December 27, 2011
As minivans go, I really do like our Sienna SE. If I were buying a new minivan, the Sienna is where I'd start first. A lot of it comes down to the way it drives. The two biggest draws for me are the V6 (it's strong and sounds good) and the suspension (it's been tuned to be very comfortable without being floaty). I like using the manual gear selector, too, as it expands the accessability of the V6's power.
The other thing drawing me to the Sienna is styling. I could very well be in the minority on this one, but I just like the way it looks compared to our Odyssey or Quest.
Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor @ 22,420 miles
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.
September 09, 2011
I just spent 10 days in our long-term Odyssey moving shelving, couches, rugs and all sorts of other stuff between houses. During that time I became intimately familiar with that van's dynamics. So when the car board came around yesterday I figured this was a good time to get a back-to-back comparison with the Sienna.
Easily the biggest difference when it comes to driving these two vans is what happens when a driver opens the throttle. The Sienna is -- dare I say it -- snappy. It's eager to move out and acceleration more readily follow its driver's right foot. By comparison, the Odyssey lags. It's less anxious to get moving and downshifts at speed demand a large throttle opening and plenty of waiting.
Now, certainly, the Toyota's 17-hp advantage might have something to do with this, but I think it's more subtle than that. After all, that's peak power which occurs at 6,200 rpm. The difference I'm talking about is most obvious pulling away from a stop or rolling into the throttle on the highway -- both of which occur at lower engine speeds.
So it's torque, right?
Not so fast. The Honda actually makes more torque (250 lb-ft @ 4,800 rpm vs. 245 lb-ft @ 4,700 rpm). Without the benefit of dyno charts it's not possible to know the subtleties here, but I think we can say with certainty that they are small. Weight, too, isn't a big factor (4,460 lbs Sienna vs. 4,541 lbs Odyssey).
This difference, I'd argue, is down to two factors: Throttle and transmission calibration. And Toyota gets it right. Certainly people aren't buying minivans to be hot rods -- and I do think the Honda handles better. But when it comes to putting your right foot down, Toyota wins.
A careful look at our most recent fuel economy update corresponds with this observation showing the Sienna lagging the Odyssey by a 1.1 mpg combined average (19.5 vs. 20.6). It's a price I'd gladly pay.
Josh Jacquot, Senior editor
July 28, 2011
"Spotted in the Wild" is term that was coined by someone here to indicate a car-sighting during the course of one's daily doings. I think that someone was Caroline. And I'm hoping it wasn't Monticello, as he might request a royalty for this post.
Anyway, many of the Toyota Siennas I have seen in SoCal lately have been in SE trim. Previously, I would have thought this weird, believing that not too many people would want a sporty minivan. But the Sienna in SE trim only has better vehicle dynamics than the Odyssey (and every other minivan) and also looks better. The rest of the Siennas are worse, of course -- floaty and ugly.
The SE version of the Sienna is really good. It's the best minivan out there.
Albert Austria, Senior VE Engineer @ ~ 15,500 miles
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 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.
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
May 26, 2011
In today's post I will posit that the 2011 Toyota Sienna is the new Man Van, inheriting the title from the Dodge Grand Caravan and before it the Chevy Astro/GMC Safari twins. It's a simple three-part argument:
1) All Man Vans either have motor* or are rear-wheel drive.
2) The Toyota Sienna SE has motor.
3) Therefore, the Toyota Sienna SE is a Man Van.
But I'd press the issue even father than that by saying the Sienna looks the part of a Man Van in a big way. Just check out the monochromatic treatment going on here:
May 12, 2011
When I first heard about a sporty version of the Toyota Sienna, I chuckled to myself. At that moment, I thought that was the epitome of marketing speak, intended to impress the uninformed. A few minutes later, I found myself having lunch with one of the Sienna's designers, and to my surprise, I began to understand where he was coming from.
As it turned out, we had a lot in common, and followed similar paths in the 1990s. Had I continued on the path I was on, we could have been classmates at design school. He, like me, is into motorcycles and bought a Lotus Elise when they were finally brought over in 2004. Unlike myself, though, he grew up and started a family. I stayed behind to hold onto my youth as long as I could.
With points scored in my book, the designer began explaining the sporty SE model and I started buying into it. Why not add a hint of athleticism to a minivan? Not so much that it destroys the ride quality, but just enough to get a decent feel for the road. Maybe this is the track hauler that tows your track car up to Willow Springs, or to impress upon your numerous children that "daddy doesn't drive beige."
I got it. He won me over. I'm not the target demographic, but if I had settled down and started acting like an adult (bleeech!), maybe part of my psyche would have overlapped with the Sienna on some Venn diagram.
Mark Takahashi, Associate Editor
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 12, 2011
Have you been wondering where our long-term 2010 Toyota Sienna SE has been all week?
Well, it's been chasing a Lexus LFA around Southern California. That's right, we've been using our long-term Sienna as a chase vehicle for our Ultimate 2012 Lexus LFA Road Trip. Hey, the photo and video crews didn't fit in the $375,000 supercar, so they had to go somewhere.
I just think it's incredible that the same car company designed, engineered and built both. Lets see Ferrari do that.
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.
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.
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 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.
"The new Camry is tremendously disappointing. Compared to your car, they've cheaped out, using crappy interior plastics and putting them together poorly. Every new Camry I have sat in has different interior panels that are misaligned or different shades of grey. Sadly, people seem to keep buying Camrys and Corollas on reputation alone without driving anything else (which my friend would've done and probably still will). It's like only buying the albums of some great 80s band, despite the fact they've gotten fat, old, uninspired and simply doing it for the pay check."
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.
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:
January 02, 2011
"This is how all Siennas should drive -- maybe how all minivans should drive."
Or so we wrote in our first drive of the 2011 Toyota Sienna SE. Afterall, the SE is the driver's Sienna with SE specific wheels and tires, springing and damping rates, and its own sport calibrated electric-assist power steering.
Sounds good, right? We thought so, too. So much so that we bought one for our long term fleet. On the road our Sienna is confident and capable; something you'd be fine piloting your family up and down even the twistiest mountain road.
But with the kid seats removed and a professional test driver at the helm, what's the sporty Sienna SE do at the track?
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.
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.