There are times as a car writer when you get a vehicle to review that just makes life easier for your family. In the case of the Toyota Sienna minivan, I was happy to see it arrive.
My two boys love the idea of a minivan. They can open the back doors themselves, and there’s plenty of room for everyone. My daughter finds it comfortable and fun even if she’s too small to work the doors and wants to watch “Frozen” on repeat.
Under the hood is a 3.5-liter V6 pumping out just shy of 300 horsepower and down to the front wheels through a 6-speed automatic that is tried and true. There is no drama from the V6 or tranny system, and all is very predictable. I found the acceleration to be adequate for a family hauler and even made the kids laugh when I could pass faster cars on the highway.
Exterior styling isn’t bad for a minivan. In fact, there is a little bit of sportiness that you get when you get the XLE trim that provides some body kits and nice-looking wheels.
The LED daytime lights up front provide some updated looks, but there are no LED or HID lighting for night driving, which is a bit of a letdown to me. Going down the side of the van are power sliding doors that are my favorite part of most all vans. The ability to park in tight spaces and closer to stores because you will never have a child launch a door open and crush another car is key. Putting that power on the key fob is another plus that goes under the radar sometimes.
Follow that to the rear of the van, and you’ll get vented rear windows and a power lift gate flanked by LED tail lights. The trunk is extra deep behind the third row, so you can stack luggage, golf clubs, sports equipment or whatever else you are bringing.
Interior space is the entire point of a minivan purchase. You need seven or eight passengers, and a van will make it happen. My example had the eighth-person jump seat that can stow in the rear of the van. You can install it when needed or, when not, have a pass-through for kids to get to the third row easier.
Up front for the driver is a comfortable upright driving position with everything from the stereo to the rear HVAC and entertainment controls at your fingertips — not to mention loads of convenient storage pods for drinks, snacks, music and DVDs. It’s a really comfortable and easy place to spend time. It’s road trip-ready at the drop of a hat or the quick trip to the pool or movies with all of your kids’ friends.
On road, it’s totally drivable and doesn’t flop around corners. I wouldn’t suggest putting it through a quarter-mile race and then trying to make a hairpin turn, but this van can hold its own in most twisty roads — being moderate with the throttle and braking. Highway trips are smooth and well mannered.
Overall, the Sienna is a benchmark and has been for many years. And until recently, it was the only van available in all-wheel drive. That is going to change, and now with some plug-in hybrid options, the Sienna will have to raise the bar again.
I was able to manage 21 mpg during my road test while Toyota claims around 20 mpg average. MSRP for the Premium XLE is $39,897.
Will Chamberlain is a local freelance automotive journalist and full-time Realtor with eXp Realty in Beaver. He can be reached at email@example.com.