Forget the mom-mobile stigma. Get past the rugged good looks of those crossovers. Minivans are still the ideal family haulers. And Toyota's Sienna returns for 2017 as one of the best choices among the breed.
Before listing all the virtues of a minivan, we concede that minivans will never get star treatment on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills or generate much drama on a twisty mountain road. But that's not their purpose. They're optimized for the life stage that lasts from the moment Kid No. 1 arrives to the point where Kid No. 4 is shipped off to college. For those 20 or so years of parenthood, the Toyota Sienna makes gobs of sense.
It's all about cargo space, sliding side doors, and seats enough for your kids, the neighbor kid and the Labradoodle. These are the sorts of things that seem unimportant when you're single but are utterly vital to successful progeny-raising. Your minivan won't be coddled, cherished or even washed regularly. It's going to be worked until it's a mere husk of what it once was.
Toyota last fully redesigned the Sienna back in 2010 and updated it in 2015. That 2015 update included better interior materials, some tweaked controls and a reorientation of the center touchscreen to bring it closer to the driver. But that update didn't touch the mechanical essence of the machine.
On the other hand, the 2017 update brings some substantial changes: The V6 engine is new, and it's now lashed to a new eight-speed automatic transmission.
As before, the engine is a 3.5-liter V6, but it's been equipped with Toyota's D-4S injection system, which uses direct fuel injection to bounce output up by 30 horsepower to a full 296 horsepower.
Toyota says that in combination with the new transmission, this new engine should get better mileage too. The EPA ratings are up slightly, with the 2017 front-wheel-drive Sienna now rated 22 mpg combined (19 city/27 highway). Compared to the 2016 Sienna, it's up 1 mpg in the combined rating.
The Sienna also remains the only minivan in North America available with all-wheel drive, which is nice.
The 2017 Toyota Sienna can be had in trim levels ranging from the rugged and straightforward LE to the indulgent and leather-lined Limited. Still it's about as mainstream in its engineering and substance as any new vehicle on the market. Whatever Sienna configuration is best for your family, Edmunds can help you find it.