- Looks better than ever
- Handles better than ever
- Slide-y second-row seats make loading a snap
- Four-cylinder engine's a winner
- A sport minivan? Really? Really.
- Second-row seats don't store inside the vehicle
- Not as entertaining as Chrysler vans
- No need for pricey V-6 Limited
The 2011 Toyota Sienna adds room and adult-duty second-row seats, but leaves ultimate flexibility and entertainment to the competition.
The 2011 Toyota Sienna may be the Japanese automaker's third-generation minivan, but Toyota emphasizes that the new Sienna is becoming more carlike than ever. Want proof? How about the new Sienna SE sport van, which actually handles like something you'd want to drive, outside of Krogering?
The Sienna gets smart updates to its drivetrains and its interior package for 2011, but not to its seating configurations, which still lag the class-leading Dodge Grand Caravan and Nissan Quest in flexibility. To compensate, Toyota's offering a pair of business-class seats for the second row, just in case your kids don't have enough first-world problems.
The Sienna is offered in a broad model range, and remains the only minivan with an all-wheel-drive option. Available with either a four- or six-cylinder engine and in seven- or eight-passenger versions, the new Sienna strikes us as a worthwhile take on a more fun to drive minivan, though Toyota might not like the fact that we like the cheap four-cylinder version best of all. There's just not much reason to spend a lot on the V-6 versions, since the smaller engine is powerful enough--and since almost all of the safety goodies are standard.
The Sienna's competition includes the Dodge Grand Caravan and Chrysler Town & Country, the the Nissan Quest and the Honda Odyssey. It's a solid competitor, and really, any of these can be justified for your reason of choice. But let us toss you a curveball: how about a Ford Flex, with the best handling and looks of all, almost all of the seating variety, and most of the cargo-carrying usefulness of a minivan?
2011 Toyota Sienna
It's admittedly a bit crisper, but the new Sienna can't escape its one-box looks.
The 2011 Sienna has new body panels with a more dynamic front end, but it's nothing to draw a flash mob or attract civil disobedience. A wide grille is framed either in body-color paint or in metallic trim; SE versions get a very aggressive front-end treatment. There's a sharper crease along its shoulders and geometrically bold windows, and as the lines taper rearward, the Sienna draws to a roofline that's similar to that on the Kia Sedona. The 2011 Sienna rides on the same chassis as the previous generation; while it's marginally shorter and wider than before, there's not a tremendous change in its proportions.
Inside, the Sienna has adopted the latest Toyota styling theme, with a dramatic arc separating driving controls from secondary and passenger-shared controls. The dash is styled to give the impression of more passenger space, and Toyota says slimmer seats and controls add to the feeling of roominess in the new Sienna. The interior looks less expensive than before, though. Plastic trim is replaced on some versions by matte wood-grain trim; pricier versions get Optitron gauges like those in some Lexus models.
2011 Toyota Sienna
The four-cylinder's a big surprise here; we don't see the need to pay more for the V-6.
Toyota cites improved performance in the new Sienna, since its carryover V-6 engine gets a six-speed automatic. But it's the Sienna's four-cylinder engine that should give minivan buyers second thoughts about paying more for their family hauler.
The base 2.7-liter four-cylinder puts out 187 horsepower, while the larger 3.5-liter V-6 churns out 266 hp. Both team with a six-speed automatic for an estimated 19/26 mpg in the four-cylinder Sienna, to 16/22 mpg for the V-6, all-wheel-drive version. Engine performance from the four-cylinder is perfectly acceptable; it's a little louder and obviously less quick than the V-6, but for minivan duty, it's amply, safely powerful enough to carry a carpool's worth of kids and adults, at a price thousands less than the luxuriously powerful V-6. It's a Dave Ramsey-friendly vehicle, for sure.
The latest Sienna carries over a straightforward MacPherson front strut and independent rear suspension. Electronic power steering is a new arrival, and it's fine in a vehicle like the Sienna, in which handling is a lower priority than space and fuel economy. While it's no sportscar, the Sienna has smooth ride motions and quick steering, making it nicely maneuverable in city driving.
A special SE edition gets tighter suspension tuning, big 19-inch wheels, and a lower body; it's a gamble that may not register with average minivan buyer, especially as it's a subtle difference from the XLE or Limited feel.
The Sienna is rated to tow up to 3,500 pounds, and itself weighs from 4,275 to 4,750 pounds.
2011 Toyota Sienna
Comfort & Quality
There's vast interior space and available business-class seats, but the Sienna doesn't have a fold-away second row.
The new 2011 Sienna is 200.2 inches long, with a 119.3-inch wheelbase and an overall width of 78.2 inches, with a couple of inches more in interior room. Yep, it's big.
There's ample space everywhere for adults, even in the third-row seat. Front passengers have a regal view of the road ahead, and plenty of headroom, legroom and knee room. In the second row, you'll find either a bench or twin bucket seats that also have copious room--and the seat(s) slide on an elongated track that gives the second row limo-like leg room, or no legroom while third-row passengers are loaded.
The second-row seats can be removed, but there's no new floorpan in the Sienna, which means no in-floor storage or fold-away seats as in the Chrysler minivans or the Nissan Quest. Second-row aircraft-style "lounge" seats can also be ordered; they have leg-cushion extenders and footrests that give new status to backseat drivers.
The third-row seat actually has adult-sized room in all directions. It isn't that difficult to enter-and they fold almost flat into a deep well in the cargo area. With the second-row seats moved as far front as possible, the 2011 Sienna has 117.8 cubic feet of cargo room; with the second row removed and the third row folded, it will hold 150 cubic feet of cargo. Even behind the upright third-row seat, there's 39.1 cubic feet of space, almost twice as much storage room as the 2010 Ford Taurus' trunk. The Sienna also can carry an actual 4x8 sheet of plywood.
There's also plenty of small-item storage inside in the Sienna's console, twin gloveboxes, map and side pockets, and available cargo organizer.
The revamped interior suffers a bit in richness; interior materials and appointments feel a bit less refined compared to those of its competitors, in particular the horizontal grain on the dash and door caps. You won't open a vein, but you will notice a difference if you compare it to Aunt Barb's '96 Camry.
2011 Toyota Sienna
The 2011 Sienna's an IIHS Top Safety Pick, with all the latest safety tech.
The 2011 Toyota Sienna hasn't been crash-tested by the NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration). The IIHS (Insurance Institute for Highway Safety) has awarded it the Top Safety Pick designation, which is why we've given it a safety score of 10.
Electronic stability control and anti-lock brakes are standard on every grade of the 2011 Toyota Sienna, as are front side airbags and side curtain bags covering all three seating rows, as well as a driver-side knee airbag.
A pre-collision protection system that preps the car for an imminent accident is offered on higher-level trims, as is dynamic cruise control.
Visibility is excellent in the Sienna, and its available rearview camera offers a 180-degree view.
2011 Toyota Sienna
A widescreen display and Bluetooth notwithstanding, the Sienna is a step behind Chrysler's minivans in plug and play fun.
The 2011 Toyota Sienna's interior is rich on features, including standard dual sliding doors and the folding third-row seats on all models; power windows for the front side and sliding side doors; remote keyless entry; cruise control; AM/FM/CD player with an auxiliary jack; three-zone climate control; and a telescoping/tilting steering wheel.
The LE adds power sliding doors and roof rails; steering-wheel controls for audio and phone; a center console; sunshades; and a cargo bin for the second-row seat.
The SE gets sport trim; a new grille; 19-inch tires; LED taillights and halogen headlights; and a leather-trimmed steering wheel.
The XLE adds a power rear tailgate; a power sunroof; 17-inch wheels; a towing package; an LCD information display; wood-grain trim; heated front seats; and removable second-row captain's chairs.
The Limited gets a dual sunroof; overhead console; a sliding center console; second-row "lounge seats" and a power-folding third-row seat, as well as a JBL audio system with USB connectivity, Bluetooth stereo audio and a six-disc CD changer. We've had trouble connecting iPhones to the various Bluetooth stereo-equipped vehicles just hitting the market, but ran into no problems with the Sienna.
Options on various models include DVD navigation; a Dual View rear-seat DVD entertainment system with an immense 16.4-inch wide pair of screens; and premium audio. Toyota demonstrated the widescreen effect with the latest Star Trek movie; trust us, you'll want it.
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