New Car Review

1998 TOYOTA SIENNA XLE

by Matt/Bob Hagin

toyota

SEE ALSO: Toyota Buyer's Guide


SPECIFICATIONS

Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price              $ 27,100
Price As Tested                                    $ 30,090
Engine Type                     DOHC 4V 3.0 Liter V6 w/MFI*
Engine Size                                         2995 cc
Horsepower                                   194 @ 5200 RPM
Torque (lb-ft)                               209 @ 4400 RPM
Wheelbase/Width/Length                  114.2"/73.4"/193.5"
Transmission                           Four-speed automatic
Curb Weight                                     3915 pounds
Fuel Capacity                                    21 gallons
Tires  (F/R)                                     P215/65R15
Brakes (F/R)                          Disc (ABS)/drum (ABS)
Drive Train                  Front-engine/front-wheel-drive
Vehicle Type                      Seven-passenger/five-door
Domestic Content                                 65 percent
Coefficient of Drag (Cd.)                               N/A

PERFORMANCE

EPA Economy, miles per gallon
   city/highway/average                            18/24/22
0-60 MPH                                        9.5 seconds
1/4 Mile (E.T.)                       17 seconds @ 82.5 mph
Top speed                                           110 mph
     * Multi-point fuel injection

(Over the years, Bob Hagin has owned and driven many vans of various sizes. His concern regarding the new Toyota Sienna is that it's too nice. His son Matt has no such trepidations and enjoys the new van's luxury.)

BOB - Most of the vans that I've owned and driven during the past five decades have been either windowless cargo vans or mini-busses that were well past their prime. And I think that the reason for my timidity about using this Sienna as I would my current "beater" van during our time behind the wheel is that it's too fancy. I'd be afraid that if I tossed my usual collection of fenders and engine parts in the back, I tear up the upholstery or gouge a hole in the carpet.

MATT - If you're going to wait around for Toyota to present us with a new cargo van, Dad, you're going to have a long wait. The company hasn't offered a blue-collar version of its mini-vans for sale in this country since 1989 and never built one based on the Previa that this Sienna replaces. The Sienna is based on the current Toyota Camry and the luxurious Lexus ES 300 sedan. They all share the same 3.0 liter all-aluminum V6 engine that features twin overhead camshafts, four valves per cylinder and multi-port fuel injection. It puts out 194 horsepower and 209 pounds/feet of torque at only 4000 RPM.

BOB - Those numbers indicate to me that the engine was engineered for maximum pulling power rather than top speed. That would account for the fact that the Sienna has a 0 to 60 acceleration time of 9.5 seconds and that's good for a vehicle that weighs in at nearly 4000 pounds. Not too many Sienna owners are going to participate in stop-light drag racing but they will appreciate its entry speed into highway traffic flow from an on-ramp. The Sienna has lot of other features that are found on the Camry and the ES 300, too. They are all share the basic drive line components and they're all front-wheel drive as well. This is a special plus in a mini-van in that it allows for a lower center of gravity as well as a lower floor pan. It's also a plus for the Sienna because you can get in at the engine by opening the hood. That's a big improvement over its predecessor, the Previa which had its engine located in a pod between the front seats. You had to have the vehicle up on a lift just to check the oil and a major service was very hard to do.

MATT - The interior of the Sienna has been upgraded, too. It comes in three degrees of trim from the base CE version through the upgraded LE to the XLE which is what we have. The XLE has aluminum wheels, a sliding rear door on both the passenger's and driver's side, remote door locks and heated outside mirrors. These are options on the LE but some of them aren't available on the CE at all. The vehicle was obviously designed for the American market and it's so car-like that it's assembled on the same production line that makes the US-built Camry at the Toyota plant in Georgetown, Kentucky. The parking brake is now foot-operated as a concession to American tastes and driving habits. On the Previa, the parking brake was hand-operated by a lever that was located to the left of the driver's seat. The upholstery is leather in our test van and it has a power-operated moon roof too, but the two of them added $2300 to the price. Another neat feature that it has is power-operated rear quarter panel windows. It lets the driver crack them over a bit for cross-ventilation if it gets stuffy back there.

BOB - I was surprised that the Sienna doesn't have all-wheel drive as an option but I think that buyers who need foul-weather driving capabilities would rather buy an SUV like the 4Runner or Land Cruiser than a family van. But I was impressed that the Sienna offers 143 cubic feet of cargo space in back when the center and rear seats are out of the way.

MATT - Dad, it sounds as though you like this new Toyota Sienna. Maybe you ought to take the plunge and buy one for yourself.

BOB - Judging by the purchase pattern that I've set up over the past half century, I'll get around to buying one when it's 20 or 30 years old.

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