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Heels on Wheels Review - 2015 Toyota Sienna


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2015 Toyota Sienna

HEELS ON WHEELS
By Katrina Ramser
San Francisco Bureau
The Auto Channel

INTRO TO THE SIENNA VEHICLE
The Sienna can actually make minivans cool, mixing sleek utility-like design with contemporary features like a new Blu-Ray DVD entertainment system, second-row captain chairs, and a connectivity system that can support popular smartphone apps.

I drove a 2015 Toyota Sienna trims with the 266-horsepower 3.5-liter DOCH V6 engine with 245 lb-ft of torque paired to a six-speed automatic transmission. The Sienna is offered five grades – the base L, LE, SE, XLE, and Limited. My SE test drive came with the following standard features: nineteen-inch wheels; sport-tuned steering and suspension; 4 LATCH locations for kid seats; dual power sliding side doors; power liftgate; LED headlights; Blind Spot Monitor with Rear Cross Traffic Alert; leather upholstery; heated front seats; eight-way power driver’s seat; second-row captain’s chairs; three-zone climate control; push-button start; rear dual-view Blu-Ray DVD entertainment system; Driver Speak Easy; seven-inch navigation touchscreen; Entune App Suite; backup camera; and 4.2-inch multi-information display. Price as described came to $39,680.

Toyota doesn’t allow the Sienna to grow much moss under its wheels by constantly added or upgrading features each model year. For 2015, you get more premium interior materials, new exterior styling, standard Entune features, a new Drive Speak Easy system and a Blu-Ray entertainment system.

HEELS ON WHEELS REVIEW CRITERIA

Stylish But Comfortable Results: At the mid-level SE grade level, Toyota proves the Sienna can be both an attractive and outfitted choice as packages usually reserved for only on the most expensive trims are available. For example, my test drive featured an SE Preferred Package that brought the rear Blu-Ray DVD system with a 16.4-inch display that allows one wide-angle image or two smaller images from separate sources at the same time (a major necessity for moms with kids); the safety technology; the upgraded Entune App Suite; and the choice of more comfortable captain’s chairs. Keep in mind it does bring the price up by almost $5k. I did have some technical issues with the DVD player – although quick to load, there was no fast forward or rewind commands on the touchscreen. Also, the DVD player itself is very poorly lit, making it almost impossible to load at night. The second row has an easy pass through to the third. The Driver Easy Speak feature has a built-in microphone that picks up your voice and transmits it to the back through the rear speaker by just a press of a button on the touch-screen display.

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). For 2015, eight airbags are now standard equipment. Note in November 2014, Toyota announced plans to conduct a voluntary safety recall of approximately 25,500 Model Year 2015 Sienna Minivans. The involved vehicles are equipped with left and right side second row overhead assist grips mounted to the roof rails.   In the event of a collision that results in deployment of a curtain shield airbag (CSA), an assist grip could detach from the mounting bracket under some conditions. If an assist grip completely detaches, it may contact an occupant, increasing the risk of injury in a crash.

Cost Issues: The base Toyota Sienna LE starts at 28,600; the LE at $31,330; my test drive SE at $34,900; the XLE at $35,100; and the Limited at $41,650 (yet the top-of-the-line model can reach $47,215 with optional features).

Activity & Performance Ability: Toyota added 142 spot welds to the Sienna's structure for increased body rigidity – so combined with the sportier suspension and sport-tuned steering, I did notice a stronger sense of road control than models past. One of the main performance selling points of the Sienna is that it is still the only minivan with optional AWD. Never jerky on star-stop inclines or quick braking, this minivan felt set apart from most competitors.

The Green Concern: The V6 gets in 2WD gets 18-city/25-highway for a combined 21 miles-per-gallon driving; with the optional AWD you get 16-city/23-highway for a combined 19 miles-per-gallon driving.

FINAL PARTING WORDS
As a mom, the 2015 Toyota Sienna is extremely well-marketed for our needs with real-life features like the Driver Speak Easy and the ability to pick and choose the best options on a mid-level model – my only improvement suggestion is to re-locate the lowered (and poorly lit) DVD player.

©2015 Katrina Ramser