By on August 16, 2018

As the Ford Aerostar and Toyota Previa fade from our collective memory, one could be forgiven for thinking minivans were always a front-drive proposition. As for winter-beating all-wheel drive, a laundry list of crossovers and SUV fill that buying space, poaching sales from the once-hot minivan segment.

Still, one model continues offering four-wheel traction for buyers who aren’t scared of being seen in a traditionally uncool minivan. That model, the Toyota Sienna, enters 2019 with more AWD availability. As an underdog in the segment, it seems Toyota wants to sell its offering as the more family-friendly SUV alternative.

First noticed on order guides by CarsDirect but now live on Toyota’s consumer website, the 2019 Sienna isn’t relegating the AWD option solely to the top-spec XLE trim level. Now, buyers of mid-range SE and SE Premium models can fling snow from their rear rubber, too.

While the base LE ($32,160 after destination) remains front-drive-only, the trickle-down AWD option means getting into a grippier Sienna is significantly cheaper than last year. An AWD SE stickers for $39,815 after destination, compared to $38,310 for a front-drive model. Moving up to an SE Premium AWD means forking over $45,910.

Choosing AWD means swapping the front-drive model’s 19-inch wheels for 18-inch hoops, providing more rim protection during those inescapable off-road minivan excursions. You’ll also forgo the eight-passenger interior for a seven-person layout, though backseat passengers might find the perforated leather captain’s chairs more to their liking, anyway. Standard goodies include an Entune 3.0 Audio Plus system with Apple CarPlay and Amazon Alexa, navigation, and Toyota’s app suite.

With Chrysler’s Pacifica and Honda’s Odyssey offering fresher sheetmetal, the Sienna’s sales year hasn’t been a good one. July sales sank 39.1 percent in the U.S., with volume over the first seven months of 2018 dropping 21.6 percent. With 52,761 units sold by the end of July, the Sienna’s volume is 44.2 percent lower than at the end of July, 2006 — the Sienna’s best sales year.

As for the Sienna’s rivals, Odyssey sales rose 3.8 percent, year to date, with Pacifica volume up 6 percent. The minivan segment’s perpetual best-seller, Dodge’s ancient Grand Caravan, saw its pool of buyers increase 8 percent this year.

[Images: Toyota]

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61 Comments on “2019 Toyota Sienna: Bringing All-wheel Drive to More of the Masses...”


  • avatar
    gtem

    “As the Ford Aerostar and Toyota Previa fade from our collective memory, one could be forgiven for thinking minivans were always a front-drive proposition”

    No honorable mention to the RWD/optional AWD Astro and Mazda MPV?

  • avatar
    legacygt

    “Settling” for the 18s (vs 19s) is a fine trade-off for AWD. But I don’t understand the requirement to switch to captain’s chairs in the second row. Many people want minivans that sit as many people as possible.

    • 0 avatar
      DC Bruce

      Probably they need to raise the floor in the center to make room for the driveshaft to the rear wheels.

    • 0 avatar
      KalapanaBlack7G

      You also lose the under-vehicle spare, nd are saddled with hyper-expensive runflat tires (which last 20k miles, must be replaced in sets of 4, cannot be repaired if punctured, ride horribly, and generate copious road noise after the first third of wear). Thank the transfer case/driveline packaging for that. I have recommended FWD Siennas to many. I recommend staying the hell away from an AWD Sienna.

  • avatar
    VW4motion

    Sienna is a BA minivan. Nothing compares right now; AWD, durability, and resale value.

  • avatar
    Lie2me

    It’s about time, I’ve wondered for a long time why mini-vans haven’t offered AWD as a common option, especially Chrysler who is usually on top of everything mini-van. I think there will be a lot of takers in the northeast and midwest. Good going, Toyota

    • 0 avatar
      SC5door

      Chrysler did offer AWD. It was dropped due to StowNGo which proved to be a better selling point than AWD. The Pacifica was rumored to have an E-AWD type system but it never came about.

  • avatar
    detlump

    Doesn’t the selection of AWD require run-flat tires and no spare tire?

    If that is the case, I would pass on AWD and get a set of snow tires instead, and keep the spare tire.

    • 0 avatar
      Chuck Norton

      There is room for a spare tire behind the 3rd seats. Not mounted to the side or anything- but you could “stand” it behind the seats. I would buy a steel wheel and have a spare for those long highway drives-for this area that would be from the Salt Lake area to Los Angeles-or up the 80 to the Denver area.

      Then for around town I would leave it out.

      But yes-on non AWD drive the spare is mounted under the seats.

      • 0 avatar
        cimarron typeR

        We have a 2012 AWD Sienna. I ditched the RFT to widen my tire choices 50k miles ago,theres a prepackaged donut with steel wheel and tire tote which fits snugly in the awesome tire trunk well. Its about 200.oo on Ebay.The 12 model still has a jack/lug wrench in the side compartment for those without roadside assistance.

        Incidentally , it’s good to know sales aren’t great, I’m sure deals will be had with leftover 18s this winter.I’d appreciate the quieter interior of the update.

    • 0 avatar
      VW4motion

      Snow tires sound like an viable option. Not in mountain states. Maybe for flatlanders snow states; Illinois, Ohio, Michigan etc. AWD and snowtires. Yes this is would be king. I also see many AWD Sienna with studded snow tires in Utah, Idaho, and Wyoming.

      • 0 avatar
        DC Bruce

        Had an AWD Previa with Blizzaks at all 4 corners. Absolutely unstoppable in up to a foot of snow. At our place in West Virginia, we would routinely pass stuck SUVs with all-seasons. Needless to say, their drivers did a double-take as we passed by. Except for the small “All-trac” badge on the rear liftgate, there was no way to identify the AWD models. I felt it was more competent in the snow than my subsequently-purchased Pilot with Michelin X-ice’s at all 4 corners.

      • 0 avatar
        markf

        I have a FWD Sienna, must be the only non-AWD in Colorado. I can’t see how AWD would be worth it. I bought mine in Germany and drove it all over Europe for 4 years in all types of nasty weather. Set of Blizzacks and I was fine.

        I have driven for 3 winters now in Colorado and have not had any issues. I do have a set of chains in case I get caught out in severe weather but for 99.99% of driving AWD would offer me no advantage.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    In my area there were a few families who had the AWD models and I think for many of them it was a more subtle way to show “my vehicle is LOADED.” Trickle down changes that just a little bit.

    • 0 avatar
      markf

      “In my area there were a few families who had the AWD models and I think for many of them it was a more subtle way to show “my vehicle is LOADED.” Trickle down changes that just a little bit.”

      yup

  • avatar
    2drsedanman

    Resident Toyota fanboi/brand whore here. I think they should offer the AWD options on all models, including the LE. When your sales numbers are sliding this far, everything should be on the table. Also, still surprised they don’t offer this van in some sort of Hybrid configuration.

    • 0 avatar
      Richard Chen

      It’s the base L that doesn’t offer AWD, the LE has offered AWD since 2003. IIRC the 8th seat has been unavailable with AWD due to fuel economy requirements.

      The 2019 LE gets blind spot monitoring as an option to keep up with the comparably priced Honda Odyssey EX which has BSM standard. However, see the IIHS crash test results in the blog post above.

      Crossovers are where the money is at, that’s why the Highlander Hybrid has been around for a decade, and the Sienna Hybrid doesn’t (yet) exist.

  • avatar
    94metro

    The change is simply the expansion of an AWD option to the SE trim, correct? That is not really a democratization of AWD availability, as the SE is a fancy sports appearance package costing about as much as the XLE (iirc). An AWD version of the LE, well that would be tempting when it’s time to replace our 2006 Sienna CE.

  • avatar
    wintermutt

    Awesome. Was planning on an AWD Sienna in the near future, happy there are more options now. BTW when is Subaru going to offer a minivan?

  • avatar
    Kendahl

    We have a 2014 LE with all wheel drive.

    There would be room for a spare tire if Toyota hadn’t used space at the rear for dropping the third row seats below the floor.

    Access to the spare tire in FWD models is hardly convenient. It’s stored underneath the vehicle near the right side sliding door. Getting it out requires lowering it with a crank.

  • avatar
    30-mile fetch

    If only it didn’t require run-flats. A minivan with AWD is otherwise a no-compromise family vehicle compared to a CUV. The revised V6 and 8spd apparently let this Sienna hit 60 in less than 7 seconds, so now you can really boogie. Get that frustrated-Dad rage out by terrorizing traffic between lights.

    I didn’t realize until recently how high minivan prices are. I thought they started in the upper 20s. I sat in a new LE and came away thinking it would be an incredibly unsatisfying way to spend $33K. Good fundamentals but absolutely no “surprise and delight” to be found in that cabin, and I’m someone who will defend a 4Runner on solid-fundamentals grounds. Our inlaws $40K Odyssey left same same impression, just with more tech frosting spread on top.

    • 0 avatar
      PrincipalDan

      In my area I see many well used Sienna’s with AWD where someone has mounted a full-size spare on either a steel wheel or a scrounged aluminum wheel and strapped it to the roof rack.

      Not ideal but given our terrible secondary roads, probably the best choice.

      • 0 avatar
        30-mile fetch

        I like it. I’d want mine on a custom-machined aluminum swing away arm behind the tailgate. Bring back some of that good old early-90s Pathfinder aesthetic.

        • 0 avatar
          PrincipalDan

          Looking at my local independent tire shop’s online catalog, the Michelin®: Defender LTX M/S is available in a size to fit the AWD Sienna.

          For someone who was going to be really using the AWD system and didn’t want to store winter tires, that would be a pretty sweet set up to have a 7 passenger SUV alternative.

          Especially with one mounted out back as you describe. ;-)

        • 0 avatar
          Kendahl

          Remember that the tailgate swings up, not sideways. A swinging arm for the spare would have to mount on the sheet metal outside the tailgate. I doubt it would be strong enough.

          We bought ours used from a dealer who insisted on replacing the worn run flats (40k miles) with new tires — conventional ones instead of run flats despite the absence of a spare. I thought long and hard about a way to carry a full size wheel and tire before resigning myself to run flats. I could have carried a spare in the space behind the third row but wanted a flat floor for cargo. (We took out the middle row captain’s chairs.) Carrying a spare on the roof was not a consideration. I’m not husky enough to get something that heavy up onto or down from the roof.

  • avatar
    JayDub

    2017 Sienna XLW AWD owner here. This thing is fantastic. Strong V6. Relatively nimble handling. Performs well on ice and snow. Practically invisible to police and state troopers! With the birth of my third child, I sold my older-but-badass 4WD SUV’s and moved to the van. My GX470 and Montero Limited both had three rows. However the Sienna is way more functional (i.e. spacious) for sports gear, luggage, dog, and people. A few weeks ago up in Big Bear, California I took the Sienna barreling down fire-roads for multiple days (with my two boys in the back). The van flawlessly gobbled up washboard roads and light off-roading. It also LOVES plowing through deep sand. All on run flat tires. Recently I’ve been looking end-of-lease replacement vehicles, such as the Subaru Ascent, the Ford Transit van with a Quigley 4X4 conversion, the Sprinter 4×4, and the Land Rover Discovery. Based on price, and pound-for-pound functionality, I’ll probably just pick up a newer Sienna AWD van!

    • 0 avatar
      gtem

      “I sold my older-but-badass 4WD SUV’s and moved to the van.”

      I think this is my inevitable path :/

      • 0 avatar
        JayDub

        Two corrections. XLE trim, not XLW. And I lease, not own.

        That stated this AWD man-van is a healthy compromise. My young boys love it; they call it the “transformer travel pod”, due the sliding doors. They even practice ninja moves by pushing the rear door button, and jumping out before being sideways guillotined.

        • 0 avatar
          gtem

          I just wish something like my family’s old MPV Allsport 4wd still existed. Decent on-road manners and excellent interior utility/comfort, but still packed “real” 4wd hardware (minus a low range) with a decently articulating 5-link solid rear axle and good ground clearance/approach/departure.

          • 0 avatar
            brandloyalty

            At least some of the 1st gen MPV’s had low ranges. There were even a hundred or so imported with manual transmissions.

      • 0 avatar
        RHD

        Currently, California has more “fire roads” than usual.

        Nice review of your Sienna, by the way.

    • 0 avatar
      RHD

      Currently, California has more “fire roads” than usual.

      Nice review of your Sienna, by the way.

    • 0 avatar
      gtem

      I’m also curious about your experience driving in “deep” sand JayDub. I assume you aired down? How deep was the sand? IIRC the 3rd gen Sienna has less than 6 inches of ground clearance, I can’t imagine one not getting hopelessly stuck out on the beach in the Outer Banks where I wheel around in my old 4Runner.

      • 0 avatar
        JayDub

        A Mitsubishi Delica or VW Vanagon synchro, this vehicle is not. Nor is this your father’s ancient Suburban with balloon-like off road tires. Nor is it a bro-dozer. That stated, my Sienna has explored countless roads, fire roads and trails made entirely of sand… specifically in and around the perimeters of Joshua Tree National Park. I never aired down. Super fun handling in moderate sand. Deep sand, well… bring a snorkel and a shovel.

        • 0 avatar
          gtem

          Fair enough, but you made it seem like you were cruising through some serious sand with a statement like:

          “It also LOVES plowing through deep sand”

          If you didn’t have to air down, it wasn’t anything remotely challenging I reckon. Where we like to go, if you don’t air down even in a high clearance 4wd SUV, you’re likely to dig in. I’ve seen a few crossovers make it through, and others fail (even aired down). I figure my family’s old MPV with that mechanical 4wd system without low range but with about 8 inches of clearance and aired down tires would make it through.

    • 0 avatar
      zamoti

      I’m going to be the voice of dissent here. I spent a week in Los Angeles this July and ended up with a Sienna (not AWD).
      I found it to be a most unpleasant driving experience and when people choose crossovers, I now understand why.
      I will start by saying that the function of the interior is very very good. All seats comfortable, visibility is good, room for nearly all. My family (five of us) used it as a rolling beach house for changing in and out of swimsuits; tint + windows shades made this very easy and plenty of room to struggle out of wet trunks.
      Where I was disappointed is in the driving experience. To start, the engine CAN get the van moving; however it’s almost always cut short by an overly aggressive shift pattern that will upshift ANY chance it gets. It doesn’t seem to matter if you’re accelerating, slowing or even going up a steep hill, it will upshift to highest gear as quickly as possible. I found myself having to constantly mash the gas to get it to kick down a gear or two just so I could merge onto a freeway. This can be addressed by fiddling with the menus and disengaging “eco” mode, but it resets every time you turn the van off. It doesn’t solve the problem, it just makes it less irritating. I found that the gas mileage around the city was in the high teens despite (or because of) the annoying shift program. I didn’t spend any meaningful time on the freeway to estimate mileage (well, not moving at any rate).
      When transitioning from freeways via cloverleaf and offramps, I came to realize that you CAN push the van around corners at a modestly brisk pace, but it is NOT at all entertaining. I’m used to being able to pretend I’m hitting apexes and other racy stuff so I know within reason what to expect when you come into a corner with too much speed. With this thing EVERY corner came up way too fast and was an a-hole puckering moment in almost all cases. It’s just not meant for spirited driving and I just don’t believe anyone who says that they’re fun. They’re not.
      What these things excel at are picking up/dropping off kids, swallowing cargo and being driven gently. They are big and squishy with room for people and stuff.
      If you’re looking to have fun behind the wheel, look elsewhere.

      • 0 avatar
        JayDub

        Zamoti, I find it hard to debate you because of your Ween icon; that picture brings back a flood of positive memories. Sorry to hear about your LA experience with the vehicle. Hmm, maybe because it is more fun to drive a slow car fast, versus a fast car slowly. Maybe because we recently moved from Santa Monica to Palm Springs, and I have less stop-and-go spirited city driving to endure. But I think it drives relatively well for what it is; an AWD refrigerator box on wheels. I average 18 mpg; I figured because I drive my leased van like I stole it.

        • 0 avatar
          zamoti

          ’tis nothing more than my opinion. I figured I had recent experience to share so may as well share it.

          I own a Camaro SS so that may color my impression a bit.

          You need to rename your van the poop ship destroyer.

    • 0 avatar
      Kendahl

      Perhaps, a new 2017 is better than a 2014 with nearly 50k miles. I understand the engine has been improved and the transmission has an extra gear. Although it gets the job done, there are two things that bother me about our 2014.

      Handling is sloppy. (My reference standards are a 2008 Infiniti G37S coupe and a 2013 Ford Focus SE hatchback.) Initial turn in is sharp but then the front end pushes which requires more steering to avoid running to the outside of the curve.

      Despite being six years newer, the Sienna isn’t as refined as the G37 or even the much cheaper Focus.

      • 0 avatar
        gtem

        “Handling is sloppy. (My reference standards are a 2008 Infiniti G37S coupe and a 2013 Ford Focus SE hatchback.)”

        “Despite being six years newer, the Sienna isn’t as refined as the G37 or even the much cheaper Focus.”

        Uh dude, you realize you’re comparing a bread-box family hauler to a entry-lux sedan and a compact car with a competently tuned suspension?

  • avatar
    pprj

    We have one, AWD, and we love it. 100k solid miles, we travel everywhere with it. I got rid if the run flats and have a spare in the trunk. Shoes are Michelins. I could not care less if people think this is not cool. It is the perfect car. Will get another one after this one reaches 200k miles.
    BTW, I’m a big fan of awd, we have an Audi and a Genesis. Both also awd.

  • avatar
    Sigivald

    “Choosing AWD means swapping the front-drive model’s 19-inch wheels for 18-inch hoops, providing more rim protection during those inescapable off-road minivan excursions”

    I’d prefer to see sane, sensible 16″ wheels on it no matter the trim and drivetrain.

    But I’m in the minority that likes cheaper tires and better dampening of bumps to “look at my fly rims yo”.

  • avatar
    walleyeman57

    If our 450k mile 2004 is an example of the durability of the newer ones- you had better pick a color you like. It could be the last car you own. But then again I fixed my toaster rather than buy new because I’m Cheap- with a capital “C”.

    • 0 avatar
      94metro

      Wow, did you own it from new? What is that, like 4 timing belt changes at this point?

      • 0 avatar
        dukeisduke

        That’s why I bought a 2008 – the 2007 model switched from the 3.3l 3MZ-FE (timing belt) to the 3.5l 2GR-FE (timing chains).

        • 0 avatar
          gtem

          I hear early 2GRs had a oil line on the back of the block that was TSB’d and went from a rubber line to a metal one within the first few years IIRC.

          The 2GRs aren’t known for prematurely wearing chains, but it seems a ton of other newer cars are, and repairs can be quite an ordeal. Call me crazy but I’m perfectly happy with a serviceable timing belt with a 100k mile interval.

          • 0 avatar
            syncro87

            Timing chain guides and tensioners don’t last forever. Upper 100’s to 200k plus, you’re playing with fire. There is a misconception that timing chains are life of vehicle items, not true. There is maintenance involved unless you enjoy rolling the dice above 150k.

            Timing belts have shorter replacement intervals, but are cheaper and easier to deal with when you have to do the work.

      • 0 avatar
        walleyeman57

        No. We bought it with 60k miles so only 390k are ours. Yep, 4 timing belt changes. 3 radiators, one A/C compressor. Original alternator. Never touched the engine or tranny internals. Wife refuses to give up on her and wants to get it to 500k.

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    Just don’t sit in the front passenger seat and you’ll be good.

  • avatar
    dukeisduke

    Does this one require run-flat tires? The 2004-2010 AWD Siennas used run-flats because the AWD hardware took up the space where the spare tire would normally go.

  • avatar
    jack4x

    All this talk regarding run flat tires – can they not provide an inflator/sealant kit instead? I thought these were rapidly becoming standard everywhere as automakers gain weight and space by not including even a space saver spare. If Toyota is really still equipping vans with run flats, that is a serious head scratcher when the inflator can’t cost them more than a few dollars.

  • avatar
    dukeisduke

    Yes, the Siennas are stupid bulletproof (our 2008 has 178,000 miles on it, and the only major repairs have been a steering rack, and new drive axles). But, Toyota here seems to be resting on their laurels – Here it is 2018 (2019 model coming), and it’s on the same basic platform as in 2011 (but facelifted), while the Odyssey, which launched for the same model year, got a new model for 2018.

  • avatar
    dukeisduke

    “top-spec XLE trim level” – what happened to the Limited? Limiteds are practically Lexus-like, with gathered leather, wood (okay, it’s fake) trim, and items like a memory seat.

  • avatar
    I_like_stuff

    My family had a Sienna. The reason we had a Sienna and not an Odyssey was because Honda didn’t provide an AWD option. My wife who made the ultimate decision on which minivan to buy liked the Honda better. But AWD won out, given snow/ice is a daily occurence for us 3-4 months a year.

    It has always baffled me how Honda ceded that entire market to Toyota.

    We kept that Sienna for just under 100K miles with absolutely no issues. And talk about holding its value!! MSRP was $37K, we sold it private party 6 years later for $16,500. That was impressive.

    The one downside were the run flat tires. They lasted 20-25K miles and cost a fortune to replace. I hate those things – run flats – with the passion of 1000 burning suns.


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