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2004 Toyota Sienna XLE AWD Minivan - 2004 New Car Review

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    When it debuted for the 1998 model year, the Sienna was 
Toyota's third attempt at minivan popularity. Following out of the 
footsteps of the boxy Van and bubble-shaped Previa, both rear-drive 
vehicles closer to small commercial vans than minivans in design, the 
Sienna was the first Toyota van to be solidly in the mainstream of 
minivan design. It was much more successful than its predecessors, 
but the minivan market was changing.

    Minivans, if you've noticed, aren't so mini anymore. And they're 
becoming ever more fully-featured. And so, the second generation 
Sienna has debuted as a 2004 model. 

    The 2004 Sienna is offered in four grades. Having the newest 
minivan means that Toyota has appropriated just about every useful 
feature in the class, with power accessories, cup and bottle holders, 
storage spaces, power points, and (bad news for the kids) even a 
convex ``conversation mirror'' that allows the driver to check on the 
rear passengers. The ``entry-level'' CE has many of the comfort and 
convenience features expected in upper-level vehicles, while the core 
model LE adds a few more. Add even more in the XLE, and the 
XLE Limited has most of the features of a full luxury sedan, with 
more room. CE and LE models are offered in seven or eight-
passenger trim, and all grades but the CE may be had with all-wheel 

    I've just finished a week with a well-equipped all-wheel drive 
XLE. It was week two of my latest move, and filling the Sienna 
showed its versatile workhorse nature very well. With interior 
versatility and capacity galore, a low load floor, and side doors to 
better arrange boxes and things that don't fit into boxes, the Sienna 
was the perfect vehicle. Put the seats back up, and it'll hold seven or 
eight people, depending on configuration. Minivans don't exactly 
have a performance reputation, but the 2004 Sienna has plenty of 
power to deal with city and highway traffic. Minivans may not be 
trendy, but, as exemplified by the new Toyota Sienna, they are 
among the most versatile and useful vehicles made. 

APPEARANCE: With a 5.1-inch longer wheelbase, 6.5- inch greater 
length, four-inch greater width, and 1.6-inch increased height, the 
new Sienna is noticeably larger than the original. It looks even 
bigger - compared side by side, it almost looks possible to park an 
old Sienna inside of the new one. The 2004 version reflects current 
Toyota styling trends with a highly-detailed, angular look. A longer 
and less-sloping hood accentuates its two-box shape. Bright 
triangular headlights, a wide ``double-decker'' mesh grille, and a 
shades-of-Celica vee-shaped hood bulge that ends with the 
medallion in the grille give it the contemporary Toyota face. The 
sculpted front fascia has a wide auxiliary intake and foglamps. The 
top of the front bumper line rounds the front corner and sweeps up 
and back, over the front wheel arch to become a side character line 
that introduces a wedge shape to break up any hint of slab-
sidedness. An arched roof is topped by a matte black roof rack on 
some grades. The rear features the typical three-dimensionally 
curved minivan tailgate and large wraparound taillights.

COMFORT: Space is what counts in a minivan, and there is plenty 
inside in the new Sienna - 45 cubic feet more than in the original 
Sienna, making it one of the largest current minivans. Excellent 
space utilization, with many storage spaces, cup- and bottle-holders, 
and power points throughout the interior, adds utility. Two different 
basic configurations are offered. The seven-passenger version has 
second-row captain's chairs. Both adjust fore-and-aft, and the right-
side one can be moved sideways for a two-seat bench. The eight-
passenger model has a second-row three-way split/folding bench 
with a ``Front and Center''(tm) middle seat that can be moved closer 
to the front, for child seat accessibility. Both second rows flip and 
fold, and can be removed. All 2004 Siennas have the 60/40 ``Split 
and Stow 3rd Row''(tm) seat. As the name implies, each part can be 
folded flat into the floor separately. When up, the well area behind 
increases cargo space, and keeps it from moving around. The front 
passenger seat back also folds forward. The result is extreme cargo 
and/or passenger versatility, from an approximately 4x8 foot cargo 

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)

space with the second row removed and third stowed to seven or eight people, or anything in between. All grades have dual sliding doors; the XLE and Limited have power doors and a power tailgate that may be operated from the remote fob, by buttons in the van, or semi-manually. As I discovered, they are useful when carrying awkward loads, but plan ahead - a hand is needed for the remote. Passenger accommodations are very good, with comfortable and supportive front and second-row seats. Second-row legroom is excellent, and there is space in the third row for three medium-sized adults. SAFETY: The 2004 Sienna's unibody structure is designed for crashworthiness. Standard antilock brakes, with electronic brake distribution and brake assist ensure short stopping distances. Toyota's VSC stability control system is available. ROADABILITY: With its rigid chassis structure, long wheelbase, wide track, good aerodynamics, and a low center of gravity, the new Sienna is quiet and stable on the highway. As a bonus, it's also quite pleasant to drive on secondary roads. A smaller turning circle makes it more maneuverable around town, and easy to park despite its size. Front-wheel drive is the standard drivetrain configuration, with all-wheel drive available. The AWD system normally distributes torque evenly between the front and rear axles, and directs it to the wheels with the best traction if there is any wheel slip. My test van had the AWD system, which was transparent in operation. It's designed for use on pavement or improved dirt roads, and the Sienna's 6.9 inches of ground clearance should be adequate for that use. PERFORMANCE: Although the second-generation Sienna is larger and heavier than the original, it has a better power-to-weight ratio thanks to its larger, more powerful engine. The old 194-horsepower 3.0-liter V6 has been replaced by a 3.3-liter V6 with 230 horses at 5600 rpm and 242 lb-ft of torque at 3600 rpm. Toyota's ``VVT-i'' variable valve timing system broadens the power curve, increases efficiency, and reduces emissions. A new electronically-controlled five-speed automatic transmission with adaptive shift logic also contributes to improved performance and efficiency. In all-wheel drive versions, the AWD system's 200 extra pounds are offset by a lower final drive ratio, which keeps acceleration the same, with only a minimal impact on fuel economy. Because of the new engine's greater efficiency, the AWD models get the same mileage as the old FWD versions. CONCLUSIONS: Toyota's new Sienna takes the best features of minivandom and improves upon them. SPECIFICATIONS 2004 Toyota Sienna XLE AWD Minivan Base Price $ 31,465 Price As Tested $ 35,190 Engine Type dual overhead cam 24-valve V6 with VVT-i variable valve timing and lift Engine Size 3.3 liters / 202 cu. in. Horsepower 230 @ 5600 rpm Torque (lb-ft) 242 @ 3600 rpm Transmission 5-speed electronically-controlled automatic Wheelbase / Length 119.3 in. / 200.0 in. Curb Weight 4365 lbs. Pounds Per Horsepower 19.0 Fuel Capacity 20 gal. Fuel Requirement 91 octane unleaded premium gasoline recommended Tires P225/60 TR17 Bridgestone B380 Brakes, front/rear vented disc / disc Suspension, front/rear independent MacPherson strut / independent twist beam axle Drivetrain front engine, all-wheel drive PERFORMANCE EPA Fuel Economy - miles per gallon city / highway / observed 18 / 24 / 20 0 to 60 mph 8.3 sec OPTIONS AND CHARGES XLE package #17 - includes: Leather trim seats, 2nd and 3rd row side sunshades, driver and front passenger heated seats, driver and front side bolster airbags, all three row curtain side airbags $ 2,870 Carpet floor mats and door sill protector $ 196 Glass breakage sensor $ 149 Delivery charge $ 510