For all of the diversity in its arsenal, Toyota's bread and butter are practical, family oriented vehicles. Automobiles that stand the test of time and wear. The Sienna has long ruled the road for families on road trips that need enough space to stand each other. As well, all of the comfort, safety, and fuel economy features that give Toyota its 'beige with a heart of gold' mantle. The newest model Sienna features a wide range of cosmetic, interior and power improvements. Once again making it a top contender for the minivan set. Will crossover buyers cross back into the land of the minivan? With Toyota's newest Sienna, they just might.
Last year's Sienna had a new engine and transmission, but it still looked like a prop car from a national lampoon's movie. Is this year's model more updated?
Make no mistake, the Sienna has undergone the equivalent of an Adam West to Christian Bale transition, and even if you aren't sold on the result you have to admit it's striking. The silhouette remains the same (this is still a minivan, after all) but it's front grille, side skirts and a wide range of colors do a lot to update the design and make the Sienna feel like a fresher model. The brand underwent a pretty major design overhaul across all of its models last year, so the Sienna was due for a change, and it now fits in a lot better with the most recent Toyota offerings. The design will probably undergo another iteration by decade's end but the changes such that they are making a big difference in keeping it competitive in the market. The Sierra doesn't have quite the comprehensive 'tiger nose' design as the Kia Sedona, nor does it have the streamlined (almost) elegance of the Chrysler Pacifica but it does manage to rescue families from the doldrums of stodgy minivan-dom. Small victories!
Ok, I won't be going to the Nurburgring, but I still want a car with a little bit of kick to it. Is that too much to ask on the Sienna?
Under the hood, nothing has really changed from the upgrades that were introduced last year, which is totally acceptable in light of the major overhaul that the 2017 Sienna showcased. The upgraded 3.5-liter V6 engine has an eight-speed transmission with a respectable 296 hp that is available in front or ( on the LE, XLE and Limited models) all-wheel drive, making it the only minivan on the market to do so. Its top speed will probably peak at 115 mph which, for a people mover that will likely be full of hockey gear at some point, is more than sufficient for most needs. It will go from 0 to 60 in 6.8 seconds which may not catch it up to a Bugatti on the racetrack, but will likely get the kids to practice before all the Odyssey driving moms and dads have even left their driveway.
Am I going to have to upgrade to get all of the safety features?
No! If there is one thing that should make you do a double take (because who really does double takes on minivans), it's the plethora of standard safety features that the Sienna offers. Every new car comes with automated emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, automatic high beam headlights and a lane warning system that immediately steers the Sienna back into its lane if you're swerving (a nod to the recent advances in autonomous technology). There is also forward collision warning and a pedestrian detector, so when you've got a car full of noisy critters, your car will do some of the thinking for you. As of last year, the Sienna just missed a Top Pick Safety Award because of its lower grade on the small overlap frontal test, which detects two cars coming towards each other on a small lane, but scored excellent in every other crash test. With the addition of all of these newer safety features and detection technology, drivers can expect that this will also have improved, making the Sienna one of the safest cars on the road. Toyota has always prided itself on putting safety first in its models, which has contributed to its hall-monitor-of-the-highway image, but if you're in the market for a family car, you're going to want something that delivers on security. Regardless of the upgrades that you take or leave, the safety of you and your precious cargo is nonnegotiable. You have to admire Toyota for that.
Will the cabin features and infotainment save my sanity on a long family road trip?
While it may not be the most fully loaded on the market, the Sienna has enough going on in the interior cabin to make even the longest and most boisterous trips a breeze. The newest model is over 200 inches long and has seating for 8, which allows everyone to stretch out and claim their neutral corners while the wheels are in motion. With 5 USB ports scattered throughout the cabin, there is a good chance no one will be fighting to charge their phones (at least, for a while) and higher trims come with Apple Car Play, Android Auto, and built-in WiFi. The Sienna's Entune 3.0 infotainment system is compatible with Android streaming technology. There is also a navigation app built into the system which allows you to connect your device via Bluetooth to the touchscreen so that you can bring maps into the main console without having to pay extra for WiFi connectivity. Go for the LE, XLE or Limited models, and you'll get easily washable fabric or leather seats, moonroof and power passenger seats, as well as a power-folding third-row bench. And if you're worried about your brood getting lost in all that space and technology, worry no more: Limited models give you bird's eye monitors that survey the whole cabin, as well as a Driver Speak Easy loudspeaker system that gives the last row no excuse to pretend they didn't hear you tell them to keep quiet. It'll save your sanity and your voice.
Any other cool features I might want to know about? I'm almost convinced???
While the bench seats have to be removed in order to get the most out of all that cabin room (instead of the admittedly cool Stow and Go seats in the Pacifica), the Limited models give your second row the choice of lounge seats that recline and feature leg cushion extenders and footrests, which will no doubt cause its fair share of skirmishes over who gets to pretend that they're riding in a first-class aircraft. Fuel Economy is pretty standard with 19 mpg city, 27 highway and 22 combined (though the all-wheel drive does dip a bit further below those numbers) and as of yet, Toyota isn't offering the Sienna as a hybrid. However, with the safety features that Toyota offers as standard in the Sienna, the roominess of the cabin and the added punch of an upgraded powertrain, your money goes pretty far in this kitted out people carrier.