Toyota to Chrysler: Two Can Play This Game

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
toyota to chrysler two can play this game

It seems that Chrysler’s Pacifica won’t be the only available hybrid minivan for long.

While the Ontario-built model, which challenges Toyota’s Sienna by adding all-wheel drive for 2021, remains the only hybrid people mover in the segment, it’s possible the Sienna might soon become the only AWD HEV minivan.

That isn’t known for sure at this point. Thanks to a Twitter snafu noticed by Roadshow, Toyota spilled the beans on one of two hybrid models it plans to debut this coming Monday. One is clearly an update of the long-running Sienna; the other, who knows.

“All new,” the Toyota-provided image tells us. “All hybrid.”

Unless Toyota’s playing games with the English language, this appears to confirm the next-generation Sienna will dispense with traditional powerplants altogether. It remains to be seen whether the revamped minivan will return AWD as an option.

Given that the Sienna borrows the TNGA platform of its RAV4 and Highlander stablemates, both of which offer popular and efficient hybrid AWD variants (utilizing an independent rear electric motor/axle setup), Toyota might decide to ditch the mechanical connection that characterized its last AWD system and go with something new.

After all, you need some choice in a lineup. Not only that, but Chrysler’s AWD Pacifica eschews hybridization, preferring to go the traditional route. The minivan segment may be be on a long, sad decline, but it’s always beneficial to offer something no other competitor can boast — assuming a deep parts bin is available to keep development costs down.

An aging relic of a fading segment, the current-gen Sienna bowed for the 2011 model year, gaining a styling refresh in 2015 and an upgraded powertrain in 2017. Sales have fallen off each year since its post-recession high point of 2015.

Will standard electrification change its trajectory? All signs point to “no,” but American consumers will have the final word on that.

[Images: Toyota]

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  • Bryanska Bryanska on May 15, 2020

    If it's still as loud as a Mazda2, Chrysler needn't worry. Toyota has the reliability thing down, but Siennas definitely aren't the nicest to live with.

    • MiataReallyIsTheAnswer MiataReallyIsTheAnswer on May 26, 2020

      I'll take the reliability. We've had 2 Siennas and not found them any "louder" than other vans, including a loaner Pacifica I had for 2 weeks and my current Odyssey.

  • HotPotato HotPotato on May 16, 2020

    My guess is they're planning on doing the same sort of "AWD" they have used in other hybrid models: a tiny little electric motor that doesn't kick in for traction til the front wheels slip, and then offers something like 6 horsepower. It's hard to see how that would be useful for anything more than marketing -- but given today's story that AWD and 4WD vehicles now hold a slim majority of US vehicle sales, it could be quite useful for that.

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  • Brett Woods My 4-Runner had a manual with the 4-cylinder. It was acceptable but not really fun. I have thought before that auto with a six cylinder would have been smoother, more comfortable, and need less maintenance. Ditto my 4 banger manual Japanese pick-up. Nowhere near as nice as a GM with auto and six cylinders that I tried a bit later. Drove with a U.S. buddy who got one of the first C8s. He said he didn't even consider a manual. There was an article about how fewer than ten percent of buyers optioned a manual in the U.S. when they were available. Visited my English cousin who lived in a hilly suburb and she had a manual Range Rover and said she never even considered an automatic. That's culture for you.  Miata, Boxster, Mustang, Corvette and Camaro; I only want manual but I can see both sides of the argument for a Mustang, Camaro or Challenger. Once you get past a certain size and weight, cruising with automatic is a better dynamic. A dual clutch automatic is smoother, faster, probably more reliable, and still allows you to select and hold a gear. When you get these vehicles with a high performance envelope, dual-clutch automatic is what brings home the numbers. 
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