 avatar
      Canuck129

      SherbornSean:

      I’m scratching my sparsely covered scalp wondering if you meant to say “outweigh” or “ourweigh”.

    • 0 avatar
      drivebywire

      Sherborn Shawn wrote,
      “One question: do you recommend the AWD system? My intuition is that most folks are better off with FWD and a set of winter tires, but was wondering if you had found any advantages to ourweigh the higher fuel and maintenance costs.”

      I agree with your sentiment here about AWD.
      Personally, I find it over-marketed to NewEnglanders as a must-have, when most will never need it.
      I’ve found FWD + good snow tires + good driving to be perfectly suitable, with the upside of $ saved on gas and maintenance.
      Of course the Subaru-nuts will disagree, but my FWD 1991 Saab 900turbo has never met a road in NewEngland it couldn’t handle.

    • 0 avatar
      MrWhopee

      I think AWD might be even more beneficial for minivans than they are for sedans and such. Load a minivan up and you might find a lack of traction for the front wheels at even moderately steep incline. If the road is slippery it’ll be even worse. It might seem like a small thing, but when it happens it’s really inconvenient. RWD minivans won’t have this problem. But the Chevy Astro died long time ago…

  • avatar
    galaxygreymx5

    How was the fit and finish in this thing? I sat in several 2010 Venzas while getting my Tacoma serviced about a month ago and the dash assembly was just pitiful, even aside from the cheap materials. Lots of stuff didn’t fit properly, gaps were uneven, etc. How was this Sienna in this regard?

  • avatar
    ponchoman49

    Quote: All of this said, hardly anyone over the course of two weeks commented on the new Sienna’s exterior styling.

    That isn’t surprising since it looks like all Toyota did was decontent the exterior bodyside moldings, slap a Venza grille on and toss a Nike swoosh at the dash and called it a day. Who is really going to notice such non changes? Oh and they pulled a GM and stuck an underpowered 4 banger in that few will be interested in for the entry level folks. Very unimpressive! I’ll take the Caravan SXT with optional 4.0 liter V6 and save the 10 grand for house updates!

  • avatar
    Steven Lang

    I had a pretty interesting time with one of these in Myrtle Beach.

    The interior looks less luxurious than the prior generation. Also the entire dashboard almost seems origami like in it’s complexity. All the shapes seem non-linear and like you mentioned, the Sienna seemed to be far happier on the highway.

    I love minivans (really), and especially the last generation Sienna. If Toyota could spritz up the interior and hold the price a bit, I think this would be a winner.

    But with Chrysler trying to increase their volume, I don’t see this Sienna gaining any new ground. If anything it has ceded much of the lower end while trying to cut a few luxury corners in the higher end.

    If the hybrid works out in terms of price and fuel economy, this may be a contender. But right now it seems like the Previa revisited.

  • avatar
    Dave M.

    I’ll take the Caravan SXT with optional 4.0 liter V6 and save the 10 grand for house updates!

    I’d save the $10k for repairs to the Caravan. My brother’s has been highly disappointing (transmission, electrical, other systems, all by 80k).

    Too bad they couldn’t meld the new Odyssey IP into the superior Sienna exterior.

    With the styling roll Hyundai/Kia has been on, the next Sedona may well be a looker, and perhaps with DI available.

    As a student of practicality, I love minivans. I especially miss the old Nissan Quest/Masda MPV mid-size ones. I also thought the original Odyssey was perfection.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    I drove the four-cylinder version of this while me 2006 CE was in the shop and I’ve considered writing a review of it. The XLE is kind of silly, and a bit of a let-down versus the current model, but the ’11 CE is a much better vehicle than it’s predecessaor, and the four-cyl is a must-have.

    Toyota finally has something that can compete with the Sedona and the 3.3L Caravans. The 3.5L was seriously overpowered (even my 3.3L is pushing it), and priced like it, too. The four is “just right” for normal use.

    The two nicest thing about any Sienna are a)that it’s the most car-like and, oddly, the smallest-driving, mass-transport you can get. The Oddy feels much larger and more jittery, the Caravan a bit more truckish and every crossover feels like a pig because of their massive rims. Only the Mazda5 and Rondo are lighter on the feet, and they’re much smaller.

    b) is that the mileage is quite a bit better, real-world, than anything else with two rows of seats and no hybrid powerplant.

    • 0 avatar
      SherbornSean

      Psarhjinian,
      Wait a few months for the new Ody. It will have better mileage than the 4 cyl. Sienna, at least accoring to the EPA.

    • 0 avatar

      As noted in the review, the price premium for the V6 doesn’t seem like much to me unless you really want a low-content van.

      I haven’t driven the other minivans recently, but do not remember any of them being as easy to drive as the new Sienna. My wife thought that the Hyundai Tucson felt too large, but found the Sienna easy to drive. Go figure.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      Wait a few months for the new Ody. It will have better mileage than the 4 cyl. Sienna, at least accoring to the EPA.

      I doubt that, if only because the evidence among the rest of Honda’s lineup isn’t there. The current Oddy gets much worse mileage in real-world use despite Honda’s cylinder deactivation, and Honda and Toyota’s fours are pretty evenly matched in other models, with Toyota usually getting a slight edge in real-world.

      I’d like to see a hybrid version of the Sienna, myself.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      As noted in the review, the price premium for the V6 doesn’t seem like much to me unless you really want a low-content van.

      I think more people want such a product. Minivans are about as far from a discretionary, ego-driven product as it gets, and buyers will quite handily exchange a few dollars, especially since the four is more than adequate.

      Considering how well the 3.3L Caravan sells I don’t think Toyota can afford not to offer an entry-level product, especially when people are feeling the pinch.

  • avatar
    michaelfrankie

    My wife really wants to buy a minivan. I was holding out for the new offerings from Toyota and Honda. I’m not sure if I can stare at that awful plastic in the Toyota for the next 5 years. But I’m almost positive I won’t be able to look at the new Honda with that welded on rear end. Unless I’m like that French guy who hated the Eiffel Tower so much he ate lunch in it everyday so he wouldn’t have to look at it.

  • avatar
    BuzzDog

    Were the photos taken somewhere near Pocahontas?

    Looks vaguely familiar, although I don’t get to that part of the state very often.

    Having lived in Arkansas since about the time that your in-laws’ county got its first stoplight, I’m often struck by the state’s rural versus urban paradox when I venture out of the Northwest corner, or out of Little Rock, depending upon where I’m working in a particular week.

    And the city names in Missouri are indeed funny. My favorite is “Peculiar;” there is a directional sign nearby with the town’s name and an arrow, and you’ll often see people posing with the sign…with the arrow seemingly pointed straight at them, of course.

  • avatar

    The road sign photo was taken after 30 minutes after passing through Pocahontas, which is where my wife was born. Her family lives in Sharp Co.

    • 0 avatar
      BuzzDog

      That explains the familiarity. My ex (who I’m still on good terms with, as well as the family) grew up near Ash Flat.

      People make fun of the area’s remoteness and simpler way of life, but from my experience you won’t find more hardworking, resourceful, good-hearted people.

      I’m glad my ex-in-laws didn’t see you in that “rig” (as they would refer to it), as they’re solid Toyota loyalists!

  • avatar
    S3v3n6NYC

    The Sienna nose reminds me of a Toyota Alphard I saw in Hong Kong with the huge chrome grill. The Alphard is roughly the same size too.
    A photo I took in 2007
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/sevensixnyc/745167567/in/set-72157600697237063/

  • avatar
    crayon

    4700 pounds!!?? These things sure aren’t that mini any more. I’d bet that that’s heavier than the vans we were happily loading up with shag carpet, port hole windows, and cool murals on the sides in the mid-seventies.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      One, that’s the XLE model. The base isn’t much heavier than the previous iternation.

      Two, the E-150 weighs a thousand pounds more and, trust me, hasn’t changed all that much in past quarter-century. Hell, the Dodge Charger and Ford Taurus are about this heavy and have nowhere near the space the Sienna does.

      Three, you can still buy the Mazda5 or Kia Rondo.

      Minivans haven’t gained that much mass over the past decade, to tell you the truth, and the gains have at least been somewhat rational

  • avatar
    mjz

    Recently saw a new Sienna Limited, loaded for $46,000! That is insane! Light colored interior is super impractical. IP is ugly and craplasticky. Ironically, revised Chrysler minivans coming at the end of the year may end up with class leading interiors if the new Grand Cherokee is any indication.

  • avatar
    werewolf34

    I think the price creep might have something to do with exchange rates. I think the Yen is pretty strong nowadays vs the dollar.

    A coworker of mine was pricing a Highlander and I think he was seeing 40-50k at the dealers. Yikes

  • avatar
    VanillaDude

    My wife has a minivan, and she actually likes it.
    I hate it.
    Nothing saps my soul quicker than backing out of the garage in it.
    Minivans are uncool, shaped like giant baby carriages and are not designed for men. They are designed for passengers, preferably children. Their purpose in life is to move as much crap and kids with as little crisis as possible. Their interiors are meant to entertain – children and passengers only. The DVD player is most always flipped down and playing a competent child video. The sound system is designed to bring theater like sound to these videos. The seats are designed to accommodate child safety seats, goldfish crackers and cupholders capable of holding sippy cups, drink boxes and bags and goldfish crackers.

    Minivans are not meant to be driven. They are meant to be temporary storage bins. After living with a minivan for five years, the last thing I will ever want to drive again in my lifetime is another minivan.

    So any automobile manufacturer making minivans can pretty much do whatever they want with their minivans, but they will never attract me. I want a vehicle that is fun to drive, not a hearse. I want a vehicle that looks cool, not a bloated marital aid. I want a vehicle that remembers that there is someone actually driving it and designs the vehicle as though I am not an 25 year old lactating mommy who needs a place for the box of diaper wipes and tissues.

    Vans used to be trucks and felt like them. Minivans used to be smaller versions of trucks. Somewhere over the past twenty years, we seen these vehicles get Camryed and Accorded into driver dead zones. They evolved into passenger tombs and rolling nurseries.

    Consequentially, they suck harder than the Devil himself.

    • 0 avatar
      JuniorMint

      And your point would beeeee…?

    • 0 avatar
      geo

      Would you also say that trucks and SUVs are gravel-haulers, with the driving experience being an afterthought?

      Minivans were built in the first place to provide a car-like driving experience with van utility. That hasn’t changed. They have the driving dynamics of the car platforms they are based on. They’re pretty pleasant to drive in my experience, with smooth rides and car-like handling.

      Sure, they’re designed for passengers, but I don’t see how anyone can argue that minivans don’t generally have excellent driving dynamics as well; normally on par with good sedans. If this is true, then who cares about how much the designers focused on the passenger experience?

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      So, I have to ask, did you even want to have kids? Do you like them at all?

      Because what I’m hearing sounds pretty misanthropic and resentful.

      I own a minivan. I have kids. I like the van and I love my kids. If I wanted something to reaffirm my masculinity, I’d buy a Caterham. Heck, I almost did buy a Caterham and if I get the chance again, I’ll get one. I’d probably take my son in it in a few years. I’ll still keep the van, and I won’t love my kids any less for it.

      Oh, and I’ve driven the “small truck” form of minivan. You think the Sienna sucks? The Astro or Windstar are the same (and equal to the contemporary Caravan), only with less power, road feel, fuel economy and noise isolation. Worst of both worlds, but I guess their problems were “manly” and served as a kind of Cialis for the soul.

  • avatar
    Moparman426W

    http://www.autoobserver.com/2010/03/honda-odessey-owners-report-transmisson-toubles-inconsistent-response-from-maker.html

    • 0 avatar
      Patrickj

      Honda automatic transmission woes with larger and more powerful vehicles are pretty well known to those who actually follow the car business.

      On the other hand, I’m not sure that anybody’s V6 and FWD transmission are up to hauling around a 4500+ pound vehicle with 1200+ pounds of stuff over the long haul. Especially with A/C blasting, 80 mph travel, and mountains.

      Perhaps we’ve reached the size/power limits of the FWD/transverse engine vehicle configuration. Perhaps the Tahoe does have its place.

  • avatar
    rhurey

    So only two weeks, but any comments on the RFT tread life? We’re looking at the AWD Seinna, but the RFT’s and all the bad press they’ve gotten are giving 2nd and 3rd thoughts.


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