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Toyota Sienna AWD Limited Premium, Is This The One? - Rocky Mountain Review By Dan Poler


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Toyota Sienna AWD Limited Premium
Rocky Mountain Review

By Dan Poler
Senior Editor and Bureau Chief
Rocky Mountain Bureau
The Auto Channel


The vehicle we all love to hate: The minivan. Jokes abound. Society tells us that they represent all that is uncool: Middle age, hauling kids around, the like. They’ll even be seen around town with a bumper sticker prominently displayed, representing the sentiment: I used to be cool. 

So then maybe it’s uncool to say this: I think highly of minivans. They’re more comfortable than three-row SUV’s for the occupants in the way-back, their space is more configurable, and they’ll haul more stuff. And also, quite simply: Minivans have gotten really nice, and really good. I spent a week with Toyota’s Sienna, and found it to be exactly that - really, really good at what it does. 


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The Sienna came to me exhaustively equipped with everything Toyota has to offer: AWD and the top-end Limited Premium trim. This package represents luxury, bringing along features not found on some actual-luxury vehicles like auto-dimming power mirrors, surround-view parking cameras, and a heated steering wheel. In addition, it carries features such as front and rear sunroofs, parking sensors, driver-seat memory, HID headlights, and a rear entertainment system capable of displaying two different movies at the same time, for when the kids just can’t agree.

On the outside, there’s no doubt it’s a giant box. Not much is going to disguise that, but Toyota has managed to make it stylish and attractive, with an updated grille exclusive to the Limited trim. There’s a hint of age showing in the exterior appearance, as well - the Sienna’s last full refresh was for the 2011 model year, almost a decade ago - and the details like forward and rear lighting look a little worn relative to more modern designs seen elsewhere in the segment.

Inside, the cabin is a study in user experience; Toyota has put an emphasis on usability and comfort. The interior feels large, yet comfortable owing to seats that are snug and supportive. Storage abounds: A spot between the front seats to rest a bag, a space seemingly the size of a cave beneath the center armrest, upper and lower gloveboxes forward of the front passenger. The seating position for the driver and front passenger is high and upright, affording excellent visibility. Although there’s quite a bit of hard plastic to the dash and surrounds, it’s here that the age of the Sienna’s platform is actually something of a good thing: Physical buttons. Climate control and the like are controlled by big, easy to see, easy to reach, physical buttons and knobs, becoming something of a rarity in this day and age. One downside, however, is the relatively small size of the infotainment system screen and controls - here, a refresh is certainly in order.

My children loved the Sienna, going so far as to voice to me their wish it would become our daily driver (and this was the exact moment that “I used to be cool” bumper sticker popped into my head). They loved the endlessly configurable options geared toward their comfort: Sliding and reclining second-row seats with armrests; rear climate controls; window shades for both the second- and third-row windows; adjustable spotlights over their seats that are not blinding for the driver; doors that motor open and closed at the push of a button. And, of course, there’s that rear sunroof. Perhaps much to parents’ chagrin, yes, the kids have controls for it - but they can be locked out from up front.


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With all seats in place, the Sienna boasts just over 39 cubic feet of cargo space; fold down the rear seats into their in-floor storage and move the second row seats out of the way, and that increases to a whopping 150 cubic feet of cargo space - not only enabling the Sienna to cart the kids around, but also permitting easy transport for a serious load from the home improvement store when needed.

The Sienna uses Toyota’s 3.5L V6 good for an impressive 296 hp, and mated to an 8-speed automatic transmission. Power is routed to all four wheels - the Sienna is the only minivan available in the US with all-wheel drive (2021 Chrysler Pacifica Will Offer It), an enormous benefit in Colorado’s winters. Power feels good - no one will confuse a Sienna with a sport coupe, but it has more than adequate power off the line and for highway overtaking. The transmission is smooth and responsive. There’s certainly some lean in the corners, and quite a bit of jostling and bumping at speed on the highway - not surprising given the Sienna’s long wheelbase. I averaged 21 mpg in mixed driving with the Sienna; not bad, but also not great; this is easily bested by some three-row SUV’s and crossovers on the market.

Although last refreshed in 2011 and, yes, starting to show its age, the Sienna has been kept up to date on the safety front: it carries Toyota’s Safety Sense package which brings a pre-collision warning system with pedestrian detection and braking assist, lane departure warning, blind spot and parking sensors, and dynamic cruise control. It’s unfortunate but necessary to note that the Sienna has performed poorly in small-overlap front crash testing, and fails to earn the distinction of an IIHS Top Safety Pick. 

Despite some signs of age, the Sienna still feels mostly modern and fresh. It’s class-exclusive all-wheel drive makes it top-of-the-list for those of us in wintry climates. Not everyone loves them, and not everyone needs them, but for those of us who find life easier with a minivan, the Toyota Sienna is an excellent choice.

Specifications
Toyota Sienna AWD Limited Premium
Engine Type: V6 DOHC; 24-valve; VVT-i
Engine Size: 3.5L
Horsepower: 296 @ 6,600 RPM
Torque (ft-lbs): 263 @ 4,700 RPM 
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
Wheelbase / Length (in): 119.3 / 200.6
Curb Weight (lbs): 4,750
Pounds per HP: 16.05
Fuel Capacity (gal): 20
Fuel Requirement: Regular unleaded
Tires: Bridgestone Turanza EL400; 235/55RF18 100T
Brakes, front / rear: Ventilated disc / Solid disc
Ground clearance (in): 6.6
Drivetrain: All-wheel drive
EPA Fuel Economy - MPG city / highway / combined / observed: 18 / 24 / 20 / 21
Base Price: $31,640.00
Base Trim Price: $49,190.00
Options and Charges
Option: Alloy wheel locks - $65.00
Option: Paint protection film - $395.00
Option: Chrome lower door moldings - $209.00
Option: Preferred accessory package plus (roof rack, carpeted floor mats, door sill protectors, cargo net) - $473.00
Delivery and processing - $1,095.00
Price as tested: $51,427.00