2011 Toyota Sienna SE: Of Roof Racks and Wind Noise
January 04, 2011
Wind noise in the second row was a mild topic of discussion during our recent Oregon road test in the 2011 Toyota Sienna SE.
Tracy moved to the middle row for the run into town for pizza, and while she was there she noticed more wind noise (no, there was no snow on the roof at the time). She was thinking it was the rear edge of the sliding door seals, and I thought I heard something from the roof rack.
The former I could do nothing about, but I could reposition and remove the roof rack cross bars.
Loosen this and three other knobs like it to relax the clamps so you can scoot the cross bars about. Remove them entirely to take the cross bars off. We tried both.
Some crossbars nest togther better than these. Some are easy to slide but difficult to remove altogether. In cases like these the carmaker may recommend that owners store them in the rearward-most position when not in use. If that's the factory advice, words to that effect are typically molded right into the cross rails themselves.
Not so here. In this position I could hear a dramatic increase in noise from the driver's seat, even though these babies were further away from my earholes. Not surprising, really, what with the protruding knobs, prominent clamshell clamps and tie-down loops. On to Plan B.
Next we took them all the way off. And it worked, sort of.
This is clearly the quietest of the three modes, but Tracy still heard a hint of wind noise from the back edge of the door seals while seated in the middle row. Not a deal breaker, to use her words, but still there in the background. For their part, the kids, who spent 1,600 miles back there, were never bothered by it.
This admittedly small reduction in both frontal area and aerodynamic drag should theoretically pay a tiny (but surely immeasuable) dividend in fuel economy. Much more obvious than that is the fact that the van simply looks better this way.
And as reader @netjunky pointed out, removing the cross rails and storing them until needed drastically reduces the chance they'll be stolen -- assuming, that is, that there's a demand for the things on the black market.
Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing @ 4,267 miles