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Minivan Review: 2017 Toyota Sienna SE Premium By John Heilig

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By John Heilig
Senior Editor
Mid-Atlantic Bureau
The Auto Channel


MODEL: 2017 Toyota Sienna SE Premium

ENGINE: 3.5-liter DOHC V6

TRANSMISSION: 8-speed automatic

HORSEPOWER/TORQUE: 296 hp @ 6,600 rpm/263 lb.-ft. @ 4,700 rpm

WHEELBASE: 119.3 in.

LENGTH X WIDTH X HEIGHT: 200.2 x 78.1 x 70.5 in.

TIRES: P235/50R19

CARGO CAPACITY: 39.1/87.1 cu. ft. (behind 3rd row/2nd row)

ECONOMY: 19.mpg city/27 mpg highway/21.3 mpg test

FUEL TANK: 20.0 gal.

CURB WEIGHT: 4,605 lbs.


COMPETITIVE CLASS: Chrysler Pacifica, Kia Sedona, Honda Odyssey, Ford Transit Connect, Dodge Grand Caravan, Nissan Quest

STICKER: $41,770 (includes $940 delivery)

BOTTOM LINE: While the number of offerings in the minivan segment has been getting smaller, the Toyota Sienna must be ranked among the best of the bunch, with its riding quality, practical owner features and number of safety amenities and comfort features.

I confess to being a van fan, from the day we bought our 1984 Chevrolet full-size van until today, I still appreciate the overall utility of the vans. No, they’re not the best for serious off-road traveling, but for 99.9 percent of the driving I do (and most people do), they are the right choice of vehicle.

The Toyota Sienna has to be considered one of the best in a market segment that only has six entries, after an era when there were as many as 20. It can compete with the rest of the minis and outperform most of them as well. With the new 84MPG Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid it will be interesting to see if the benefits will outweigh the ego of a new generation of “not a minivan for me” young mothers.

Minivans are known for their utility. I know we used our own van as a people hauler most of the time, but there were times when we took the second and third row seats out (it was harder back in the day) and used it to haul firewood from a couple of trees that we felled. 

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The Sienna uses the space available efficiently. For example, behind the third row seats is a deep well that increases cargo capacity back there by making it possible to stack cargo. For a larger, flat floor, the third row seats fold into the well and there is a huge cargo area up to the backs of the second row seats, which can also slide forward for a couple of extra inches. I had trouble returning the third row seats to their “seating” position. Of course, the second row seats can also be removed for maximum capacity.

Competitors liken the Chrysler Pacifica and Dodge Grand Caravan have “Stow and Go” seating where the second row seats fold into a well in front of them.

All of the other minivans on the market offer their own design for seat movement and removal, so before you make up your mind as to which minivan to buy test test test.

On the Sienna there are the standard pair of cupholders on the center console, but two more pop out of the dash if needed. There is room for water bottles on both front doors as well as cubbies for storing things. There’s a small cubby by the driver’s left knee and two glove boxes. 

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Back in the day our full-size van had a 350 cubic inch V8 that sucked gasoline like nobody’s business. Even with its size and horsepower, we still had to struggle up the Continental Divide. We didn’t do such a test with the Toyota, but the 3.5-liter V6 under the hood pulls the Sienna along quite well. It handled all the smaller hills in our area with aplomb and no hint of tiring out. Accelerations is very good, even if the engine does get noisy under hard acceleration. Normally it’s quiet. So its difficult at best to endorse the Sienna as a mountain goat or flatlander. Those of you who live in the Rockies need to test going up and down the “hill” before making that buying decision.

Space in the Sienna is generally used efficiently. The heated front seats are comfortable and offer decent legroom, unlike our old Chevy van’s front seat foot space which was intruded upon by its front wheel wells.

The console between the front seats is lower, but the seats have pull-down arm rests. The console has a flat top which is useful. Due to a mix-up, we had to use the Sienna as a meeting room for three people. I removed the driver’s headrest for an open area, and used the top of the console as a desk top. 

There is another 10-inch square flat tray in front of the center console on the floor that we found very useful. The shifter is located on the dash to the left of the center stack, freeing up that space for the trays 

For entertainment we had a fairly standard audio system with the usual choices.Dual zone front heating is very efficient. Rear temperature controls are on the dash and also in the second row area.

Sliding side door and rear hatch controls are located in the overhead console. There is also a convex “spy” mirror so the driver and front passenger can see what’s going on in the rear seats. No unpunished “she’s touching me” episodes in the Sienna.

The rear captain’s chairs have pull-down arm rests like the front seats. Second row legroom is excellent. There’s also a console between the second row seats that is really just another narrow seat. Third row access is easy by folding and sliding forward the second row seats. However, third row legroom is tight for adults but would be good for children. Six assist handles aid all passengers in getting into and out of the Sienna.

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Above the second row seats is a wide screen entertainment system, with a Blue-Ray player in the front entertainment grouping. The Sienna has a well-designed dash. The instrument panel has a large tachometer with inset water temperature, information panel and large speedometer with inset fuel level gauge. The information panel as configured has outside temperature, a digital speedometer, fuel economy gauge and odometers. 

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Even compensating for my built-in van prejudice, the Toyota Sienna is one heck of a van. As tested, the sticker was $41,770, which isn’t cheap, (in fact the Toyota Sienna is the most expensive of the minivans on the US market) but is in keeping with its minivan competition and I believe will still be an overall best buy after 10-15 years of use.

(c) 2017 The Auto Page Syndicate

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