Review: Toyota Sienna minivan mixes the strong with the subpar

Enlarge / The Sienna resplendent in an elementary faculty car parking zone.

In the early 2000s, I used to be out there for a giant automobile. We wanted one thing that might ferry our daughter and stuff round, carry drywall and different home-improvement stuff, and really feel comfy on cross-country journeys to go to my household. Neither our Ford Taurus nor Saturn SL1 match the invoice, and we weren’t feeling the SUV love. As we began trying into minivans, it turned clear that there have been three fashions to take a look at severely: the Honda Odyssey, Chrysler Town & Country, and Toyota Sienna.

Nearly 20 years later, not a lot has modified. Honda, Chrysler, and Toyota nonetheless rule the minivan market when it comes to gross sales. We drove the Town & Country’s successor, the Pacifica, final yr and got here away very impressed. So once I came upon there was a 2019 Toyota Sienna on the native press fleet, reviewing it was a no brainer.

The Sienna bought a brand new powertrain in 2017, and final yr’s mannequin noticed some security and trip high quality enhancements. Toyota Safety Sense, its suite of driver-assist expertise, turned commonplace on the Sienna. Toyota additionally tackled trip high quality by making the cabin quieter. For 2019, help for CarPlay and Amazon Alexa has been added, and the all-wheel-drive powertrain is now out there on the SE trim.

Family cruiser

Under the hood, the Sienna rocks a 3.5L, six-cylinder, 24-valve aluminum alloy engine. It generates 296hp (217.7kW) at 6,600rpm and 263lb-ft (356.6Nm) of torque at 4,700rpm. Both the FWD and AWD fashions include an eight-speed computerized transmission. The automobile itself measures 200.6-inches lengthy (5,095mm) and 78-inches vast (1,983.74mm), so it is a few inches shorter and narrower than the Pacifica we reviewed final yr.

MSRP for the Sienna begins at $31,115 for the Sienna L, however if you wish to spend extra, Toyota is blissful to assist. The automobile we drove was the Sienna SE Premium, which comes with 19-inch alloy wheels (as an alternative of 17 inches), fog lights, elective eight-passenger seating, leather-trimmed entrance seats, a large monitor within the again paired with a Blu-ray participant, voice instructions, premium audio, and some different niceties. Those options introduced the sticker value to $44,885 earlier than supply charges. If you desire a Sienna with all the bells and whistles, you will be at $47,530—a few thousand {dollars} cheaper than a comparable Chrysler Pacifica.

Inside, the Sienna is a blended bag. The seats are very comfy and supportive, and the sightlines are glorious. Access to the second and third rows is a breeze; the surprisingly mild second-row seats could be lifted out of the automobile with out a lot bother, and the third row folds down proper behind the liftgate. All informed, there’s 150 cubic ft (4,247L) of cargo area with the second row pulled out, and 117.eight cubic ft with the second row moved up so far as doable. The solely draw back in comparison with the Pacifica is that the seats do not fold down into the ground, so eradicating the second row is not a spur-of-the-moment factor.

The middle console and infotainment system is type of a large number. Toyota makes use of a 7-inch touchscreen show for its Entune infotainment system, with 4 buttons on both facet. It’s clunky to make use of and is well the least-impressive infotainment system presently supplied by a mainstream automaker. At least CarPlay is out there—no Android Auto—so you’ll be able to keep away from the infotainment system altogether if you would like, so long as you are contained in the Apple ecosystem.

Underneath the show is a large gear lever and a local weather management system. You can management local weather settings for the complete automobile, or you’ll be able to enable the second-row passengers to tweak issues to their liking for those who choose. Below that could be a pop-out cupholder, seat heating controls, a 12V energy outlet, and the Blu-ray participant. I appreciated the additional cupholders on the way in which to church, so my spouse and I had locations for each our espresso and Soylent. [Why achieve this lots of my colleagues reject actual meals?—Ed.]

Backseat passengers get their very own local weather controls, a pair of two.1A USB ports for charging, and a large widescreen show able to enjoying a unique video on every half of the show. If you go together with the backseat monitor choice, you will additionally get a distant management and a pair of headphones. There’s additionally an HDMI port so you’ll be able to stream from smartphone or pill with the suitable adapter. The second-row seats are comfy and may slide backwards and forwards relying on legroom wants.

Moving to the cockpit, the instrument panel has a 4.2-inch TFT show sandwiched between an analog speedometer that may be configured to indicate velocity, radio station, and navigation—the same old stuff. Unless you modify the setting, every time you shift gears, the show will present a visible illustration of the gear lever place, which is a bit a lot. On the steering wheel, media and telephone controls are on the left facet, and driver-assist and instrument panel controls are on the best.

Out on the street

You’ll additionally take the great with the not so good when you’re out on the freeway. On the plus facet of the ledger is the quiet cabin. It’s nearly serene in there, and a few passengers commented on how little street noise seeped inside. It was positively higher than the Pacifica in that regard. Steering is responsive, and dealing with is as anticipated from a minivan—no complaints there. The solely niggle is that, as soon as I bought the Sienna up over 70mph, I’d hear a little bit of wind noise close to the B pillar.

One good piece of parent-friendly tech comes within the type of Easy Speak. If you are having a loud trip as a result of there is a gaggle of youngsters within the automobile with you, Speak will transmit your voice by the rear audio system so you’ll be able to inform your offspring to cease tormenting each other with out having to boost your voice. (The system seems to be a manufacturing model of one thing we noticed at CES in 2016.)

Kudos to Toyota for making driver-assist expertise commonplace throughout the road. It’s one thing that each one OEMs would do in a perfect world. That stated, there are some limitations within the Sienna. First, the adaptive cruise management is not going to work underneath 25mph. In my case, it shut off with out warning as soon as the automobile in entrance of me slowed down, forcing me to brake manually to keep away from a collision. Also, the TFT show within the instrument panel would change to indicate that the adaptive cruise management was lively and purchased a automobile in entrance of me every time I modified lanes, which is pointless visible muddle. Lane-keep help is delicate and gave a few false alarms when street markings disappeared unexpectedly. Warning quantity could be adjusted, but it surely’s all the time a beep as an alternative of a steering wheel vibration.

The AWD Sienna SE is rated at 20mpg, 18mpg within the metropolis, and 24mpg on the freeway. I noticed 19.8mpg in per week of blended driving throughout a warmer-than-normal Chicago January.

There’s a motive the Sienna has been one of many three or 4 best-selling minivans for the previous a number of years. Toyota makes strong vehicles with a status for dependability. The Sienna provides a quiet and cozy trip with sufficient private area to maintain all people blissful. On the flip facet, the usual driver-assistance tech feels tough across the edges in contrast with different mainstream automakers like Subaru, Volkswagen, and Chrysler. Entune, Toyota’s infotainment system, is in determined want of a radical overhaul. If you might have an iPhone, you need to use CarPlay as an alternative, however Android smartphone house owners are caught with Entune and Toyota’s suite of apps. Toyota may additionally take a web page from Chrysler’s e-book with regards to options. While not must-haves, it could be nice to have the second row fold into the ground and be capable of vacuum up messes with the Pacifica’s built-in vacuum cleaner. And on condition that Toyota has such deep experience with the expertise, why not a hybrid?

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