Make us your home page

The Daily Drivers: Toyota Sienna minivan has substance, a bit of swagger

These days, it seems, the minivan is an endangered species. How many of us want to fess up to loving the family haulers? That has helped fuel a boom in crossovers and thin the herd of mediocre vans. Now comes the 2011 Sienna — the "Swagger Wagon" of TV ads and viral videos — which proves there's life yet in the sliding-door set.

Appearance: The third-generation Sienna gets an updated look, with more muscular fender flares. The trapezoidal grille is more Lexus-like. The headlights are elongated and follow the lines to the side of the van. Alas, the side profile is still a minivan. The windshield angle flows into the hood lines, but the front seems to just suddenly fall.

Performance: Our tester had the 3.5-liter 6-cylinder with front-wheel drive. (The Sienna is the only minivan on the market to offer AWD as an option.) Our tester, with its smooth-shifting six-speed automatic transmission, had plenty of power to pull the big 4,310-pounder. Other Sienna trims offer a 4-cylinder, but we'd stick with the 6. We were pleasantly surprised that the van had a more carlike ride — not the floaty ride common in vans — and cornered well for a top-heavy vehicle. The steering is now electronic, not hydraulic, but still offers feedback.

Interior: The Sienna seats up to eight and is loaded with features, especially the XLE trim we drove. Toyota worked hard to make the cockpit attractive, with well-placed and easy-to-read gauges and controls. Toyota has a way of making plastic look more upscale with different textures, and its asymmetrical dash layout makes it feel more upscale. There's a love-it-or-hate it wood trim that accents the dash, doors and thick, comfortable steering wheel. In addition to the navigation system, there is a small, secondary color display mounted atop the dash. In the second row, the center seat is a removable jump seat. We found it narrow, hard and uncomfortable. However, it is wide enough for a booster seat. Lyra's son enjoyed sitting there because it provides a good view forward, plus it's front and center for watching DVDs. Peter's girls especially liked the large, 16.4-inch split dual video screen, which allows passengers to watch two different shows. (A pair of wireless headsets comes with the entertainment center.) Here's a nice touch for the kids, especially when smaller ones fall asleep: The side windows have a retractable mesh sun screen. The second-row seats tip and slide for easy access to the third row, but they don't fold into the floor like some of the competition. The third row does, however.

Our 3 favorites

Peter Couture

Large windows: There's lots of side visibility.

Video screen: It's big enough to satisfy two kids with different tastes.

Front end: I like the bolder look and its louvered, razor-blade grille.

Lyra Solochek

Heat deflectors: Retractable mesh sunscreens for rear side windows.

Power doors: Easy in, easy out with a push of a button.

Reclining seats: Kick back, relax and watch a DVD on the video screen.

The bottom line

Moms and dads, minivans need not be spartan or boring. If you've been attracted by Toyota's fun ad campaign, know that there's a lot of steak to the sizzle. An entry price point in the mid-$20Ks makes it even better.

2011 Toyota Sienna XLE

Price: $32,175, $39,604 as tested

Powertrain: 3.5-liter V-6 with 6-speed automatic transmission, FWD

Horsepower: 266 at 6,200 rpm

Torque: 245 pound-

feet at 4,700 rpm

Curb weight: 4,310 pounds


in inches:

Wheelbase, 119.3

Length, 200.2

Width, 78.1

Fuel economy:

18 miles per gallon city, 24 mpg highway

Safety features: ABS, air bags and curtains, vehicle stability control with traction control, electronic brake distribution, collapsible steering column

Other trim levels: Base ($24,460), LE ($25,545), SE ($30,750), Limited ($38,700)

Options worth considering: Entertainment package with dual-view screen and headsets, all-wheel drive, navigation package with panorama camera.


The Daily Drivers: Toyota Sienna minivan has substance, a bit of swagger 09/07/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, September 7, 2010 12:58pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Legalized medical marijuana signed into law by Rick Scott

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Rick Scott on Friday signed into law a broader medical marijuana system for the state, following through on a promise he made earlier this month.

    Gov. Rick Scott signed legislation on Friday that legalizes medical marijuana in Florida.
  2. Line of moms welcome Once Upon A Child to Carrollwood


    CARROLLWOOD — Strollers of all shapes and sizes are lined up in front of the store, and inside, there are racks of children's clothing in every color of the rainbow.

    At Once Upon A Child, you often as many baby strollers outside as you find baby furniture and accessories. It recently opened this location in Carrollwood. Photo by Danielle Hauser
  3. Pastries N Chaat brings North India cuisine to North Tampa


    TAMPA — Pastries N Chaat, a new restaurant offering Indian street food, opened this week near the University of South Florida.

    The menu at Pastries N Chaat includes a large variety of Biriyani, an entree owners say is beloved by millions. Photo courtesy of Pastries N Chaat.
  4. 'Garbage juice' seen as threat to drinking water in Florida Panhandle county


    To Waste Management, the nation's largest handler of garbage, the liquid that winds up at the bottom of a landfill is called "leachate," and it can safely be disposed of in a well that's 4,200 feet deep.

    Three samples that were displayed by Jackson County NAACP President Ronstance Pittman at a public meeting on Waste Management's deep well injection proposal. The sample on the left is full of leachate from the Jackson County landfill, the stuff that would be injected into the well. The sample on the right shows leachate after it's been treated at a wastewater treatment plant. The one in the middle is tap water.
  5. Honda denies covering up dangers of Takata air bags


    With just a third of the defective Takata air bag inflators replaced nationwide, the corporate blame game of who will take responsibility — and pay — for the issue has shifted into another gear.

    Honda is denying covering up dangers of Takata air bags. | [Scott McIntyre, New York Times]