December 12, 2011
Please excuse the crappy picture, but our recent RTI ramp construction project provided me with an opportunity to explain why I am unlikely to trade in my 2004 Honda Odyssey for a 2011 Toyota Sienna.
It's the center console, or, in my car's case, the lack of one. Instead I have a fold down tea tray between the front seats. It holds drinks when I want and gets itself the heck out of the way when I need the space for something else. At some point since we've owned it my wife improvised a console storage compartment by sliding a wicker basket underneath for things like pens, cell phone power cords and CDs.
November 23, 2011
As I pulled into valet parking for the Hotel Bel-Air in the Toyota Sienna, it occurred to me that Vehicle Testing Manager Mike Schmidt might have been paying me back for some past transgression by arranging it so I would attend a press event at one of the most fashionable hotels in L.A. in a minivan.
Schmidt later denied it, of course. And the Hotel Bel-Air valet guys took it in stride and said that they get minivans all the time.
Maybe so, because the Hotel Bel-Air is the quintessential suburban hotel, so L.A. in its expression of a design ethic thats all about sunshine, iced drinks and the sound of sprinklers on a summer morning. If you really know L.A., you head for the Hotel Bel-Air. All those flashy hotels on the Sunset Strip are strictly for hicks and Euro-trash.
And while a minivan might seem out of place at a hotel (especially at this one), it is of course equally suburban in its design ethic. In fact, the Sienna turns out to be better at what it does than the Hotel Bel-Air. Its all about the difference between design and décor.
November 08, 2011
After a run of cars whose instrument panels display in red or blue -- to say nothing of the Mustang's Hulk green, it was nice to be bathed in the pure white light of the Sienna's instruments last night and this morning. A lot of bad things have rightly been said about the ergo shortcomings of the console. The easy-on-the eyes instrument display shouldn't be counted among them.
Carroll Lachnit, Features Editor @ 20,107 miles
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 21, 2011
This isn't a feature unique to the Sienna, but it is a nice one. The sunglasses holder in the Sienna's roof-mounted command center doubles as a wide-angle mirror for viewing rear-seat occupants. For Sienna-driving soccer moms it's like having another set of eyes.
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
October 10, 2011
Acres and acres of dash, and just that tiny 3.5-inch display screen bobbing alone in the middle of it. The screen relays climate control information and various menu options for sliding door operation, etc. It's clear and colorful and decently high-resolution. In reverse, it offers a backup cam, which proves its most useful moment.
Otherwise, I can't stop staring at it and wondering "what's the point?"
Dan Frio, Automotive Editor
September 26, 2011
Those there are six-foot-long tables, and they fit completely in our longterm 2011 Toyota Sienna behind its second row of seating. The trick is that the second row is in its slid-forward position. Have you seen this? The butt-cushion flips up, the back tilts forward and then the whole thing just sort of smooshes up against the front seatback like it's preparing for a tandem skydive.
It's not quite Stow-n-Go levels of empty space, but this approach gets you 80% there, takes mere seconds to accomplish and doesn't force you to live with silly-flat seats. A pretty fair compromise, I'd say.
Also, minivans kick ass. Loving the low liftover height and wide cargo aperture. And you know how I dig sliding doors. If a car needs rear doors, they may as well be sliding doors.
Jason Kavanagh, Engineering Editor @ 17,639 miles.
September 22, 2011
Yesterday I gave you a driver's tour of the Honda Odyssey. Today, I show you some of the features in the Toyota Sienna SE.
September 12, 2011
Perhaps you read last week's diatribe on why I prefer the Sienna's powertrain over the Odyssey's engine and transmission. Well, here's one more reason: The ability to pick the gear you want. As you can see above, it's only a tap away in the Sienna.
July 22, 2011
First things first: let's not confuse the concepts of "simple" and "easy to use." While the 2011 Toyota Sienna certain has an easy to use interior, it's also incredibly simple.
Kindergarden simple. ATM simple. Lowest-common denominator simple.
There's no learning curve here and there's really no satisfaction or confirmation in any of the button actions and functions. Everything works perfectly well, we can't forget that, but nothing feels like or looks like it belongs in a modern car. Buttons are overlarge and overlabeled. It reminds me of those telephones and calculators you can buy from the medical supply store for your grandmother when her eyes start to go (or if the fingers you are using to dial are too fat) with the big buttons. Or the big plastic ones you use to keep toddlers entertained and from drooling on your actual calculator.
June 29, 2011
If you've been following along, you know I like to have a look at common wear areas on the interiors of our long-term cars. Seat bolsters are a particular focal point. Most recently, we looked at the details of our long-term Ford Raptor.
As the Sienna creeps close to the 15,000-mile mark, I figured now is as good a time as any to have a look.
As you can see in the above image, the Sienna's seat-bottom bolsters are utterly indifferent to editor's backsides sliding over them. Thus far, this part of the van just doesn't care. And that's true elsewhere as well.
June 05, 2011
Last week I used to 2011 Honda Odyssey to buy new panels for my daughter's closet doors. Now I'm using the 2011 Toyota Sienna to take the old panels -- and a lot of other junk -- to the dump.
And so the middle seats have to come out once again. But this time it's the Sienna's turn.
The release handle for these seats is centered under the front cushion. Pull on the handle to flip the cushion up and release four floor hooks. At this point the release handle becomes a meaty carrying handle and the seat comes out easily.
My scale says the Sienna's seat weighs 52.5 pounds, about 5 pounds more than an Odyssey seat. That's pushing it, but the handle eases the process so much that I prefer this to the Odyssey, whose seats are a bit more finicky to disengage from the floor while forcing you to invent your own hand holds.
But that's just the passenger side. This is the "40" side of a 60/40 middle seat layout.
May 31, 2011
Just like Bob's Country Bunker in the The Blues Brothers, the Sienna has both kinds -- knobs and buttons. At Bob's it was Country and Western (music, that is), but in the Sienna, well, it's how you choose your temperature.
May 11, 2011
Well, the headline really says it all, does it not?
Probably my favorite thing about minivans is their abundant and wildly versatile interior storage. The Sienna's clamshell glovebox arrangement is a perfect example of that abundance.
May 03, 2011
I like this little cubby for the removable center section of the second-row seat in our 2011 Toyota Sienna, and it's not just because it makes the seat look like it's doing an extreme yoga pose.
I'm the kind of person who benefits from having a predetermined place to put something when it's not being used. A pen-behind-the-ear kind of person. A silhouette-painted pegboard kind of person. With the dedicated cubby, I'm never going to misplace that center seat; and I also don't have to find a place in my house or garage to store it (and hope I can still find it when I need it next time).
No panic moments when your passenger count unexpectedly goes from four to eight while out and about (it could happen). Just unstrap the seat from its handy resting place and reinstall it.
Our long-term Honda Odyssey doesn't have this little cubby. Sure, you could just plop the extricated center seat in the cargo area and let it roll around willy-nilly, but I like this tidy solution better.
Bryn MacKinnon, Senior Editor, Edmunds.com @ 11,041 miles
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.
April 11, 2011
Hi there. I'd like to get this meeting started and get down to business.
Apparently, from what I've seen of the interior on the 2011 Toyota Sienna, none of you in this room know each other. So I'd like to take this opportunity to have all seven of you who designed part of the Sienna's interior to stand up and introduce yourselves.
You see, not knowing what the other six of you were doing, has led to this center stack being one of the biggest ergonomic fumbles in recent memory. Not only can I not reach most of the controls, but everything seems to have been placed without regard for any other control. This interior is the Camaro steering wheel of the minivan world. Oh, and the to the guy who designed the shifter 10 years ago, time to try something new.
Croissants are in the back, along with some water that tastes like detergent and some mediocre coffee. Let's not have this meeting again.
Kurt Niebuhr, Photo Editor @ 9,109 miles
April 08, 2011
Ah, the Toyota Sienna -- not a bad-looking cabin. Still, we had a Chrysler Town and Country in here a couple of months ago and one of the things that struck me was how great its cabin looks.
April 04, 2011
I realize now that I should've been clearer about why I didn't like 55 being at the center of the Sienna's speedometer. It has nothing to do with wanting to do 140 mph in a minivan -- stopping at a buck 10 is way more than sufficient for this thing. Instead, this is entirely a psychological relation between seeing the speedometer in my periphery, my sense of speed and my right foot.
There is something disconcerting about seeing that needle buried and I'm pretty sure I'm subconsciously slowing down because of it, since I've been "programmed" to equate such a needle position as being indicative of a grossly illegal speed. I equally remember being freaked out by my friend's old '96 Cherokee for the same reason. Now, this is a problem when it's quite common on Los Angeles freeways to drive in the 75 to 80-mph range with traffic regardless of what the speed limit says.
Perhaps this explains why Siennas are always going so damned slow around here (well, at least a small part of the explanation). Perhaps this a great way to make everyone slow down. Perhaps this is the CHP's worst nightmare because they won't be able to collect money from the citizenry. Perhaps I'm alone in my psychological peripheral speedometer phobia, but I still think it's a little weird, a little disconcerting and quite possibly the end of the world. OK, maybe not the last bit.
James Riswick, Automotive Editor @ 9,002 miles
March 31, 2011
I had my passenger take this pic of the Sienna burying the needle at the oh-so-blazing speed of 80 mph. With the center of speedo being 55, I pretty much do a double-take every time I look down from the highway since my mind initially says "Holy crap, are we doing 130?" But we're not. Well, I sorta am, but as Dorothy said in the Toronto production of the Wizard of Oshawa, "We're not in Canada any more."
Sure, the Sienna is most likely to be driven by suburban domestic engineering and care-giving specialists gingerly tip-toeing around town with precious cargo aboard, but this speedo still seems a little ridiculous. It's like I'm driving a GM car and somebody's switched the instruments to metric.
My preference would be for 80 to be at the top (and I don't like speedos that start with 0 at 6 o'clock), but it's not exactly a make-or-break preference. Nevertheless, 55 is a little too grandma.
James Riswick, Automotive Editor @ 9,002 miles
March 30, 2011
This is what it looks like from the front seat of the Sienna. The airy greenhouse gives you a good look at the world, presenting clear sight lines from most angles.
March 23, 2011
When Toyota first started its "Swagger Wagon" campaign for the new Sienna, a friend emailed me a link to the initial video, saying "This is so you!" True, there was a passing semblance between the actors and me and my wife. And we have a kid. But a minivan family, really? My wife has told me many times she'll never drive one, and I own a Corvette. I didn't see it.
But now I've spent about two weeks driving our Toyota Sienna. And things are different. Swagger, not really. But appreciation, yes.
March 18, 2011
Should you feel the need, you can fit a couple monster sodas in the Sienna's upper cupholder pullout. Then there are the regular two cupholders in the center console plus the bottle holders in the front door bins. Odds are, you won't be lacking for beverage space in the Sienna.
Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor
March 18, 2011
All this week the Sienna has been my workhorse as I've been moving house. A moving van took care of most of what we had, but I still made multiple trips with the Sienna as a support vehicle. It's been super convenient to have. I didn't bother removing the second-row seats, but there was still plenty of room behind them (and I could put smaller items on or in front of those second-row captain chairs). I also fit a rolled-up 9-by-11-foot rug. I just hope I didn't look like the guy in the Mini Countryman commercial when I was doing it.
March 11, 2011
One of the things I love most about the layout of many minivans is that wide-open storage area in front of the center console bin. I imagine this area is designed primarily for storing purses and murses but I find it pretty useful for accommodating a grocery bag after some light shopping.
March 01, 2011
I'm recently back from maternity leave, and this was my first time in our long-term Toyota Sienna. Had my infant's rear-facing car seat cinched into the second-row passenger seat (not in this pic), and I leaned down to pick something up from the floor. Wham! Conked my noggin on that grab handle you see there. Ouch.
The space between the baby seat and the back of the front passenger seat is limited when the baby seat is rear-facing, hence the head bump. Later that day when I had to grab something from the floor, I made sure to avoid the handle.
February 21, 2011
There's a definite half-hearted feel to the interior plastics in our long-term 2011 Toyota Sienna SE. Now, I wouldn't necessarily want really nice, tactile, delicate surfaces in a minivan cabin anyway, since I'm probably not going to have the time to appreciate them before they get all coated in kid goo. Still, I feel like Toyota could have gone farther (as Nissan, Honda and Chrysler all have) to cover up the inevitable cost-cutting.
Oddly, it's the carbon fiber-inspired strips that accent the Sienna SE's dash, door panels and shifter that keep me from feeling depressed when I drive this van. Do they look authentic? Not a bit, but these strips brighten up this gray-upon-gray-upon-gray cabin without creating annoying glare in bright sunlight. And they keep my eyes off the thin, corrugated-looking plastic to either side.
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 24, 2011
Only one interior color is available for the 2011 Toyota Sienna SE, Dark Charcoal in a combination of vinyl and cloth seats with a leather-trimmed steering wheel.
The seats and carpet are certainly representative of Dark Charcoal, but the steering wheel trim, not so much.
While I like the look of the contrasting light-colored wheel, I can't help but wonder how long before it's a grubby mess.
Better wash your hands good after opening the kiddies' Cheetos and drink boxes.
Kelly Toepke, News Editor @ 5,435 miles
January 21, 2011
I really like the Toyota Sienna's wide center console. It's just like having a handy end-table next to the sofa.
But I really must get used to storing my stuff inside.
January 13, 2011
Check out that itsy bitsy teeny weenie little back-up camera screen at the top of the dash. It doesn't even fill the space allotted for it. This cavernous vehicle has some really tiny features.
Look at the audio display. It only shows the name of the song, no other information from the satellite radio. And it cuts off the name halfway across. "A Trip to the Li--" Huh?
What do you think: as big as they need to be or wasting space?
Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor
January 11, 2011
Our 2011 Toyota Sienna SE has a six-speed autobox with a manual-shift mode. Pretty common, these days. Pop the lever to the left and it goes into a manual shift "sport" mode.
Great, in theory, but I have two beefs with the way the Sienna setup works.
1) Slotting the Sienna's shifter straight to the left could and should enable a sportier automatic shift pattern, perhaps lopping off a single gear in the process. Perhaps "tow/haul" is a better name for it than "sport". Either way, think in terms of shifting from 6A to 5S, where "S" stands for this optimized pattern.
From there, manual mode would be held in reserve unless and until the driver toggled the lever up or down for an actual shift request. At this point the tranny would remain in manual mode until the lever was slotted back into "D".
Plenty of other cars work this way. It's sensible, it's easy, it works. Implementation doesn't amount to much more than software and you get three modes of operation instead of two. But no, not here. Sport mode is manual mode, period.
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 23, 2010
Day 1 is history and our 2011 Toyota Sienna SE has made it some 400 miles up the road to our first stop in Walnut Creek, Ca.
Much of that distance was spent on I-5 in California's central valley -- long, straight, boring, and just two lanes in each direction. The pack moves along pretty quickly when there aren't any slow-moving semis around. And like my northbound trip in the Mazda 2 a couple of weeks ago, today's northbound leg was a flow-of-traffic run, not a max fuel economy attempt. The idea was to drive like everyone else and see how she does.
December 22, 2010
I'm gonna see Erin's wager, and raise it a couple of nitpicks. So, not only do you have to lean far over to tune the radio, there's also no real feedback from the dial. You more or less twist and hope you land in the ballpark of your desired station. Not a huge deal, but it does pull your eyes from the road to see where you are on the dial.
Climate control: Credit to Toyota for at least doing a different design, offering some visual interest. But not feeling the quasi-Red Wing layout here, nor, again, the extended reach of some of the controls. Granted, the driver won't need much occasion to adjust passenger temp, but even the Sync button is just outta reach from the captain's chair.
And I know this is an SE, and the black nickel-look on the wheels is cool and all. But the carbon-fauxber trim treatment is a little much. That was another era, Toyota. When people still had money, homes and jobs, and historians had not yet weighed in on Vin Diesel's cinematic legacy. Let it go.
And so as to rebuff claims that I'm just a Nitpicky Peter, this van so far rules in the ways that truly count: underhood, underfoot and under traction.
Dan Frio, Automotive Editor
December 21, 2010
I'm going to go out on a limb and wager that this will be the No. 1 complaint about our new long-term 2011 Toyota Sienna SE's cabin: the center stack. Just like in our old long-term Tundra and the Sequoia, the center stack is wide and not angled toward the driver. As such, you have to reach into the Eastern time zone to tune a radio station.
Erin Riches, Senior Editor @ 2,282 miles