What's New for 2009
The 2009 Toyota Sienna is unchanged other than minor feature revisions. There's a new option package for the Sienna LE that includes Bluetooth and rear-seat entertainment, and the XLE's optional parking sensors now cover both the front and rear of the van.
Five years ago, the Toyota Sienna was completely redesigned. Since then, we've consistently praised the Sienna as a top choice in its segment, deeming it luxurious, roomy and even Lexus-like in its refinement. The 2009 Toyota Sienna is unchanged from last year, but it remains one of the best minivans you can buy.
Competition is fierce in this segment, but the Sienna boasts Toyota's familiar 3.5-liter V6, an all-star engine renowned for its smooth power and laudable fuel efficiency. Another feather in the Sienna's cap is the fact that it's currently the only minivan to offer all-wheel drive, so if you live where ice and snow are common, the Sienna has a decided advantage over its rivals.
In CE and LE trim, the Sienna can accommodate eight passengers; XLE and Limited models offer seating for seven, thanks to captain's chairs in the second row. The Limited version is especially luxurious, and it wouldn't be that far off to call it the Lexus of minivans. Gathered leather on the doors, comfortable captain's chairs, a JBL sound system and the option of adaptive cruise control almost make the Toyota logo on the steering wheel seem like a mistake.
When it comes to handling prowess, the 2009 Toyota Sienna doesn't offer a particularly compelling package. Of course, no minivan is going to be purchased on the strength of its corner-carving ability, but the Sienna's archnemesis, the Honda Odyssey, happens to deliver responsive handling along with a reasonably smooth ride. The Kia Sedona/Hyundai Entourage twins are also satisfying alternatives, especially for those put off by Toyota's typically higher prices. But overall, the Sienna is an excellent van with many compelling features and options. We wouldn't buy another minivan without trying the Sienna first.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2009 Toyota Sienna minivan comes in four trim levels -- CE, LE, XLE and Limited. The CE and LE come in seven- and eight-passenger configurations; the upper trims are seven-passenger only. All but the CE offer a choice of front-wheel or all-wheel drive; the CE is front-wheel drive only.
The base Sienna CE includes 16-inch steel wheels, dual sliding rear doors with power-down windows, front and rear air-conditioning, a six-speaker CD/MP3 stereo with an auxiliary audio jack, a telescoping steering wheel and full power accessories. The LE adds privacy and solar energy-absorbing glass, a roof rack, heated side mirrors, a CD changer, steering-wheel-mounted audio controls, a folding front passenger seat, cruise control and upgraded instrumentation.
The Sienna XLE features alloy wheels, power-sliding rear doors, a power liftgate, automatic headlamps, tri-zone automatic climate control, power front seats, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, wood grain interior trim, a trip computer and a removable center console. The plush Limited adds 17-inch alloy wheels, a sunroof, adaptive cruise control, leather upholstery, heated front seats, a leather-and-wood steering wheel, an upgraded 10-speaker JBL sound system, satellite radio, Bluetooth, rear window shades and a windshield-wiper de-icer. All-wheel-drive Siennas receive 17-inch wheels, run-flat tires and the wiper de-icer.
Options on the Toyota Sienna are grouped into packages that vary based on buying region, and they can get rather pricey. You'll need to study them carefully to ensure that the Sienna you pick has just what you want. Notable items include xenon headlights, a rear-seat DVD entertainment system, a navigation system (with a back-up camera), a power-folding third-row seat and a pair of 115-volt power outlets. A new package for the LE combines a JBL stereo with Bluetooth and rear-seat entertainment.
Powertrains and Performance
All Siennas come with a 266-horsepower, 3.5-liter V6 engine that's matched to a five-speed automatic transmission. This refined combination provides brisk acceleration (we timed an AWD version of the XLE from zero to 60 mph in just 8.0 seconds) as well as respectable fuel economy. EPA estimates for 2009 come in at 17 mpg city/23 mpg highway and 19 mpg combined for front-wheel-drive models; the AWD versions are rated at 16 city/21 highway and 18 combined.
Antilock disc brakes, stability control, traction control and a full complement of airbags (including front-seat side and full-length side curtain) are standard on all Siennas. The Limited also comes with front and rear park assist; it's optional on the XLE. If you opt for the navigation system, you'll also get a rearview camera.
In government crash testing, the 2009 Toyota Sienna earned four stars (out of five possible) for driver protection in frontal impacts and five stars for the front passenger. It also received five stars across the board for side-impact crash protection. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave Toyota's minivan a "good" rating (the highest possible score) for its performance in frontal-offset and side-impact crash tests.
Interior Design and Special Features
The Sienna's cabin is handsomely fitted with high-quality fabric on lower trim levels and leather and faux wood on the higher-end models. The various controls are simple to use, storage space is plentiful and the seats are plush. Seven-passenger Siennas allow the second-row captain's chairs to be pushed together to create a bench seat. The eight-passenger version uses a 40/20/40-split second-row bench whose center section slides 13 inches closer to the front seats for easier access to the little one seated there. The Sienna provides a cavernous 149 cubic feet of cargo capacity. In Limited trim, the Sienna's interior looks and feels as if it came straight out of a luxury car.
Although the 2009 Toyota Sienna's automatic transmission is calibrated more for fuel economy than performance, there's no denying the refined potency of the van's V6. When you step into it, acceleration is spirited, yet the engine delivers its power in a smooth and unobtrusive manner. Ride quality is plush, but the Sienna offers minimal steering feedback and considerable body roll during cornering. Braking distances are class-competitive, but the pedal feels too soft to inspire confidence.