Toyota redesigned its Sienna minivan for 2011, affirming its commitment to stick it out in a segment other automakers have fled over the past decade. Wider but slightly shorter than its predecessor, the Sienna will offer a four-cylinder or V-6. Last year's Sienna — and nearly every other minivan — had a standard V-6, but Toyota thinks enough mileage-conscious shoppers will be willing to trade power for fuel efficiency. All-wheel drive continues to be offered on the V-6 Sienna; major competitors include the Honda Odyssey and Chrysler's twins, the Town & Country and Dodge Grand Caravan.
The Sienna comes in five trim levels: base, LE, SE, XLE and Limited. This is the first Sienna to offer a sport-tuned SE variant; it has a modified suspension, 19-inch wheels and racier exterior details. The SE, XLE and Limited come standard with a V-6, which is optional on the base and LE. Four-wheel drive is optional on the LE V-6, XLE and Limited.
Toyota describes the new Sienna's styling as having stronger shoulder lines and a confident presence. It borrows a lot of components from the automaker's Venza wagon, complete with Camry-like headlamps, wraparound taillights and a wide, bladed grille. Each trim level gets a distinct grille, with the SE getting a blacked-out version with a mesh — not bladed — insert. Other SE accoutrements include lower side skirts, clear-lens taillights and 19-inch wheels. Seventeen- and 18-inch alloys go on other trim levels.
A rooftop spoiler is standard, and it conceals a rear window wiper. Fog lights are standard on the SE, XLE and Limited. Other available features include power sliding doors, a power liftgate and a keyless access system with push-button start. An optional wide-angle backup camera can display a 180-degree view around the rear of the car.
The Sienna's dashboard has been designed so both the driver and front passenger feel a majority of the space is theirs, Toyota says. Its swoopy lines convey separate spaces for both occupants, with large dials for major functions like temperature adjustment and stereo volume.
Depending on seating configuration, the cabin accommodates seven or eight occupants. Standard second-row captain's chairs have a walk-in feature that tips up the bottom cushion and slides the seat forward for third-row access. A removable center seat is optional; it stows in a nook behind the third-row seat.
Toyota says it didn't attempt to replicate Chrysler's Stow 'n Go seats because such a design would sacrifice cushioning comfort for folding capabilities. The Sienna's chairs are removable, should you need to use the minivan's 150 cubic feet of maximum storage capacity. Like all minivans and most crossovers, the Sienna's third row folds into a storage compartment behind it to create a flat load floor. It does so manually or, in some trim levels, by power operation.
Load up the options, and you can get heated leather seats, tri-zone automatic climate control, dual moonroofs and a navigation system. The optional rear entertainment system has a wide flip-down screen that can play two different inputs — two DVDs, for example, or a DVD and a video game — side by side, with passengers listening to their individual programming via wireless headphones.
Under the Hood
The Sienna's four-cylinder engine comes from the Venza and Highlander. It displaces 2.7 liters and generates 187 horsepower and 186 pounds-feet of torque, and its EPA-estimated 19/26 mpg city/highway tops the V-6-equipped competition by 1 or 2 mpgs.
Last year's 3.5-liter V-6 carries over; it makes 266 hp and 245 pounds-feet of torque. Both engines use six-speed automatic transmissions. Front-wheel drive is standard across the lineup. All-wheel drive is optional with the V-6 on all but the base and SE trims.
Standard safety features include front-, side-impact and three-row side curtain airbags, as well as a driver's knee airbag and front active head restraints. Antilock brakes, traction control and an electronic stability system are also standard. Toyota's optional Vehicle Dynamics Integrate Management system integrates stability control with various drivetrain components for better response during evasive maneuvers. On Limited models, the optional adaptive cruise control system includes Toyota's Pre-Collision System, which can alert the driver, tighten the seat belts and apply some braking should it detect a rapidly decelerating vehicle in front of the minivan.
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