With General Motors and Ford Motor Company no longer in the business of selling the family-friendly traditional minivan, Asian automakers have collectively become a key supplier of these seven-and-eight passenger haulers. Yes, segment-blazing Chrysler Corp. continues building the Dodge Grand Caravan and Chrysler Town & Country minivans (and twin Routan for Volkswagen), but Toyota
, Hyundai, Nissan and Kia have invested mightily in this segment.
Take the all-new, third-generation 2011 Toyota Sienna
. Built in Princeton, Indiana near the Kentucky boarder, this versatile offering includes something for just about every member of the family.
While Chrysler Corp. stopped building four-cylinder minivans several years ago, Sienna
is brining one back. Advancements in four-bangers have increased horsepower and smoothness, making them a tempting choice.
This is not the first foray into four-cylinder engines for a Toyota
minivan. When Toyota
's first minivan, the imported-from-Japan Previa arrived in the early 1990s, a four cylinder was the only engine available. At the time, the 138 horsepower Previa (available with manual transmission) was underpowered for the American market. Toyota
supplied a 2.7-liter, 187 horsepower four-cylinder for a weeks testing and what a pleasant surprise; servicing well when carting four adults and an eight-month old strapped safely into her car seat. While traversing the North-South 355 Tollway and all its construction, the engine supplied enough merge swiftness when entering into and maintaining highway speeds.
Also in 2011, Sienna
increases the number of trims levels from four to five. Returning from generation two is the choice of front wheel or all-wheel drive in select trims. Sienna
is one of the only minivans available with the all-wheel drive option. All Sienna
trims sport the same extended length (200.2 inches) and wheelbase( 119.3 inches). By comparison, the Dodge Grand Caravan measures 202.3 inches in over all length. Sienna
's interior is now two inches longer seats have more free range of travel.
The four-cylinder with standard front drive delivers fuel economy of 19 miles per gallon city and 24 mpg highway, comparing very closely with 18 mpg city and 24 highway the front-wheel version of the 3.5-liter V-6 (265 horsepower) delivers. With all-wheel drive, the V-6 checks in at 16 mpg city and 22 mpg highway. Both engines are mated to a smooth-shifting six-speed automatic transmission. Regular, 87 octane fuel works with both engines. No gas-electric hybrid is currently offered.
Pricing starts at $24,260 for a base Sienna
with front drive and four cylinders. Cruise control, power locks, rear defroster and air conditioning come standard. The next trim up was our tester, an LE front drive four cylinder adding eight-way power captain's chair to the standard list and a $25,345 starting price. Options included the LE preferred package (power sliding side doors, backup camera display, XM Satellite radio)- $2,735; wheel locks- $67: dual screen rear entertainment- $999; carpeted floor mats- $404 and security system $299 for a bottom line of $31,649 including an $800 destination charge. The lowest priced V-6, the base seven-passenger, starts at $25,500. By comparison, the 2010 front-drive exclusive Kia Sedona with standard 3.8-liter V-6 starts at $22,195 and a 2010 front-drive exclusive Dodge Grand Caravan (offering two V-6 powertrains) starts at $21,800.
The flowing exterior now smartly hides the back track of the long dual sliding side doors under the frame of the third-row windows. Manually sliding side doors are standard in base and LE. Power sliding doors are standard in SE, XLE and Limited (optional in LE). Front and second-row power windows come standard in all trims. Front headlight housing wraps from the side fender to the front in the profile of a hawk's head. Diminutive rear tail lights are horizontal in nature, also wrapping around from the side to the front. The slightly sloping hood is short and stout.
The standard three-person third row's 60/40 split bench manually folds into a back end recessed region easily and seamlessly with the help of straps, handles and large print instructions. Seat backs fold onto cushions and the units glide backward gently landing into the alcove. Seats return to the upright position just as easily. When in use, the recessed region behind provides ample room for golf clubs and/or groceries (39.1 cubic feet). Power folding third-row seats come standard in Limited.
The middle row offers two different configurations depending on whether the seven or eight passenger option is selected. Our eight-passenger model featured 60/40 'tip up' captain's chair seating with a removable center sleeve seat stowable in a third row pocket panel. Seven-passenger Sienna
s have two 'ottoman' type seats with a center walk-through area. All second-row seating may be removed from the vehicle if desired. Toyota
engineers provided one of the widest isles leading to row three thanks to the second-row tip up chairs. The cushion and back fold into an "A" shape when the entire unit slides forward; a great, usable design. Head and leg room in row three is adequate for real-sized adults, but if full-sized folks plan to occupy the space, make sure the trip is relatively short. Like most minivans, the third row offers a bouncy ride thanks to seats situated above the rear axle. Kids will enjoy the adventure.
Base and up-level Limited come with seven-passenger seating standard. SE is strictly eight passenger. LE and XLE offer both seating configurations.
For those families dealing with maturing parents or special-needs members, Sienna
offers one of the first factory installed access seats. Similar one-person power rotating and lowering seats have been offered by aftermarket companies for years, but Sienna
is the first to make this practical option conveniently available straight from the factory. The second-row seat rotates 90 degrees and can be lowered to 19 inches above the ground. Once inside, the seat has four inches of side travel and 24 degrees of reclining.
Two high-positioned front-row captain's chairs provide excellent front visibility for drivers. The fuel-door release lever is on the left-side lower dash, a much handier location than the floor left of the driver's seat. Above situates a power outside mirror pad. Power side door controls are on the ceiling next map lights. Nearby is a sunglass holder also incorporating a wide beveled mirror, handy for keeping track on what's happening in the back rows.
Our LE's two-tone dashboard includes black accents, also found on side doors each of which houses a beverage holder. Fan direction found on the lower center stack is monitored by push buttons placed in a circular pattern. Dials control temperature and a push button with lighted bars monitor fan speed. Dual cup holders pull out from the lower center console. To the right is the six-speed automatic transmission shifter on the lower dash. At the top of the center console is an inboard, square, message window doubling as a video input for the rear view camera (where equipped), activated when traveling in reverse. Front and rear wipers monitor from a right-hand side steering column stalk, near the steering-column-mounted ignition cylinder. Long minivans with generous side glass, including Sienna
, take time to cool on hot summer days. Sienna
does its best with tri-zone air conditioning standard in all trims.
Safety features include anti-lock brakes, brake assist, stability control, traction control, collapsible steering column and seven air bags including third-row coverage and driver's knee air bags. In addition to Sienna
assembles the Highlander mid-size crossover and the Sequoia full-size sport utility in southern Indiana, a facility once home to the full-size Tundra pickup now assembled in Texas. Powertrain warranty coverage is for five-years or 60,000 miles, the new benchmark for the industry. Sienna
doesn't qualify as a bargain-basement -priced minivan, but does offer Chicago-friendly all-wheel drive. For a long vehicle, Sienna
rides smoothly and quietly. Expect some brake travel before catching. Since front drive V-6 mileage closely mirrors that of its four-cylinder counterpart, it may be the pick to click if the budget allows.
The 2011 Sienna
is not part of a recall involving corrosion resistance of an under carriage spare tire carrier cable in 1998-2010 models.