By on May 14, 2020

2018 Toyota Sienna red - Image: Toyota

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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11 Comments on “Toyota to Chrysler: Two Can Play This Game...”

  • avatar

    RIP to the lovely 2GR V6.

    Get one while you can.

  • avatar

    Well, The segment isn’t dead yet, but some changes can keep it going strong.

    With AWD, just jack it up a couple inches more, lower the roof line to reduce the glass height, replace the sliding doors with conventional swing-out doors, put a triangular wedge of sheet metal in the rear quarters to reduce visibility, and shrink the rear window so the driver can’t see a vehicle on his tail.

    Voila! A sport-Utility Van!

    • 0 avatar

      I’m totally game for lifting it a little more, but keep the glass, sliding doors, and add some damn sidewall to the tires!

      Wait, that was sarcasm!

      Honestly, I’m hoping the lack of mileage on our 2017 AWD Sienna this year from The Covid will let us keep it to the point where the kids are out on their own and we can size down to whatever is available in the early 2000’s Outback/Legacy size in another five years.

  • avatar

    They can play these games with ICE masquerading as HEV until Tesla enters the segment and redefines it forever with game changing revolutionary true electric minivan.

    • 0 avatar

      Going to be a while before BEVs attain widespread adoption, unless there is a regulatory push.

      For the near future, it will be ICE w/ some form of electrification.

  • avatar

    Very likely will be another player – the new Sedona which has been rumored to get either a hybrid or PHEV variant (and may possibly also get AWD like the new Optima).

  • avatar

    This isn’t much of a stretch for Toyota. Back when one could get on an airplane and go places, in Japan I saw that Toyota is “all – in” on hybrid technology. Any car which was out of the bottom feeder class had a hybrid powertrain. This was zero work, just a few marketers saying “can you certify this for US EPA ?”

  • avatar

    Judging by that close up image their new van will continue with Toyota’s trend of overwrought odd styling with no cohesiveness and an overabundance of fussy plains curves and cut lines. And most likely a gaping maw of a grill. I’m betting the Pacifica will remain the most attractive of all the minivans.

  • avatar

    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.

    • 0 avatar

      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.

  • avatar

    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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