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2011 Toyota Sienna Review

thinking outside the "box" in exterior styling

A minivan can be practical in a variety of settings. Comfortably transporting your business colleagues to the airport or an important event, loading up the kids for a soccer game, family vacations with easy access to your infant or infants as it were even hauling sheets of drywall to finish your basement. Today’s minivans do all of the above and quite well. So what are the strong points of the Toyota Sienna and where does it fall short?

Exterior – This is one of the better looking minivans out there. True, it’s basically a box, as the rest are. But by incorporating the new identifiable front bumper onto it, it has become a more stylish box. Joking aside, it does make a big difference giving it a style that sets it apart from the rest. The Sienna is a huge vehicle, measuring just over 200” long and 69” tall. It’s hard to make something so big look sleek and pretty so I found the added rear spoiler simply gets lost in all the mass. The standard 17” tires look out of place on such a large vehicle, but the ride was comfortable and smooth. Larger tires will hurt with MPG but will work wonders for this vehicle visually.

Interior- To say that there is ample room in this van is an understatement. I.e. I wear a size 48 jacket and when I close the driver’s side door, I still have about 6” of room between my shoulder and the door. I typically only have about an inch or two so that extra room is nice. The passenger also has plenty of elbow and head room in this vehicle. Toyota uses a good quality leather on this van as well. I personally wouldn’t buy this van without it as it’s very convenient for quickly cleaning spills. My family and I found the seats comfortable as well. The 2nd row seats not only recline but also have a hideaway foot rest like a lazy boy chair. However, this only works if the front seats are moved very close to the dash and the 2nd row seat is slid far back. Otherwise, you have no room to stretch your legs anyway. This van also has great rear storage space. There’s luggage room for a family of 4 or 5 that shouldn’t impede the passenger area. All and all it’s a solid vehicle with a smart ergonomic layout and a tidy fit and finished package.

Electronics- The first gizmo to strike my eye was the multi function head unit at center dash. This blue tooth compatible device serves as your Navigation, AM/FM radio, Satellite radio, rear-view camera and multi disc CD player. It also has full ipod integration so you can plug in your ipod, tuck it away and control it from the head unit. Although happy with all of the features this unit entails, I found it cumbersome to navigate at times. The most annoying was the ipod integration. I found that my eyes were off the road for too long due to the delay in the touch screens response. Scrolling through playlist is even more annoying. The unit will list about six songs per screen, when you advance to the next six it automatically selects and starts playing song one of the next six. All of this causes more delays. And music is a part of our driving experience nowadays.

Performance – The 3.5 V6 engine powers this massive vehicle with ease. I found it rather easy, not only to keep up with smaller cars but to pass them. We drove the vehicle to PA for the weekend and found that we averaged around 19.5 MPG that’s pretty good for a fully loaded van of this size. I was most pleased with the suspension. Even thought it doesn’t ride like a car (it’s far too big for that), it doesn’t ride like a Truck either. The suspension made even the bumpy roads of PA feel rather smooth. And that’s what I want in a people hauler. There is just too much drinking and snacking going on to deal with a sport suspension of any type. Toyota’s 3.5 as well as the 2.7 i4 are both well tested engines that for the most part will go for a long time requiring minimal maintenance.

I would highly recommend the Toyota Sienna for those in the market for a minivan. It was designed with family in mind and that reflected in the comfort and convenience found from every seat in the van. It’s also well built, comfortable, roomy, and great on gas and, if I may, has a little “swag”. The Toyota Sienna is worth a serious look.