Toyota Sienna Overview

toyota sienna grillYou can bet that the engineers at Toyota are not pleased that the Honda Odyssey is widely regarded as the best minivan in America. So they've done something about it. The new-for-2011 Sienna minivan offers an improved exterior design, better driving dynamics, a more accommodating interior and features that take it up several notches in the hotly competitive minivan category. With the redesign, it has certainly moved up on our list of desirable minivans. Both of the Toyota Sienna's engines deliver where it counts, whether you crave the fuel-sipping economy of the 2.7-liter four-cylinder or the extra punch provided by the 3.5-liter V6. The four-cylinder-equipped Sienna is surprisingly acceptable, but for serious family- and cargo-hauling, the V6 is the engine to get.

Power for both engines is managed by a smooth-shifting ECT five-speed automatic transmission. The base Sienna offers a quiet, soft ride that will cocoon driver and passengers, with the suspension floating effortlessly over potholes. For those who want a more involving driving experience, however, we recommend the sporty SE trim, which offers a sport-tuned suspension and tighter steering feel. The Toyota Sienna XLE's Lounge Seating offers a Long-Slide feature maximizing legroom, while footrests rise up, virtually transforming the second row seats into Barcaloungers. The Sienna's Dual View Entertainment Center features two wireless headphones and an extra-wide screen that allows two different movies to play at once.

toyota sienna tail lightsOr in those few families in which the kids agree, one movie can play CinemaScope-style. You'll almost feel like you're watching your flatscreen at home. Whatever the trim, from lightly equipped base model to decked-out Limited, the Sienna can be easily configured to meet many families' budgets thanks to a number of options and packages. The Sienna can seat up to eight, depending on a choice of captain's chairs or bench seating in the second row, with reasonable leg- and headroom for passengers in all seating positions. The only exception to this is when the lounge seating is deployed to its rearward extreme, which results in nearly non-existent legroom for the third-row riders. The Sienna's third-row seat folds flush into the floor, but we found the manual stowing of the seats difficult to master. Happily, a power-stow option is available.

Cargo space in the Sienna is ample and versatile. Additional space can be made by folding down one or both of the 60/40-split rear seats and by completely removing the second row. Channeling some of the looks of its Venza stablemate, the 2011 Sienna presents a sportier shape that the previous edition with nice details like the rear door slider that is hidden within the window graphic. The strong "shoulder" and well-chiseled fender flares add to the more performance-oriented look. While the new Sienna rides on the same wheelbase as the prior generation, it is wider for interior roominess and slightly shorter overall. The rear of the Sienna sits high and features sculpted sheet metal, LED tail lamps and a rear-lip spoiler - adding a sporty feel to the design.

toyota sienna headlightsThe base Sienna comes with Toyota Sienna Accessories available like an MP3-capable CD player with auxiliary input jack, remote keyless entry, dual-sliding doors with power windows, and tri-zone manual air conditioning. Opting for the LE trim adds steering wheel-mounted audio controls, power sliding doors and a Homelink universal transceiver. The SE trim adds its own sport-tuned suspension and steering, leather-trimmed steering wheel and an eight-way power leatherette driver's seat. Moving up to the XLE nets you a six-speaker stereo with a USB port and iPod connectivity, automatic tri-zone climate control, leather and woodgrain interior trim, and heated seats. The upscale Limited adds a JBL sound system, lounge second-row seating, and a power-folding 60/40 third row.

All trims offer Toyota's STAR Safety System, airbags for all three rows, plus the XLE features front and rear sonar, which is not for submarine chasing but a parking assist. Options on the Sienna vary by trim and include all-wheel drive, roof rails, dual-power sliding doors, power seats, Bluetooth connectivity, tri-zone automatic climate control and a power rear hatch. A Dual-View Entertainment Center with wireless headphones is available on XLE and Limited models. The Limited can also be equipped with a Navigation Package, Dynamic Radar Cruise Control and rain-sensing wipers. Two engines are offered in the 2011 Sienna: A new fuel-efficient 2.7-liter four-cylinder engine that offers decent off-the-line acceleration and a hearty 3.5-liter V6 with plenty of torque and fuel economy.