2011 Toyota Sienna SE: Snappy
September 09, 2011
I just spent 10 days in our long-term Odyssey moving couches, rugs and all sorts of other stuff between houses. During that time I became intimately familiar with that van's dynamics. So when the car board came around yesterday I figured this was a good time to get a back-to-back comparison with the Sienna.
Easily the biggest difference when it comes to driving these two vans is what happens when a driver opens the throttle. The Sienna is -- dare I say it -- snappy. It's eager to move out and acceleration more readily follow its driver's right foot. By comparison, the Odyssey lags. It's less anxious to get moving and downshifts at speed demand a large throttle opening and plenty of waiting.
Now, certainly, the Toyota's 17-hp advantage might have something to do with this, but I think it's more subtle than that. After all, that's peak power which occurs at 6,200 rpm. The difference I'm talking about is most obvious pulling away from a stop or rolling into the throttle on the highway -- both of which occur at lower engine speeds.
So it's torque, right?
Not so fast. The Honda actually makes more torque (250 lb-ft @ 4,800 rpm vs. 245 lb-ft @ 4,700 rpm). Without the benefit of dyno charts it's not possible to know the subtleties here, but I think we can say with certainty that they are small. Weight, too, isn't a big factor (4,460 lbs Sienna vs. 4,541 lbs Odyssey).
This difference, I'd argue, is down to two factors: Throttle and transmission calibration. And Toyota gets it right. Certainly people aren't buying minivans to be hot rods -- and I do think the Honda handles better. But when it comes to putting your right foot down, Toyota wins.
A careful look at our most recent fuel economy update corresponds with this observation showing the Sienna lagging the Odyssey by a 1.1 mpg combined average (19.5 vs. 20.6). It's a price I'd gladly pay.
Josh Jacquot, Senior editor