2011 Toyota Sienna SE: Sport Shift Silliness
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.
2) Moving from "D" to "S" drops you from 6th to 4th gear -- 6A to 4M, if you will. Hey, what about 5th? Why not start there and let me decide if that's not low enough?
During my Oregon trip, this issue cropped up constantly when I wanted a downshift to arrest my speed on slopes, but only a little. The Cascade Range simply isn't as jagged as the Rockies or Sierras, so the Pacific Northwest is littered with long, moderate grades.
Oftentimes, 4th was too much, and I had to manually upshift almost immediately to get to 5th gear. Essentially, I was forced to shift 6-4-5, otherwise known as two steps forward, one step back.
Nice try, but methinks this could stand a rethink.
Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing @ 4,750 miles.