This mid-cycle refresh includes substantial improvements to the interior's quality, ergonomics and design. Taken together this round of upgrades to the 2015 Toyota Sienna further elevates its position as one of our top-recommended minivans.
What Is It?
The 2015 Toyota Sienna represents a mid-generation refresh of this popular minivan that has previously impressed with its versatile seven- or eight-passenger cabin, smooth and powerful V6 engine, segment-exclusive all-wheel-drive system, and abundant family-friendly features. Previous complaints that largely centered on interior materials quality and the placement of commonly used controls have been addressed with this update.
Is It Me, or Does It Look Exactly the Same?
If you're looking at the pictures of the updated 2015 Toyota Sienna above and wondering whether we accidentally posted photos of last year's model instead, rest assured those are the correct photos.
Indeed, very little has changed with its exterior apart from slimmer headlight units with LED accents and certain trims getting slightly redesigned grilles or taillights. The old aerial antenna has also been replaced by a diversity antenna embedded in the rear window. According to Toyota, styling was not an area of concern for customers so it didn't try to fix what wasn't broken.
How Has the Interior Changed?
While the Sienna's interior wasn't broken, it certainly stood to be significantly improved. Flimsy, oddly textured plastics abounded, fake wood trim looked fake, and controls for the climate and entertainment system were too far away from the driver. The infotainment interface also wasn't exactly state-of-the-art, and in general, the cabin was the area in which the Sienna most clearly trailed its principal competitor, the Honda Odyssey.
That all changes for the 2015 Toyota Sienna. The materials have been greatly improved, with richer plastics and padded upper door trim. The dash is also padded and covered with stitched simulated leather, while the available wood trim is considerably more convincing and premium in appearance. The result is arguably the nicest interior look and feel in the segment, especially in the sport-themed SE trim and luxury-lined XLE and Limited.
More notably, however, those previously far-flung controls have been placed into a tidy, more sensibly designed and prominently placed cluster within easier reach of the driver. Some climate controls are a whopping 3 inches closer, which is a huge distance in automotive design terms.
The climate controls themselves are also more sensibly designed, with easily decipherable buttons, three large knobs for each climate zone (which can all be synced together now) and its own large display that liberates climate readouts from their previous spot high atop the dash. As an added bonus, it all looks much nicer.
Above the climate controls sits an audio and navigation interface offered in two different designs. The standard setup is similar to the one found in the Toyota Highlander, with either a 6.1-inch (L trim only) or 8-inch touchscreen bordered by touch-operated buttons in a matte black surround. The same basic layout of those buttons exists in the higher-end Entune system, but it features a snazzier gloss black surround as well as two levels of additional feature content.
Unlike the touch-operated buttons included with other electronics interfaces, such as MyFord Touch and Chevrolet MyLink, Entune's buttons respond consistently and are big enough and spaced apart enough to be functional at a glance. The menus and functionality of the touchscreen itself is also quite good and user-friendly, at least in the top-of-the-line unit tested. The ability to "swipe scroll" should be a welcome addition for those used to smartphones, while the redundant control knob remains for those who prefer to wheel through playlists or phonebook entries.
The gauges received an overhaul as well, with two unique designs (one for the sport-themed SE and another for everything else) that both have a classier and more premium look than the rather downmarket collection of dials they replace. The previous trip computer display on top of the dash has been relocated in between those gauges. In the upper trims, it's a larger color display that also shows redundant information from the audio and available navigation systems.
Are There Any Changes to the Interior Space and Its Functionality?
While the interior has been redecorated, the furniture remains the same. The Sienna seats seven in trims that come with second-row captain's chairs, including those in the Limited trims that feature the "Lounge Seating" extending leg and foot support. Eight-passenger capacity is achieved by a small jump seat of sorts that installs in between those two jump seats. It's less comfortable than its counterpart in the Honda Odyssey, but also stowable when not in use.
The Sienna's versatility also remains intact with second-row seats that slide further forward than most of its competitor's setups, making third-row access and storing long cargo items easier. The second row slides further rearward, too, creating an unparalleled amount of sprawl space and comfort for those in Row 2. As for Row 3, it still folds flat, which in the Limited, can be accomplished by pressing a button just under the open liftgate.
With all seats in place, Toyota says there is still enough room for five golf bags or four large suitcases. In total, there is 150 cubic feet of space in the event you lower and/or remove all seats.
Are There Other New Features Available?
Besides the Entune touchscreen interfaces, a rearview camera and three-zone automatic climate control being standard on all 2015 Sienna models, there are other noteworthy new features, especially those on upper trims.
The Limited can be equipped with a heated steering wheel, while the rear-seat entertainment system that comes standard on all "Premium" trims now comes with a Blu-ray player and an HDMI port to go with its ultra-wide screen that can display two things at once. Arguments over whether to watch Frozen or Cars should be a thing of the past.
The SE Premium, XLE Premium and both Limited trims also come with Toyota's Driver Easy Speak system. It uses the Bluetooth phone system microphone to pipe voices from the front seat back to the speakers located in the third row. It's subtle, and not indicative of the booming voice of god you may hope it to be, but it should at least aid in any declaration of "Don't make me stop this car!"
The sport-themed SE trim now comes standard with leather and is available with many of the same options and features as the upper trims. This is especially true of the new SE Premium trim. Essentially, no longer must a driver choose between a more engaging driving experience for themselves and greater comfort and convenience equipment for their family. Cake, eating it, too, etc.
What About New Safety Features?
Every 2015 Toyota Sienna now comes with some sort of blind-spot aid. Integrated mirrors are found in the L, LE and SE, while all others get a sensor-based warning system
(lights in the mirrors and audible warnings) bundled with a rear-cross traffic alert system. The front passenger seat also has a new cushion airbag that prevents submarining and the side curtain airbags have 30 percent more coverage to satisfy new government safety standards.
Will the 2015 Toyota Sienna Drive Differently?
Toyota added 142 spot welds to the Sienna's structure for increased body rigidity. This made it possible to make changes to the suspension for enhanced ride comfort and handling performance. Indeed, during a brief drive, the Sienna XLE felt less nautical in its body motions than before and instilled a greater sense of control without losing any semblance of its comfortable, cosseting ride for all board. At the same time, its steering remains rather remote, with a gooey on-center effort and turn-in that makes you feel more like a chauffeur than a driver.
If that sounds like a negative to you, there is still the 2015 Toyota Sienna SE trim level, which remains the most engaging and responsive minivan to drive. Its steering is higher in effort, far more responsive on center and generally more indicative of sporty family sedan. At the same time, it rides firmer, but we'd never deem it to be anything other than comfortable. The fact that you can now get the SE with the same sort of higher-end feature content as the upper trims should hopefully help its popularity grow beyond the current 5-percent take rate.
As for its powertrain, all Siennas come with the same carry-over 3.5-liter V6 engine good for 266 horsepower and 245 pound-feet of torque. This is a strong, smooth engine, although despite an abundance of new sound-deadening throughout the Sienna for 2015, it still gets quite noisy when really pushed. The six-speed automatic displays a willingness to downshift and its ability to be manually controlled (on extended grades, for instance) further sets the Sienna apart from the Odyssey. The same can be said for the segment-exclusive optional all-wheel-drive system.
How Much Will All This Newness Cost?
The most basic 2015 Toyota Sienna L costs $28,600, which is a $1,680 increase from last year, while the other trims increase by between $800 and $1,500. Given the added equipment and much nicer interior, this isn't entirely unwarranted. Its price is also essentially on par with the Honda Odyssey, but much more than the budget-minded Chrysler minivans.
L FWD: $28,600
LE: $31,330 FWD/$33,860 AWD
SE: $34,900 (FWD only)
SE Premium: $39,680
XLE: $35,100 FWD/$37,300 AWD
XLE Premium: $38,355 FWD/$40,555 AWD
Limited: $41,650 FWD/$42,780 AWD
Limited Premium: $45,020 FWD/$46,150 AWD
What Are Its Closest Competitors?
Honda Odyssey: This van is the closest competitor to the Sienna in virtually every respect, and should be the one you primarily cross-shop it against. Although the Odyssey has previously proved superior in an Edmunds comparison test, the Sienna's upgrades for 2015 push it that much closer to parity with its rival.
Kia Sedona: The Sedona has been completely redesigned for 2015. Thoroughly impressive in its features and style, the revamped Sedona is once again worth a look.
Nissan Quest: This would be the alternative in the minivan segment. Besides its unique styling, it boasts a luxurious cabin and a fold-flat rear-seat design that prioritizes ease of transformation over all-out capacity. We appreciated it during a long-term test and think it's worth considering.
Why Should You Consider This Minivan?
The Sienna was already one of our top rated minivans and this latest round of improvements has addressed its few flaws. It also remains the only minivan to offer all-wheel drive, so it's still the leader when it comes to all-weather performance.
Why Should You Think Twice About This Minivan?
The Sienna is still one of the more expensive minivans in the class, so if you're looking for maximum bang for your buck, there are other vans to consider first.
Edmunds attended a manufacturer-sponsored event, to which selected members of the press were invited, to facilitate this report.