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The Daily Drivers: 2016 Toyota Sienna XLE

Published Dec. 1, 2016

Appearance: The Sienna still has a somewhat muscular appearance, with character lines that wrap around the front wheel wells and continue down the side. The short hood dips down into the bold grille, which in our second-from-the-top-trim XLE is chrome with horizontal slats. Our Sienna came in Blizzard Pearl ($395 option), a "special color" that is an attractive off-white that's worth it if you are considering white. The 17-inch, seven-spoke wheels give the van a little swagger.

Performance: The 3.5-liter, 266-horsepower V-6 has more than enough power for the 4,500 pound Sienna and quickly accelerates in situations such as highway merging. The transmission is a 6-speed automatic, which shifts smoothly, but the 2017 gets an 8-speed. Our Sienna was front-wheel drive, but all-wheel drive is available, which sets the Sienna apart from the rest of the minivan crowd should be a consideration for those whose roads aren't just pavement. The Sienna handles well for a minivan — it's easy to maneuver — with light steering.

Interior: The cabin is quiet and upscale, with plenty of soft-touch materials and accent stitching. Ours XLE's interior came in an attractive beige, but we didn't like polished wood-grain trim, which feels dated. Peter (and his back) especially enjoyed the leather seats were plush and luxury-car comfortable. Long ride? No problem. The console has a modern look and is flat and angled slightly toward the driver. The controls are simple and within easy reach, and there is a 7-inch touchscreen as well as a small screen to show A/C settings. The shifter is mounted on the dash, which allows for more space. For example, you ca n set your purse or small bag in a well on the floor under the center console. The armrest features a convenient large bin with a sliding top and there is a slot in center stack for cell phone but it may sit too low from some to reach. Our Sienna had the eight-passenger seating option with the removable console seat between the captains chairs. Even the third row is relatively plush. Both doors are of the power-sliding variety and there is a power liftgate. The best part of the Sienna is the seating and cargo space (150 cubic feet). There are lots of storage nooks, and the Split & Stow third row folds down and into a depression in the back, resulting in a flat cargo floor. When the seats are up, we found that bin to be perfect for groceries. The XLE navigation package added rear parking assist sonar (a huge help when parallel parking), Entune Premium Audio with navigation, Bluetooth and apps for predictive traffic and weather. There is also blind-sport warning.

The bottom line: These days, it's hard choose wrong when it comes to minivans, with family-friendly features multiplying quickly. That said, the Sienna doesn't forget the little things that make everyday family hauling a bit easier.

The state of today's minivan? The choices are the best they've ever been — such as the reintroduced Kia Sorento we drove recently — and then there's the original Swagger Wagon, the Toyota Sienna, which keeps getting better. We've drove the SE version last year and recently spent time with the XLE trim. And yes, the Sienna is still swaggering

Our 3 favorites

Storage: Lots of nooks and crannies: a tray for your purse, dual-level glove box and deep armrest bin.

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Capacity: Can seat up to eight.

Handling: Drives much better than you'd expect of a van.

Seats: Plush and supportive, especially up front.

Peter Couture

Lyra Solochek


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