2021 Toyota Sienna LTD AWD - Review By David Colman +VIDEO
Lots of room and excellent MPG
By David Colman
Special Correspondent to THE AUTO CHANNEL
Toyota has completely revamped the Sienna for 2021. From the outside, more extravagant looking bodywork uses deeply contoured side panels to relieve the outgoing model's slab-sided look. Mechanically, the biggest change occurs under the hood, where a 245hp, 4 cylinder Hybrid power supply replaces the previously available 296hp V6 gas engine. The upside of this transplant is that even the all-wheel-drive Hybrid we tested returns 36MPG versus 21MPG for the departed V6. The downside of the engine swap is the distinctly felt loss of 50hp, never an asset when you're driving a 7-passenger bus weighing 4,781 pounds. In stark numbers, the power-to-weight ratio of the new Sienna increases to 19.5lb/hp from the previous model's 15.4lb/hp.
Use of a Hybrid drivetrain incurs other side effects as well. At full chat, the Hybrid makes an annoying high-pitched whine. Maximum pressure on the accelerator nets a 0-60mph time of 7.6 seconds, with the standing start quarter mile run requiring 15.8 seconds at 88mph. Another byproduct of the Hybrid system is regenerative braking, which feeds electrical energy back into the electrical loop. In the Sienna, this energy transfer leaves the driver with an unpredictable brake pedal feel. Sometimes the stroke is overly long, sometimes reasonably short. Despite the fact that the Sienna is fitted with 12.9 inch front and 12.5 inch rear vented ABS disc brakes, you're never quite sure what kind of foot force your next stop will require.
Toyota has done a fine job of upgrading the interior of the new Sienna LTD to look more expensive than the sticker price would seem to justify. We particularly liked the intelligent staging of the instrument panel, center console, dashboard-wide storage shelf, and usable division of door pockets. The subtly striated plastic which covers the huge center console is understated and handsome. Not only is the glovebox spacious, but also fitted with an actual key lock of its own. The metal key slips out of the hand-held remote fob used to lock and unlock the Sienna. The enormous sliding doors on both sides of the van can be operated via an overhead panel above the windshield, or alternately by pressing the appropriate button on the handheld remote.
Our test Sienna was fitted with a number of options that we would not order for our own van. The first of these was the Rear Seat Entertainment System ($1,415). After clouting the low hanging screen enclosure with our head the first time we climbed into the back seat, we questioned the safety of its positioning. We were even less inclined to purchase this option when we discovered that Toyota deleted a DVD player from the system for 2021. So if you want to play a movie, you now have to supply your own player and HDMI cord. The second questionable option is the $200 Digital Rear-View Mirror, which utilizes a camera to give you a splendidly sharp view of activity behind the van. This works well when you are stationary, but in transit, the digital mirror is filled with ghost images that will make you feel like you've had one too many drinks. Thankfully, you can flip a switch on the digital depiction and return the mirror to its conventional mirror function. When you do so, however, you will instantly lose about 50% of the wide angle view the digital device depicts.
The most appealing aspect of life with Sienna was its vast interior storage space, augmented by the variety of ways that bounty could be subdivided. If you like to take your bicycle along for the ride, there's no better method of transport than to lock it in a Sienna. It took a bit of logic augmented by some owner's manual consultation to figure out how to convert the 7-seat interior to delivery truck configuration. The two second row captain's chairs need to be shifted fully forward with their back tilted to the front and locked. The split rear bench seats fold themselves flat into the deep rear storage well, Doing so opens up a vast amount of space measuring 75.2 cubic feet. Hoisting a bike into that cavern is so easy it makes you never want to deal with the same chore in any high transom SUV again. Dark tinted rear windows and privacy screens protect your treasure from prying eyes.
For such a ponderous package, the Sienna Limited handles with surprising aplomb. Toyota fits the Limited version with 18x7.5-in. cast aluminum alloys fitted with Bridgestone Turanza LS100 mud and snow rated radials (235/60R18) that get a good grip on even the most challenging back road. Toyota provides the Sienna with a most respectable fully independent suspension system with anti-sway bars front and rear. The result is a mini-bus that traverses twisty roads with reassuring precision.
2021 TOYOTA SIENNA LTD AWD
ENGINE: Inline 4, DOHC, 16 valves plus rear permanent-magnet electric motor
HORSEPOWER: 245hp (Combined)
TORQUE: 176lb.-ft (Gas), 199lb.-ft. (Electric)
FUEL CONSUMPTION: 35MPG City/36MPG Highway
PRICE AS TESTED: $52,152
HYPES: Excellent Fuel Economy, Tremendous Interior Space
GRIPES: Mushy Brakes, Sluggish Acceleration
STAR RATING: 8.5 Stars out of 10