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By Katrina Ramser
San Francisco Bureau
The Auto Channel

The Toyota Sienna will make a new believer out of you minivan scoffers with its sleek and modern approach to a family caravan. You’ve got a Blu-Ray DVD entertainment system, second-row captain chairs, and a connectivity system that can support popular smartphone apps for the techie crowd.

I drove a 2016 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 and all-wheel drive. The Sienna is offered five grades – the base L, LE, SE, XLE, and Limited. My top-of-the-line Limited test drive came with the following standard features: premium leather upholstery; heated front seats; eight-way power driver’s seat; second-row captain’s chairs; heated steering wheel; three-zone climate control; push-button start; eighteen-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; rear dual-view Blu-Ray DVD entertainment system; Driver Speak Easy; seven-inch navigation touchscreen; Entune App Suite; 10-speaker JBL premium audio system; backup camera; and 4.2-inch multi-information display. Price as described with extras came to $46,410.

New for the 2016 model is standard Siri Eyes Free for iPhone users and certain trims receive a Scout GPS Link app for connecting smartphone navigation. Competitors include the Honda Odyssey, Kia Sedona, and the Nissan Quest.


Stylish But Comfortable Results: Having able to score this test drive during Spring Break, I can attest a number of children ranging from age 5 to 12 thoroughly gave their input on this review. Being able to close doors at the push of a button was highly attractive to pre-schoolers, and moms will really appreciate doors that slide open rather than fly open to hit nearby parked cars. What’s great about the array of trims is each level offers something unique plus certain packages. My test drive did feature about $4k of extra add-ons such as a remote engine starter, paint protection film, roof rack cross bars, and a glass breakage sensor. The DVD player is quick to load, but the location deep down on the console and very poorly lit, making it almost impossible to load (especially 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 – a very handy feature to get the peanut gallery calmed down.

Reliability & Safety Factor: The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) gives the 2016 Toyota Sienna ratings of “Good” in all crash testing areas – omitting small overlap front which earned an “Acceptable.” The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) give it an overall 5-Star rating. 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).

Cost Issues:The base Toyota Sienna LE starts at $28,850; the LE at $31,640; the SE at $35,210; the XLE at $35,410; and the Limited at $41,900 (yet the top-of-the-line model can reach $47,215 with optional features). My fully loaded Limited test drive with every optional feature available topped out at $48,400.

Activity & Performance Ability: Truth be told it is an excellent ride – Toyota added 142 spot welds to the Sienna's structure for increased body rigidity last year so combined with the sportier suspension and sport-tuned steering, you’ll pick up on a strong sense of road control than what lots of comparable mid-size SUVs have to offer. 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. Turning radius is so generous, you’ll find yourself jockeying for compact spots and forget you’re in a minivan.

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.

Zeroing in on your everyday needs is the 2016 Toyota Sienna, packed to the gills with swagger at the top-of-the-line Limited trim. You’ll love the way this vehicle handles the road – better results than a lot of mid-size SUVs I’ve test driven. My only improvement suggestion remains to re-locate the lowered (and poorly lit) DVD player.

2016 Katrina Ramser

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