Full 2006 Toyota Sienna Review
What's New for 2006
The Toyota Sienna receives more standard equipment for 2006. Most importantly, the formerly optional front side-impact airbags and three-row head-protecting side curtain airbags are standard on all Siennas this year. Other changes include new seat fabric for the CE and LE trims and Optitron gauges for LE, XLE and XLE Limited models. The XLE also has dual power front seats this year, and the XLE Limited gains driver-seat memory. There's also a new power-folding rear seat option on XLE Limited 2WD models. In addition, all Siennas receive a new grille, headlamps, foglamps and taillamp clusters. Finally, revised SAE testing procedures have dropped the van's stated horsepower rating from 230 to 215.
At the end of its model run, the first-generation Toyota Sienna (1998-2003) was showing signs of age. Compared to the competition, it was smaller and less functional on the inside, and down on power. The Odyssey had been virtually unbeatable in the minivan category since its groundbreaking 1999 redesign, and Toyota was intent on claiming a larger share of this lucrative family vehicle segment. With the introduction of the all-new 2004 Sienna, Toyota made its move. Today's Sienna is larger, more powerful and more refined than the first generation -- three attributes that help it compete against other popular minivans. With the 2004 redesign, the Sienna also picked up some key family-friendly features.
One major attraction is its fold-flat third-row seat. The advantage that the Sienna has over many competitors is that its rearmost bench is a 60/40-split instead of a single piece. With both sections folded, the Sienna's cargo area is large enough to handle a sheet of plywood laid flat on the floor. The Toyota Sienna is available in either seven- or eight-passenger configuration. Eight-passenger vans get a 40/20/40 second-row bench, allowing cargo space to be configured around seated passengers. Sometimes it's the little things that make a big difference, and the Toyota minivan is full of thoughtful touches. The driver has a strategically placed mirror that, much like on a school bus, provides a clear view of the rear-seat passengers. Additionally, there are numerous storage compartments, cargo hooks and plenty of cupholders to prevent personal belongings from inadvertently traveling around the cabin. In a world full of sport-utility vehicles, minivans are still the best choice for family transportation, and the 2006 Toyota Sienna is clearly one of the category front-runners.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The Toyota Sienna comes in four trim levels -- CE, LE, XLE and top-of-the-line XLE Limited; CE and LE seat seven or eight. LE, XLE and XLE Limited are eligible for all-wheel drive. The CE includes ABS, a rear air conditioner, CD player, telescoping steering wheel, dual-sliding doors with power windows and keyless entry. The LE adds driver lumbar, cruise control, heated power mirrors, privacy glass, a roof rack and a fold-flat front-passenger seat -- most of this is optional on the CE. The XLE includes alloy wheels, power-sliding doors, a power liftgate, auto headlamps, tri-zone automatic climate control, power-adjustable front seats and a removable center console. The XLE Limited trim level gets larger 17-inch wheels, rear disc brakes, stability control, adaptive cruise control, a moonroof, leather upholstery, heated front seats, a CD changer, a park-assist system and rear window shades. All-wheel-drive models automatically receive 17-inch wheels, run-flat tires, stability control and upgraded brakes. Options include a rear-seat entertainment system, navigation system and power-folding third-row seat.
Powertrains and Performance
The 2006 Toyota Sienna benefits from a smooth 3.3-liter V6 engine with 215 horsepower coupled to a five-speed automatic transmission. This refined combination results in good fuel mileage with EPA figures of 19 mpg in the city and 27 on the highway for front-drive models and 18/24 for all-wheel-drive vans. The AWD system requires no driver intervention -- if a wheel begins to slip, power is automatically transferred to the wheels with more grip.
Antilock brakes are standard across the line. Stability and traction control are included on XLE Limited and AWD models, and optional on all other Siennas. Standard airbag protection includes seat-mounted side airbags for front occupants and side curtain airbags that cover all three rows. In government crash testing, the Toyota Sienna earned perfect five-star ratings for side-impact protection along with four-star ratings for frontal-impact protection. In frontal offset testing, the IIHS gave it a "Good" rating, the highest, and named it a "Best Pick."
Interior Design and Special Features
The Sienna's interior is swathed in high-quality fabric on lower trim levels and leather and faux wood on high-end models. Most controls are simple to use, and storage space is abundant. Seven-passenger vans allow owners to push the second-row captain's chairs together to create a bench seat, though the setup isn't as user-friendly as the Odyssey's. The eight-passenger version uses a 40/20/40-split bench in the second row, enabling you to pull the middle seat 13 inches closer to the front seats for easier access to a baby. The Toyota Sienna provides 149 cubic feet of cargo capacity -- second only to the Chrysler minivans.
The V6 is quite powerful when cruising around the suburbs, and especially when merging onto the freeway. Though the ride is supremely plush, overall handling isn't quite up to the sporty level of the Odyssey.