Driven: 2016 Toyota Sienna
If you can get past the dork factor, there really isn’t any vehicle on the road today with the combination of cargo and people capacity, ride and handling and fuel economy as a — cover your ears, hipsters — minivan.
Even a monster SUV such as the Chevrolet Suburban can’t, due to a high load floor, come close to today’s subject, the Toyota Sienna, or any other modern minivan for that matter.
Our hockey days appear to be over, with one son aging out of rec hockey and the other turning his focus to archery — and both able to drive themselves to practice if they still played — but our older Sienna was perfect for hauling as many as four kids and their gear to practices, our whole crew with hockey gear and luggage to tournaments in the U.S. and for loading up for a week at the cottage.
Even today, as we look around at various options to replace the Sienna, cargo capacity is a major concern, as archery equipment isn’t exactly small, either, considering both my son and I are likely to be shooting at any tournament we drive to.
For 2016, even as the minivan offerings are waning, Toyota presses on with the popular Sienna.
As John Travolta would have said had Toyota — and not Oldsmobile — bought the product-placement rights to Get Shorty, “it’s the Cadillac of minivans.” Then again, we know what happened to Oldsmobile.
It is powered by a reliable, powerful V-6 and is available with a full slate of options, from powered everything to a double-wide video screen for the rear seats to three-zone automatic climate control and heated seats and heated steering wheel.
The Sienna as-tested was loaded, and while it is available in more family-friendly option levels, it still starts at $33,420. The tester cruises past $50k to settle in at $51,445. You gotta really love a minivan at that price.
It does give you much to like, however. The newest Sienna is very car-like in its handling, surpassed in this regard only, and only by a small margin, by the Honda Odyssey.
Like most vans, it incorporates only a semi-independent rear suspension, which limits its handling somewhat, but it is still more than good enough for family use.
As well, it has comfortable seats, plenty of storage, and loads of options.
This particular Sienna features all-wheel drive, which with winter tires would make this a killer van in winter. It’s even handy for towing in summer, especially at a boat launch. (The Sienna is rated for up to 1,588 kilograms of towing.) That level of towing is standard on most models, but base and AWD XLE models have reduced towing capacity as they lack the factory towing package, which includes larger radiator, larger fans and engine oil cooler.
Since our Sienna was built, Toyota has significantly upgraded the folding seats. The third row is a 60/40 split bench, as ours is, but each side now only requires one handle to collapse the side into the floor, leaving a large, flat cargo space.
As well, that handle is now an actual handle, sturdy and durable, instead of the pull straps of the ’08.
For even more room, the second row is removable.
“Hey, quiet down back there!”
The Sienna, with the technology package, also includes Driver Easy Speak, which amplifies the driver’s voice for better communication with those in the rear seats. Anything that can keep a driver from having to turn around to speak can’t be a bad thing.
The front cabin is high class, with touches of Avalon, including a high dash, attractive textured plastic and various sizes of the touchscreen audio system and information display. A handy dual glove box holds plenty of gear, as does a centre-console storage bin and another bin between the seats. Cupholders have been upgraded as well, with a dual-cup unit that slides out from the centre console and extra cupholders on the centre storage bin.
The Sienna may be pricey compared to its chief domestic competitor Dodge Grand Caravan, but still makes an argument for itself in reliability and improved resale value. Fit and finish is also, arguably, better on the Toyota.
- Engine: 3.5-litre, 24-valve V-6
- Power: 266 hp @ 6,200 r.p.m.
- Torque: 245 lb-ft. @ 4,700 r.p.m.
- Transmission: six-speed auto
- Steering: electric rack-and-pinion with variable power assist
- Suspension: independent MacPherson strut with gas-filled shock absorbers, stabilizer bar (front); torsion beam with coil springs, gas-filled shock absorbers, stabilizer bar (rear)
- Brakes: four-wheel disc brakes
- Fuel economy (l/100 km, city/highway/combined): 13.0/9.5/11.4 (FWD); 14.4/10.2/12.5 (AWD)
- Fuel economy (l/100 km, average, observed): 11.5
- Price: $33,420, base; $51,445 as-tested
- Power: hp @ r.p.m.