November 04, 2011
When my friend Blake and I, along with Blake's pal, Ari, pulled in for the start of the Mike Nosco Memorial charity bike ride in Newbury Park, California yesterday, the parking lot was dominated by pickups, SUVs, cars with bike racks and Sprinter vans.
And there we were, in a minivan. A couple guys came up to us while we were unloading, I think with the intent of making fun of us. I beat them to the punch, saying, "Yeah, that's right, three dudes in my wife's minivan." We all laughed, but then the guys noticed how easily three bikes and three people fit into the van.
I'm not gonna say our bungee cord method is pure genius...
November 03, 2011
Much like its expansive cargo area, the Sienna also has a positively expansive dash. The downside to that flat, expansive dash is that the stereo system head unit is quite a stretch for me from the driver's seat. It's not the end of the world, but I can't actually reach the tuning knob, which is on the right side of the stereo, without leaning forward out of my driving position.
To make matters worse, the tuning knob has barely detectable detents, making it difficult to move around one station at a time as I scroll through the multitude of satellite radio channels trying to find a song I like.
October 27, 2011
We were all set to run final track numbers on our workhorse Sienna, but nature had a different plan. While waiting it out, some of the gang decided the Sienna was the best place to chillax because of the comfy captain's chairs, iPod connection, and rear HVAC -- and who could blame them?The track-side wait turned into a coffee-house wait until we learned we could return the next day for a do-over. The final long-term wrap-up story will post soon.
October 13, 2011
Did I mention I love vans? My colleagues know this and mock me for it. At least my man Niebuhr was good enough to lay this awesome ode to 70's van-love on me. Forget all that people power and democracy movement nonsense; archiving gems like this is why Al Gore really built the Internet!
Vans and minivans are different species, as distant as Arabian thoroughbreds to donkeys. Vans have swiveling velour captain's chairs and four-speed column-mounted shifters. They have big oak cupholder racks on the front bulkhead, overhead stash boxes, and your buddy's botched airbrush on the side.
October 12, 2011
I wish the driver seat was more comfortable. Last night, I was stuck in unusually bad traffic on my commute home. Traffic is always bad in L.A. but last night was exceptionally bad.
Sitting upright in the unsupportive seats for more than an hour was not fun. The seat felt flat and stiff without much side padding. And the back rest was not sufficiently supportive to keep me from squirming. I found myself wishing for heated seats to soothe my upper back. I can't imagine a long road trip in the driver seat of this vehicle.
Do any of you drive a Sienna?
Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor
July 19, 2011
Back in March I road tripped with the family in our long-term 2011 Honda Odyssey Touring. Destination: Mammoth Lakes, CA. Last week I road tripped with the family in our long-term 2011 Toyota Sienna SE. Destination: Big Bear Lake, CA.
Two lakes. Two vans. And so the question is: Which is best?
July 07, 2011
After spending a few hot days in and out of the very black, very hot interior of our VW Jetta TDI, I was happy to climb aboard the leatherette/cloth combination seats of the 2011 Toyota Sienna SE.
Initially, I was disappointed we chose the SE, and its lack of leather interior was one of my gripes. But after seeing how nicely the seat fabric has held up so far, and having the comfort of the cooler fabric in the summer heat, I no longer miss the option of leather in the minivan at all.
Kelly Toepke, News Editor @ 14,415 miles
July 05, 2011
When the sign-out sheet came around on Thursday, I initialed for the Sienna, really only planning to need it Friday afternoon. With the Wife and Kid enjoying daily rain and wilting humidity in Japan, I didn't need a soccer bus for the weekend. The whole fish-and-a-bicycle thing. As it turned out, the holiday weekend became a great chance to bro down with the Sienna. Chirp the tires and make the Swagger Wagon one of the fellas. It came through spectacularly.
It hauled boards to the beach, no need to hassle with racks, and left plenty of room for backpacks, wetsuits, coffee cups and maple bars. It transported five hungry dudes in business-class comfort after someone made an inspired suggestion for Fiesta Grill fish tacos. It hung on the Fiat 500's tail as Doug Newcomb whipped the latter up Topanga Canyon to fetch his board. I didn't remember the Sienna being as flat and composed, nor hanging onto the right gears, as it was while it climbed the twisty grade.
And to prove we don't doom the Sienna solely to a life as moving van and furniture mule, we had it carry a 12-pack of Red Stripe over to where the band jams, man. With strong sun, temps in the high 80s and 80 percent humidity, the weekend was made for fish tacos and Jamaican lager (as Takahashi can attest, about the latter anyway).
April 18, 2011
We headed east to lights of Vegas last Tuesday morning. 1,000 miles of open desert, desert dwellers and a few open throttle passes. However, the photo and video team weren't in the much hyped Lexus LFA. No, we tried to keep up with the supercar in our long-term Toyota Sienna.
The idea was to see how it worked out as a mobile studio, mobile workstation and all around support vehicle. We started out our trip a little frazzled because we had an intense dyno session the day before. But the idea of the adventure waiting ahead of us in (or near) a $375,000 exotic was exciting.
April 11, 2011
A few weeks ago I picked up a book called Secret Stairs, a walking guide detailing over 40 short hikes around Los Angeles. Thought it would be good fun to explore new neighborhoods, get some exercise, spend a little quality time with the family, you get the idea.
Our friends who were coming along on our first secret walk just bought a new Mustang convertible and offered to drive the four of us to Pasadena. It was a choice between the Mustang and the long-term Toyota Sienna that I was driving for the weekend.
February 07, 2011
Have you read our 2011 Minivan Comparison Test?
The Sienna that participated in that test was our very own long-termer. It unseated previous minivan champ, the Honda Odyssey, as well as beating the Nissan Quest, Chrysler Town and Country, and Dodge Grand Caravan.
It has the best blend of comfort, performance and value under $40,000.
Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor
February 02, 2011
We made it back from our short hop to Vegas unscathed, suffering only sleep deprivation and financial loss. Our 2011 Toyota Sienna SE was a great road trip car for a big crew, 7 people in our case. The 19" inch wheels didn't affect the smooth, controlled ride (for a van).
The transverse mounted 3.5L V6 pulled all the grades on The 15 with ease, the 6-speed auto transmission quickly downshifting 1 or 2 gears as necessary. Several test cars I've driven to Vegas (e.g, Terrain, Flex) have struggled with those grades. The Sienna got tossed around a bit by some hellacious crosswinds on the ride home, but was otherwise stable, even through a few brief downpours.
I ended up getting 20.02 mpg over ~ 600 miles. The EPA combined rating is also a decent 20 mpg.
Of course the Sienna was spacious (except for the 3 people in the 3rd row), and the 3-zone HVAC kept everyone comfy. The only complaint from my passengers was about the 3rd row belts cutting across their necks and shoulders.
And they absolutely loved the rear window shades -- that Mojave sun is quite hot and bright, don'tcha know?
Albert Austria, Senior VE Engineer @ 6,400 miles
(photo by Ryan Dinshaw)
January 31, 2011
I went to Vegas over the weekend with 6 other people, and our long-term 2011 Toyota Sienna SE can be configured to seat either 7 or 8 passengers. The Sienna has a clever 8th seat that fits between the 2nd row Captain's chairs, and when removed stores conveniently in the cargo area.
Instructions printed on the removable seat make installation pretty easy: just unfold and snap in the bottom and the seatback (you also have to pull 2 small straps.)
I didn't have a scale handy, but would estimate that 8th seat weighs about 15~20 lb.
You can see...
January 26, 2011
As much as the minivan is disdained as the instrument of the design devil, a simple box on wheels, it's actually the only vehicle in the road where you see real innovation in both appearance and function.
While every other sort of vehicle asks you to sit in the usual cockpit-style space that's riddled with design cues from other machines (airplanes) and other times (the 1950s), the 2011 Toyota Sienna bravely suggests that you consider a different control layout, one that's more friction-free, ergonomically speaking.
While everyone else is sitting in the automotive equivalent of a stupidly stuffed office chair -- designed foremost to be seen rather than to be used -- the Toyota Sienna suggests that a seat that has been modeled after those in an airliner's business class might actually be more appropriate for those riding behind the flight deck.
Think of all the design stuff that has come from the minivan.
January 14, 2011
My affection for Toyotas run shallow. If I'm not irritated by the fact that I can't find a comfortable driving position (I'm not Dikembe Mutumbo, make the back of the seat go lower), then I'm depressed by how utterly dull and responsive they are to drive. Seriously, how is the Corolla acceptable to anyone? And don't give me this 'some people don't like to drive' business. As our consumer comparison test showed a couple of years ago, once such people drove anything else, the Corolla's true, bland colors quickly showed themselves and it was dropped from consideration.
The Camry is only slightly less depressing. Just the other day a friend asked me if he should replace his 10-year-old Camry with another one. I responded thusly.
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.
January 04, 2011
It's over. We're home from Oregon and the Sienna is back in the IL garage, extremely dirty and waiting for the carwash to open for a final bath.
Near-constant heavy rain and a bit of snow kept us indoors much of the time, but the roads were clear and dry for much of the 850-mile drive home, which we did in one 15-hour day.
This being the same holiday for many others, a lot of people were out there on Interstate-5 with us. That had a beneficial effect on fuel economy because it kept the prevailing speed down to 65-70 mph. As we neared LA, the Google traffic map on my wife's new Droid phone lit up red like I've never seen before, so we made a detour through the high desert, 50 miles longer but clean and green at 60 mph most of the way. The result: 26.3 mpg on a tank that lasted 421.6 miles.
Overall, we averaged 23.0 mpg over the up-and-back highway portion and got 17.8 mpg in our single in-town Oregon tank. The overall trip average works out to 22.2 mpg.
Here's a summary of our final impressions:
December 27, 2010
Last night's pizza run was a perfect example of why we like to take a 3-row vehicle like the 2011 Toyota Sienna SE up to Oregon for the holidays.
The local pizza joint is 22 miles away -- way too far to bring a load of suitably warm pies back to eat at home. No problem: the trip to town gives us a chance for all of us to get out of the house. And that's just the thing: "all of us" has grown to six people with my parents on board.
My two daughters are nearly as tall as my wife nowadays, so they need adult-sized space in the third row. And that's where minivans like the Sienna excel. And our SE also has the preferred equipment group, which includes 3-zone climate control to keep eveyone happy.
December 26, 2010
We're here. Our 2011 Toyota Sienna SE has arrived on the stunning Oregon coast without incident. And by "incident" I mean uspet tummies or stressed vertebrae.
My wife usually suffers from the latter after 800 miles in the shotgun seat, and the winding nature of the last 200 miles of sinuous asphalt usually plays havoc with the former. And sometimes the effects can linger for days.
Relentless earth movement has put a lot of wrinkles in the many corners found along the twisted upper reaches of northern California's Highway 101, and the Sienna's SE suspension and tire package shrugged it all off with ease. Its steering proved to be responsive and accurate, and the suspension kept the minivan securely on line while deftly damping out body roll motions as if we were riding in a much smaller and lower vehicle.
It's hard to know how a non-SE 2011 Sienna would have done here, but this SE was even more engaging on these roads than the Ford Flex Limited -- a vehicle we like a lot -- had been on previous trips up this route.
Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing @ 3,141 miles