2005 Toyota Sienna CE AWD; photo by Grant Yoxon. Click image to enlarge
By Chris Chase
It could be argued that the Toyota Sienna was the company's first "mainstream" minivan, its predecessors ? the oddball Previa, with its engine mounted under the floor, and the even weirder Toyota "Van" that came before it ? being anything but ordinary. The first-generation Sienna, then, was about as mainstream as a minivan got: following the conventional minivan formula, much of its platform and drivetrain were borrowed from a family sedan (the Camry).
The second-generation model was introduced in early 2003 as a 2004 model, with more size, more power and a more distinctive look. The powertrain was a 3.3-litre V6 (230 hp/242 lb-ft) mated to a five-speed automatic transmission. The Sienna was a rarity in offering all-wheel drive, something only and handful of minivan did at a time when the SUV/crossovers craze was in full swing.
The second-gen Sienna's first major update came in 2006, when it got the requisite mid-cycle styling update. The SAE's new horsepower rating standard meant the 3.3-litre engine's rated output dropped to 215 hp, though this didn't affect its performance. The second update followed in 2007, with the replacement of the 3.3-litre engine with Toyota's newest 3.5-litre V6 (266 hp/245 lb-ft). 2008 models got standard traction and stability control across the line; the Sienna would soldier on through 2009 and 2010 with updates to its standard feature and option lists.
In 2006, the Sienna's Natural Resources Canada fuel consumption ratings were 12.4/8.2 L/100 km (city/highway) in FWD form, and 13.5/9.4 with all-wheel drive. Newer (2007 and up) models with the 3.5-litre engine were rated at 11.7/8.1 L/100 km with front-wheel drive and 13.3/9.5 with AWD. Note that the all-wheel drive model's real-world fuel consumption tends to be higher than the ratings suggest, though: a 2007 all-wheel drive model I drove averaged higher than 17 L/100 km, and CD.com blogger James Bergeron drove the same van to a 14.5 L/100 km average in mostly highway driving, both numbers quite high, even in the frigid winter conditions Ottawa was experiencing around that time.
Like most Toyotas, the Sienna has a strong reputation for reliability, but it's not bulletproof.
Review and photos by Greg Wilson
Victoria, British Columbia ? Now into its third generation, the redesigned Toyota Sienna minivan arrives as a 2011 model with all-new styling, a completely redesigned interior, more interior room, more comfortable seats, easier interior access, more features ? and notably, sportier handling. As well, there's a new base four-cylinder model that's priced $1,600 lower than the base 2010 Sienna V6, and a new SE (Sport Edition) trim with a stiffer suspension, 19-inch tires, and sporty styling add-ons. The new Sienna is still the only minivan available with optional all-wheel drive.
2011 Toyota Sienna base four-cylinder (top) and 2011 Toyota Sienna SE V6. Click image to enlarge
At the 2011 Sienna's introduction to Canadian media in Victoria, British Columbia, Chief Engineer, Kazuo Mori, explained his objectives for the new Sienna: "I wanted to create, in the new Sienna, a minivan for people who like cars. Minivans are typically parked next to many different types of cars in a driveway or garage. Luxury sedans? sports coupes? you name it. Owners purchased these cars for the passion they inspire. I thought, 'Why not make a minivan that gives them the same passion.' "
This passion is most evident in the new Sienna SE model which features 19-inch low-profile tires and alloys, a sport-tuned suspension, sport-tuned electric steering, unique front & rear bumpers and side skirts, smoked head lamps and tail lights, and a sportier interior with unique gauges and sport fabric seats with leatherette trim. While it's difficult to make a large, bulky vehicle like the Sienna look sporty, there is a sort of hulking menace to the SE model, and I can confirm that the SE is definitely more fun to drive than most minivans.
Other 2011 Sienna models have also benefitted from its wider track (front +53.3 mm/rear +20.3 mm), resulting in improved handling and stability. As well, the new Sienna has a more aerodynamic body (0.30 cd) which includes an under-body aerodynamic cover to smooth air flow, a rear spoiler with hideaway wiper, privacy glass, standard 17-inch alloy wheels, and projector beam headlamps.
Compared to the 2010 Sienna, the 2011 Sienna's length has been reduced by 20.3 mm (0.8 inches) but its overall width has increased by 20.3 mm (0.8 inches) and its height has increased 45.7 mm (1.8 in.). The wheelbase is unchanged. The redesign has produced a more spacious cabin that is longer by 38 mm (1.5 in.) and wider by 30 mm (1.2 in.) for front passengers.
2011 Toyota Sienna SE V6
The 2011 Sienna's completely new interior was designed by Benjamin Jimenez, a native of Burlington, Ontario, who also did the interior of the 2009 Venza and the 2008 Avalon.
Innovative new features include second-row captain's chairs that fold up, clamshell-like, to allow third row passengers easier access. These seats can also be removed completely from the van without tools. While Toyota considered hideaway second-row seats, like Chrysler's Stow-n-go seats, they decided that the sacrifice in seating comfort wasn't worth the extra utility.
Also new is an easy-clean seat fabric that should prove popular with parents of young children, and new tri-zone automatic climate control that gives rear passengers the benefit of automatic temperature control.
Perhaps the most interesting new feature is the second-row Lounge chairs (available in the top of the line Limited model) which recline fully with a retractable "ottoman" foot support, a la Lazy Boy. Available in the top-of-the-line Limited model, these recliners allow you to sit back with your beverage and relax while watching a movie on the Sienna's new extra-wide video screen (416 mm/16.4 in.) which folds down above the second row. Its split-screen technology enables rear passengers to watch two different videos on the same screen using the Sienna's DVD player for one video, and a portable DVD player for the second video. Rear passengers also get two wireless headsets, USB and 12 volt outlets. Videos can also be played on the front navigation screen when the Sienna is in Park and the parking brake is set.
2011 Siennas are still available with seven or eight-passenger seating; the latter includes a new removeable second-row centre seat that stores in a cavity on the left side of the cargo area when not in use. It's a lightweight seat that's easy to snap into place when you need an extra seat. When it's not there, a small tray between the seats include two cupholders, and it's low enough that you can walk through between the seats.
The Sienna's sliding side door openings have been increased by 50 mm (2 in.), making it much easier to slide into the third row. As well, a special indentation in the door opening at head height helps prevent head bumps. To make it even easier, some models are equipped with power sliding rear doors and a power rear hatch.
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