2011 Toyota Sienna SE: Oregon Run, Day 1
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.
For a while it looked like we'd make it to our first overnight stop on a single tank. But with 11 miles to go, the distance-to-empty gauge was predicting roadside ruin, so I stopped and filled up short of our goal.
At 385 miles from home the Sienna gulped 16.93 gallons, which amounts to 22.7 mpg. The EPA highway rating is 24 mpg, so that performance isn't too shabby in the face of not really trying. For reference, its EPA combined rating is 20 mpg.
Now for the frustrating part: turns out we could have made it -- easily. The Sienna's gas tank holds 20 gallons, meaning I had three gallons and 70 miles yet to run. Sure, I don't like to push it untill it runs dry, but another 25 miles or so would have been no trouble, no risk. Now I know.
Like all modern minivans (and the Flex), a deep storage well is revealed when the 3rd row is in use. Here the "60" half is up, and our four suitacases are standing in the well, 2-by-2, with the top third visible. They alone would have filled the Crosstour to about 90 percent of its "seats up" capacity. Gifts are stacked eveywhere else, but there's enough space that I didn't have to play Package Tetris, and I can still see easily through any of the windows.
Tracy's big gripe about the Sienna SE was its distinct lack of seat heaters. Don't ask me, because I don't get it. But they're something she really likes, and she leaves them on almost all the time in cars that have them.
Our SE also lacks rear seat video screens, so we brought our own. There's no 120V outlet back here, so the kids had to leave the Wii console at home. And the SE has no navigation system, and it's not even on the option sheet. That's less of a problem at the moment, because I have an iPhone, Tracy carries a Droid and both have Google maps guidance.
This is where I have a problem with Toyota's SE option strategy. Who says you don't want navigation, seat heaters or video support just because you prefer the SE's sportier look, bigger tires and firmer suspension? But if one moves "up" to the trim grades that offer these features, the SE goodies are lost. That's a problem for me.
As for the drive itself, the SE's firm(er) suspension feels just about right. There's no float, no wallow and the steering is nicely weighted around center. It tracks straight and true, and no one remembers feeling the least bit woozy at any point during the day.
Tomorrow's roads climb into the coastal mountains, where the flowing corners of Highway 101 will give us a more complete picture of the SE's suspension and tire package and its level of puke resistance.
Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicel Testing @ 2,755 miles