2021 Toyota Sienna: Have It Your Way

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems

Long overdue for a revamp, the fourth-generation Toyota Sienna bowed today, ditching the previous model’s 3.5-liter V6 engine in favor of a more fuel-conscious alternative.

Before, the long-running minivan offered buyers the option of braving wintry weather or semi-rugged excursions with the confidence of all-wheel drive. That option remains — but it’s coupled with a standard feature previous Sienna buyers couldn’t get their hands on: a hybrid powertrain.

Yes, like the 2021 Venza that also appeared Monday, the revamped, re-platformed 2021 Sienna bows with a standard hybrid system, though in this case, only it only involves the rear axle if the buyer chooses. This AWD setup, available to buyers of all trims, plunks an electric motor atop the rear axle. Toyota’s adoption of e-axle technology omits the need for a transfer case and propshaft.

If front-drive suits you just fine, save some cash and say “no” to AWD. There’ll still be two electric motors up front, supplementing the standard 2.5-liter four-cylinder and helping provide a combined output of 243 horsepower.

No, you won’t be able to plug this thing in and cruise for miles on electric power alone, but you will see 33 mpg in combined driving, Toyota claims. That estimated figure comes in 3 mpg higher than the combined figure for Chrysler’s plug-in hybrid Pacifica model (when operating in normal hybrid guise).

Besides adding sometimes necessary grip out back, Toyota says the electrified rear axle aids in tamping down understeer and can dial up 80 percent of the vehicle’s torque under certain situations — perfect for ecologically conscious parents who like selecting “sport” mode before recklessly hustling their offspring to Montessori. Indeed, Toyota’s so proud of its new minivan, it’s offering it in sporty XSE trim, in addition to the pedestrian and volume LE and XLE and high-zoot Limited and (new) Platinum.

Going XSE brings to the table exterior styling enhancements like omitted front side vents and a wider lower air opening, as well as 20-inch wheels (a size shared with Platinum).

Notice that we’ve gone the whole article without mentioning styling. It’s a minivan, after all, but Toyota’s new visage for the Sienna is worthy of mention, if for no other reason than to highlight the massive lower grille. Like its Lexus sister division, Toyota’s vehicles aren’t afraid of opening wide. The Sienna’s greenhouse and rear fender bulges also call to mind its Highlander platform mate.

Come to think of it, from the Avalon-worthy maw and Mirai and Prius-reminiscent bodyside lines, to the taillight-adjacent faux rear vents ripped from a Camry, this thing has visual corporate DNA on offer everywhere you look.

Inside, the standard infotainment touchscreen is a 9-inch unit; between the front seats lies a “Bridge console” that “elegantly connects the instrument panel to the center armrest.” Toyota goes on to say that the feature “enables the driver to have a more stress-free and comfortable driving experience.”

Cupholders and shifter above, storage below.

What it doesn’t say is that the feature, like the model’s exterior styling cues, available AWD, and SUV-mention-heavy marketing copy, seems tailor-made to fool drivers into thinking they’re not in a minivan. The segment’s on the decline, and with it, the Sienna’s sales. Being able to unbuckle and bolt into the backseat without leaving the vehicle or hopping a console or seat was an ability reserved solely for van drivers. With the bridge console, the effect is like being behind the wheel of a CUV.

Rear-row seating offers up options. In LE and some XLE trims, the second row boasts a stowable middle seat, bringing occupant capacity up to eight. Otherwise, you’re looking at twin captain’s chairs with 25 inches of fore-and-aft slide capability. In Limited and Platinum guise, these chairs come with ottomans. Maybe I spoke too soon about the non-existence of luxury minivans.

As for safety features, this minivan won’t force you to move up a trim to get a modest protection package. Blind spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert is standard, as is a rear seat reminder. So too is Toyota Safety Sense 2.0, which bundles together a pre-collision braking system with pedestrian detection, full-speed dynamic radar cruise control, lane departure alert with steering assist, lane trace assist, automatic high beans, and road sign detection.

Pricing for the 2021 Sienna will likely reflect all this new standard kit, but we don’t know for sure just yet. Toyota’s keeping pricing info under wraps until closer to the model’s on-sale date later this year.

Will the Sienna’s new body, greater efficiency, and SUV-mimicking interior reverse the model’s falling fortunes? Time will tell, but, like with the sedan segment, one can’t help but look around, see the writing on the wall, and be pessimistic.

[Images: Toyota]

Steph Willems
Steph Willems

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  • Moparmann Moparmann on May 19, 2020

    That has to be (IMO) one of the most awkward side profiles ever, and the mish-mash at the rear end isn't helping at all! But then of course, you only have to look at it as you approach; once inside you won't notice the UGLY!!!

  • PlaysInTraffic PlaysInTraffic on May 20, 2020

    "Have it your way"? Not sure why you think that. No more V-6 option, 4-cylinder only, hybrid only. Unsure if the second row of seats can be removed. No mention of whether the middle middle seat can be slid forwards, as in earlier models. Sounds like we'll have to go used when we replace our current vehicle. Whether it's a minivan equipped the way we want or a midsize sedan with a six or manual with the optional engine, why do I keep finding myself thinking that lately?

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  • Rust-MyEnemy Whoa, what the hell is wrong with Jalop1991 and his condescension? It's as if he's employed by Big Plug-In or something."I've seen plenty of your types on the forums....."Dunno what that means, but I'm not dead keen on being regarded as "A type" by a complete stranger"" I'm guessing you've never actually calculated by hand the miles you've driven against the quantity of gas used--which is your actual miles per gallon."Guess again. Why the hell would you even say that? Yes, I worked it out. Fill-to-fill, based on gas station receipts. And it showed me that a Vauxhall Astra PHEV, starting out with a fully charged PHEV battery, in Hybrid mode, on my long (234-mile) daily motorway daily commute, never, over several months, ever matched or beat the economy of the regular hybrid Honda Civic that I ran for a similar amount of time (circa 5000 miles)."You don't use gasoline at all for 30-40 miles as you use exclusively battery power, then your vehicle is a pure hybrid. Over 234 miles, you will have used whatever gas the engine used for 200 of those miles."At least you're right on that. In hybrid mode, though, the Astra was using battery power when it wasn't at all appropriate. The petrol engine very rarely chimed in when battery power was on tap, and as a result, the EV-mode range quickly disappeared. The regular hybrid Civic, though, deployed its very small electric reserves (which are used up quickly but restore themselves promptly), much more wisely. Such as when on a trailing throttle or on a downward grade, or when in stop-start traffic. As a result, at the end of my 234 miles, the Civic had used less gas than the Astra. Moreover, I hadn't had to pay for the electricity in its battery.I look forward to you arguing that what actually happened isn't what actually happened, but I was there and you were not."Regardless, that you don't understand it appears not to have stopped you from pontificating on it. Please, do us all a favor--don't vote."You really are quite unpleasant, aren't you. But thanks for the advice.
  • Tassos Jong-iL Electric vehicles are mandated by 2020 in One Korea. We are ahead of the time.
  • 1995_SC Can you still get some of the tax credits under the new program?
  • Analoggrotto HyundaiGenesisKia saw this coming a long time ago and are poised for hybrid and plug-in hybrid segment leadership:[list=1][*] The most extensive range of hybrids[/*][*]Highest hybrid sales proportion over any other model [/*][*]Best YouTube reviews [/*][*]Highest number of consumer reports best picks [/*][*]Class leading ATPs among all hybrid vehicles and PHEVs enjoy segment bearing eATPs[/*][/list=1]While some brands like Toyota have invested and wasted untold fortunes into full range electric lineups HyundaiKiaGenesis has taken the right approach here.