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HEELS ON WHEELS: 2011 Toyota Sienna Review

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SEE ALSO: 2011 Toyota Sienna - Debut Video, 2009 LA Auto Show
SEE ALSO: Big Family, Lots of Friends? Compare Vehicles
SEE ALSO: Compare All 12 2011 Toyota Sienna Trim Levels-Toyota Buyers Guide
SEE ALSO: Auto Genie Helps Narrow Down Appropriate Vehicle Choices


By Katrina Ramser
San Francisco Bureau
The Auto Channel

Toyota has successfully managed to make the minivan cool with the all-new third generation 2011 Toyota Sienna. And affordable and sporty – the new 4-cylinder engine holds an extremely low base price at $24,260 and a new sport-tuned SE trim offers a lowered stance and stylish side skirting.

I drove several 2011 Sienna trims with base price ranging from the mid-twenties to $40k. The Sienna offers five grades: the base Sienna, LE, XLE, the sportier SE and Limited. The key to distinguishing the trims is through the various grille styles. The Sienna is now powered by two engines: First, the 266-horsepower 3.5-liter DOCH V6 engine with 245 lb-ft of torque at 4,700 rpm. In 2WD it gets 18-city/24-highway driving and optional AWD gets 16-city/22-highway driving. And new for 2011 is a 187-horsepower 2.7-liter 4-cylinder engine with dual independent VVT-i and 186 lb-ft of torque at 4,100 rpm. Retaining 19-city/24-highway driving, the engine is shared with the Highlander and Venza.

Toyota has high hopes for the new Sienna that looks more like a lowered and elongated Highlander. In fact, predicted sales just for the 2011 model is at half a million – that number is larger than a decade worth of total Sienna sales. There’s a lot to get excited about as the model is equipped with interesting optional features like a panorama rear camera, second-row lounge chairs and a wide dual-view rear entertainment screen.


Stylish But Comfortable Results: It’s fair to say a Sienna Limited or XLE is plush. The XLE has leather-trimmed seats, a moonroof, an upgraded 10-speaker JBL premium sound system, a voice-activated DVD navigation, and a panorama rear camera with integrated back-up guides and that split-screen entertainment system. The Limited adds second-row reclining seats, a storable eighth seat and a Smart Key that operates on both sliding doors. Toyota engineers took to heart the complaints Sienna owners made about the bulk of their time being spent in 7-passenger mode and the inaccessibility to the third row. Results are a second row having a better center area walk through and standard captain’s chairs (with a lounging option for the Limited). If you do opt for the eighth space in a LE or XLE, it comes as a second-row removable center console and has its own stashable space in the interior rear side cargo area.

Reliability & Safety Factor: The standard Star Safety System canopies the Anti-lock Brakes (ABS), Electronic Brake-force Distribution (EBD), Brake Assist (BA), enhanced Vehicle Stability Control (VSC) and Traction Control (TRAC). A Pre-Collision System (PCS) with a pre-collision seatbelt system is an available option on Limited as is Vehicle Dynamics Integrated Management (VDIM). The VDIM system coordinates brake control with engine output and steering inputs for better vehicle cooperation or control. Seven airbags are standard equipment, including dual-stage front and seat-mounted side airbags for driver and front passenger, plus a new driver’s side knee airbag. The new Safety Connect telematics system is standard on Limited and optional on XLE. The system provides collision notification, stolen vehicle location and roadside assistance.

Cost Issues: Offering a cheaper 4-cylinder engine option for flatlanders was a great move for Toyota and creates an unbeatable price of $24,260. Toyota predicts 50 percent of their sales will be for the modest LE trim that goes for $25,345. The XLE is $32,175 and the Limited is $38,500 with 2WD but $39,770 with AWD.

Activity & Performance Ability: One of the main performance selling points of the Sienna is that it is still the only minivan with optional AWD. True to Toyota’s marketing claim, the Sienna minivan does provide a fun-to-drive spirit that surprises many. The acceleration on the V6 is sprightly and displays effortless torque management with a new 6-speed transmission. The 4-cylinder was never strained during inclined stops and needed gentle throttle tapping for pickup. Braking power for both was never mushy nor wound too tight and stops were planted with articulation. The sport-tuned SE trim is programmed for a better road feel and curves through inclined roads with attitude.

The Green Concern: The V6 gets in 2WD gets 18-city/24-highway driving and optional AWD gets 16-city/22-highway driving. The 4-cylinder delivers 19-city/24-highway driving.

The 2011 Toyota Sienna minivan is so impressive, even childless families will want to consider buying it for its space, interior technology and sporty performance with the new SE trim.

2010 Katrina Ramser

SEE ALSO: Toyota Buyers Guide