December 25, 2011
While you can never hope for a White Christmas in Southern California (except for maybe in the local mountains), one of the cool things about celebrating the holiday So Cal style is heading to the beach after opening presents. And hitting the waves if you're a surfer. It was a Christmas tradition in my family for years when we lived in LA, before moving way up the coast and too far from the beach to make it a quick trip.
I was nostalgically thinking about this Christmas ritual while doing a year-end organizing of digital pics and came across this one from last summer, when Dan Frio and I took the Sienna for a surf at Malibu.
I knew my friend's 9'5' Tyler fit in our long-term 2011 Honda Odyssey Touring, and the Sienna does have a factory rack with cross rails. But rather than bothering with strapping the boards to the top, my 10-foot beater longboard and Dan's 9'2" fit snugly down the center, with a few inches to spare.
No wonder you see so many minvans at surf spots along the California coast, especially belonging to the
old dudes more mature surfers. But as grizzled surf journo Rob Gilley points out in "Ode to the Man Van," minivans are the most functional urban surf vehicles on the road -- age and image be damned.
And if a Sienna is good enough for Mavericks charger and "Brawny Towel Man" Grant Washburn, it's good enough to transport me and Frio to two-foot Malibu.
Doug "Dreaming of a White Water Christmas" Newcomb, Senior Editor, Technology
December 21, 2011
Four-year-old girl. Eight-month-old boy. Wife. Two large suitcases. One medium suitcase. One small suitcase. One garment bag. Portable crib. Space heater. Two cardboard boxes full of Christmas presents. One large cooler. One medium cooler. About six tote/reusable grocery bags full of various things. Pack of diapers. Diaper bag. Two duffel bags. Laptop bag. Two backpacks. Two pillows. (And a partridge in a pear tree.)
This was all for a nine-day holiday trip to my in-law's house yesterday. (Yes, nine days. Kill me now.) It seemed like a polar expedition with all this stuff. Just give me some sledding dogs and I would have renamed our Sienna the Endurance.
The Sienna performed admirably. And having so much space available behind the second row meant I didn't have to pack above the beltline or on the roof. Still, something smaller would have meant less space for stuff. Or maybe I need more kids to force my wife to pack more lightly.
Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor
December 16, 2011
We've been sitting on five BFG Mud Terrain T/A tires for our 2012 Jeep Wrangler for a couple weeks, wainting for the wheels to arrive. Yesterday was the day, and I wasted no time hauling them over to Stokes Tire Pros to get them mounted.
The only long-term vehicles in our fleet capable of the job are the two minivans, the 2011 Toyota Sienna and the 2011 Honda Odyssey.
I chose the Toyota because the sliding nature of its middle row allowed me to load all five 33-inch tires and five boxed 17-by-8.5 wheels in back without removing any seats. The same job in the Odyssey would have required removal of some or all of the middle row.
December 13, 2011
We put our 2011 Toyota Sienna to work over the weekend. Dan already told you about the ramp we built. Well, we had to put it in something. So we used the Sienna.
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 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...
But this is what we came up with at 5:30 in the morning, and it definitely kept the bikes stable and secure, despite some semi-aggressive cornering on my part.
November 02, 2011
It's usually an interesting challenge to fit our test gear into a car each week before we head to the track. Chris Walton, our Chief Road Test Editor, is also known as Chief Tetris Master for his ability to logically squeeze all the gear into the trunk of a car that, upon first inspection, looked far too small.
My packing abilities generally fall somewhere between pathetic and hopeless, but even I could've easily fit all the gear into the gigantic expanse of space known as the Toyota Sienna. It wasn't even a challenge for us.
On another subject, Senior VE Engineer Al Austria found that the Sienna's sunshade provided protection for his delicate skin during slalom cone-shagging/lounging in the rear seat duties.
September 28, 2011
The Sienna's expansive, flat load floor made it a breeze to roll two mountain bikes right in for an evening ride yesterday. No need to take off any wheels, lower seat posts or any of that nonsense.
A bungee cord to secure each bike and we were on our way. It's nice to get to the trailhead and then just pull the bikes out and you're set to ride. No reassembly required.
Of course the bikes and all your gear are totally safe inside the minivan if you happen to stop for some tacos post-ride, versus, say, a pickup truck or a car/SUV with a bike rack.
Mike Monticello, Road Test Editor @ 17,783 miles.
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 19, 2011
A couple weeks back I upgraded the toilets in our new old house. This weekend I made sure I had the keys to our 2011 Toyota Sienna so I could load the commodes into the back and take them to the dump.
Mission accomplished. The Sienna's low liftover height made it easy for me to lift the pitiful porcelain in and out of the ass-end of the minivan.
August 12, 2011
You've heard about all the space our longterm 2011 Toyota Sienna has, but I'll put it to you in terms you racers understand -- this thing is a 24-tire hauler. Easily. Now, that's with 195-series 14-inchers, but if you're racing on anything bigger than that, you're a baller and you own your own enclosed trailer anyway. Or a boxtruck.
Anyway, ahead of our prep for last weekend's race, my teammate Bitter Dan grew skeptical when he heard I was bringing a minivan. There was a lot to do, and much equipment to shuffle around.
Bitter Dan: Would be helpful if you could come down with the Raptor so we can pick up all the tubs, spares, and tires from the shop and bring them to my house.
Me: I'll bring a minivan
Bitter Dan: will a minivan fit our box-o-spare parts and 8 wheels/tires?
July 21, 2011
There's a little game we like to play here in the editorial department. It's called, Cargo Roulette, and the rules are pretty simple:
1. Drive home a test car and load it up with stuff you want to get rid of.
2. The next day, hand the keys over to a co-worker and force them to unload your unwanted items at their own house.
In the dark of last night, I loaded a 52-inch TV stand, a Weber grille and a wine-bottle-and-glass rack into the Toyota Sienna.
This morning, I made sure Mike Magrath was signed-out in the Sienna for tonight.
Let's see how he reacts.
Kelly Toepke, News Editor @ 15,215 miles
July 10, 2011
Today I had to haul my six-foot ladder over to a friend's house. He's about to have a new baby, so his man cave is fast being tranformed into a nursery. And today was painting day.
The good news is that our long-term 2011 Toyota Sienna swallowed the ladder with ease, as it slid right between the van's second-row bucket seats. It didn't even have to think about it. I just threw it in there.
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).
June 27, 2011
If there's one thing I hate more than math, it's moving. I despise relocating, truly, I do. For that reason, I've only moved twice in my life (rent control, FTW). My girlfriend, however, seems to make a sport out of moving, as she's changed addresses three times in three years. Like Kelly, James and Dan, I benefitted from having two minivans in our long-term lot. I managed to snag the keys to the Sienna for the move and I came away impressed, on many levels.
The Sienna can hold a lot of stuff. Duh, thanks for that breaking news, Captain Obvious. But I was still quite impressed, since we made the move in only three trips (and the last one was barely loaded). But what I really enjoyed was the amount of power our Sienna has. It pulls away from a stoplight with plenty of oomph, and doesn't sound half bad doing it. Handling and maneuverability also receive high marks, especially when dashing for, then having to parallel park in whatever opened on the street.
I've been recommending the Odyssey as the minivan of choice for quite some time, but now, I think I'll be telling people to look at the Sienna, too. Now if only it could do burnouts.
Mark Takahashi, Associate Editor
June 07, 2011
Yes, another blog about stuff in the Sienna. But for me, this was unplanned. I just happened to be lucky enough to drive the Sienna when I was in need of cargo space.
I bought a mirror a week or so ago. When was hanging said mirror last night, I noticed very small cracks in the glass. There is no real way I would have gotten this 55 lb monster into my car or my wife's car easily. Yes, our Sienna saved the day.
But when I was walking back to the van from exchanging the mirror in the store, I focused on the reflectors at the lower corners of the rear bumper. The more I looked at them, the cheaper they appeared. These were the smaller versions of the reflectors I see on school buses around here. I bet I could find this at a bike store as a part intended to attach to the spokes of a little kid's bike.
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
This weekend I stuffed a twin box spring and mattress into the Sienna without removing either of the second-row seats. And I'll have you know nothing reaffirms being fully domesticated more than hauling a kids bed around in a minivan.
Still, I can appreciate it...
May 27, 2011
I was offered the Leaf the other day to drive down to MD Automotive where we'd be running the 1M on the dyno. While I like to drive the Leaf, the range and cargo capacity was a big concern.
"What else do we have available?" I asked. The voice on the other end of the phone replied, "The Miata, the Porsche..... We have the Sienna."
Perfect solution to my problem. I grabbed the keys, headed to the studio and packed all my gear into the ample cargo area. The spring assisted 3rd row seats were super easy to drop and roll to make more room for my bulky gear. In the Honda Odyssey you have to muscle the seat into position. While it's really not a big deal in the Honda, the Sienna's ease of use is appreciated.
Scott Jacobs, Sr. Mgr, Photography
May 17, 2011
I'm in the process of moving and I had to transport a few bits of unneeded furniture to the Great Kelly Toepke Garage Saleapolooza 2011 that'll be taking place this weekend. While I used the Odyssey last time around for moving a whole heap of boxes, I took the Sienna this time to compare how it does as a moving van.
May 16, 2011
What's more of a pain than selling your house? Moving out of it.
But I must say, having the Toyota Sienna in our long-term fleet makes moving nearly tolerable. I did countless quick runs between the houses this weekend, some in the rain, and having a minivan was way better than being at the mercy of the weather while using our Ford Raptor.
There's not much you can't get into a Sienna. Trust me, I've tried.
Kelly Toepke, News Editor @ 11,797 miles
May 09, 2011
How many pieces of IKEA furniture fit in the back of a Toyota Sienna with the second-row seats still in place?
Kelly Toepke, News Editor @ 11,117 miles
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 07, 2011
What do you do when you're expecting five diminutive fairies for a tea party and none of the furniture you own will suffice? You rent. And when you have a minivan like our 2011 Toyota Sienna, you pick up the rentals yourself.
That's a 6-foot by 30-inch banquet table (with cute short legs, cuz fairies are little, right?) and six child-size wooden folding chairs (again, fairies = tiny). As you can see, there's plenty of room for even more stuff on either side of the table, and I didn't have to fold or remove the second-row seats (a big plus, because that would have also meant removing the kid/baby seats installed therein and I hate having to re-install those seats when I don't have to).
This was the first time I'd stowed the third-row seats in the Sienna, and I found it to be fairly easy, though it took me two tries to get it right. I'm gonna have to get some time in our LT Odyssey and play with the third row seat, to see how they compare.
February 17, 2011
I've been in a minivan state of mind all week, so I've treated myself to some quality time in our long-term 2011 Toyota Sienna SE. I was actually pretty lukewarm on the Sienna during our recent minivan comparison test, and the general feeling among the editors who participated was that the Toyota won on the strength of its all-around package -- capable in nearly all areas, but not endearing on a personal level.
Yet, the more I drive the Sienna, the more I like it.
The suspension tuning and the electric power steering calibration are really spot-on. Everything about the way this van moves as you turn a corner or back into a parking spot feels precise and effortless. Here, I've effortlessly and extra-legally backed into a loading/fire zone to return the big Zappos box (2 of the 7 pairs fit)... I ran into the store for 30 seconds and put the hazards on.
Although you never forget you're driving around in a great big box-shaped vehicle, the Sienna has a way of masking its weight that I like. Crossovers feel leaden and cumbersome to me, but this Sienna feels a good 500 pounds lighter than it actually is.
Erin Riches, Senior Editor @ 6,882 miles
February 09, 2011
Minivans rival the utility of any other style of vehicle. Fold the third row seats into the floor of our 2011 Toyota Sienna and pile in the cargo. It's great. My only problem with the Toyota is the second row of seats. If they were as easy to stow as the third row, I wouldn't have had to make another trip to transport the last box.
January 19, 2011
Last week I attended Cookie Sales Training so my Girl Scout troop would be ready for the start of cookie sales this week.
Devout followers of the Long-Term Road Test blog know I've been Cookie Mom for our troop for the past several years, and therefore am responsible for picking up our full order from the cookie warehouse. Every year I decide what long-term car to take based on the number of cases we pre-sold.
The chart above was provided at the training class.
Guessing the Toyota Sienna will handle more than your average "mini van."
Kelly Toepke, News Editor
January 06, 2011
I bought a treadmill and since its box was abso-freakin'-lutely enormous, I needed an abso-freakin'-lutely enormous vehicle to transport it. Actually, I shall be more precise -- I needed an abso-freakin'-lutely long cargo hold to transport it.
Luckily, we had just purchased our long-term Sienna (this was just after Thanksgiving before we officially announced it) so it seemed like a good vehicle for the job. Was it though?
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.