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PERFORMANCE | 7 out of 10
“there's no denying the potency of the new V6 when you step into it”
“if choosing a minivan came down to the powertrain, this Toyota would be a slam-dunk”
Car and Driver
“strong off-the-line acceleration”
Kelley Blue Book
The 2009 Toyota Sienna bland styling hides a very robust engine and transmission that reviewers love, paired with handling that that can be best described as "laid back."
The enthusiast family man/woman needs some excitement, and surprisingly the Sienna delivers in straight-line acceleration. The 3.5-liter DOHC V-6 features dual variable valve timing for the best of low-end torque and high-end power. Its 266 horses and 245 pound-feet of torque make it “the strong, silent type, rushing to 60 mph in 7.2 seconds” by Car and Driver’s stopwatch. Kelley Blue Book attests the engine “delivers where it counts,” and Edmunds admits “there's no denying the potency of the new V6 when you step into it.” Despite its athletic acceleration, the Sienna offers competitive EPA ratings of 17 mpg city, 23 mpg highway with front-wheel drive; all-wheel-drive models drop to 16/21 mpg.
The only transmission offered is a five-speed automatic, which is generally praised for the smooth, responsive way it plants the V-6’s power to the ground. Regarding this marriage of engine and transmission, Car and Driver concludes, “if choosing a minivan came down to the powertrain, this Toyota would be a slam-dunk.” Edmunds complains that the Sienna’s “automatic transmission is calibrated more for fuel economy than performance and thus tends to shift conservatively,” probably appropriate for a minivan as well as for economy. Kelley Blue Book, however, contends the transmission “makes the most of the engine's torque curve before seamlessly shifting to the next gear.”
Handling, however, is nothing to get excited about, and that keeps pulses from quickening too much. Even the matter-of-fact reviewers over at ConsumerGuide note that “tire grip seems only adequate and the steering is a tad overassisted.” The hotfoots at Car and Driver fault “the generally aloof responses of the controls. The brakes feel wooden…the steering lacks sharpness.” On a positive note, those brakes are four-wheel discs, unlike the previous-generation Sienna, which makes do with drums on the rear. And despite its front-wheel drive, the Sienna manages “a tidy turning circle of 36.8 feet…the envy of several passenger cars,” claims Car and Driver. “The Sienna offers little inspiration in the handling department,” sums up Edmunds, noting that it “feels secure enough” but offers “minimal steering feedback and considerable body roll,” as well as brake pedal feel that is “too soft.”
Most families will find exactly what they need here: confident passing power, and generally safe but unexciting performance otherwise.