The Toyota Sienna has something special going for it. If you need an all-wheel-drive minivan, look no farther than the Sienna. Actually, there’s nowhere else to look, as the Sienna is the only one, and thank you Toyota because it’s a good one.
The Sienna is focused on family, being roomy, versatile and reliable. It seats seven passengers with second-row captain’s chairs, or eight with the standard three-position bench. Side-curtain airbags protect occupants in all three rows. A rearview camera with 180-degree view is standard. Outward visibility is excellent.
Sienna got a new powertrain for 2017, a direct-injection 3.5-liter V6 mated to a new 8-speed automatic.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration gives the Sienna five stars overall, with four stars for frontal crash and rollover. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety ranked the Sienna Good in most areas, but only Acceptable for the small-overlap frontal crash procedure.
Available safety features include forward collision warning, adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, and parking sensors front and rear. With a towing package, a Sienna can haul 3500 pounds, a small boat for example.
The 2018 Toyota Sienna comes in L, LE, SE, XLE, and Limited models, plus premium editions.
Sienna L ($29,750) gets seven-passenger seating with fabric-trimmed upholstery, three-zone climate control, rearview camera, 6.1-inch touchscreen, 3.5-inch information display, Bluetooth connectivity, 17-inch wheels.
Sienna LE ($32,540) has eight-passenger seating, power sliding doors, power front seats, and a 7.0-inch touch screen. All-wheel drive with seating for seven and 18-inch wheels ($2,540) is optional. Automatic Access Seating is available.
Sienna SE Premium ($40,830) includes a 16.4-inch rear entertainment system with Blu-ray player, keyless ignition/start, and a Driver Easy Speak system that amplifies the voice.
Sienna XLE ($36,310) reverts to 17-inch wheels, with seating for eight plus woodgrain accents, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, and a moonroof. All-wheel drive with seven-passenger seating and 18-inch wheels is optional ($2,210). An Automatic Access Seat is available.
Sienna XLE Premium ($39,505) adds the Blu-ray player and Driver Easy Speak system. All-wheel drive is optional ($2,210).
Sienna Limited ($42,800) has seven-passenger seating and adds navigation, an upgraded 10-speaker stereo, 18-inch wheels, chrome exterior accents, and dual moonroof. All-wheel drive with seating for seven is optional ($1,140).
Limited Premium ($46,170) seats seven, adding the Blu-ray player and rain-sensing wipers. Adaptive cruise control and forward collision warning systems are available. All-wheel drive is optional ($1,740).
Extras include rear-seat entertainment, power sliding doors, navigation, and voice projection for communicating with back-seat passengers.
The cabin is spacious, smartly finished, conveniently laid out, and very comfortable for all passengers. The front seats are supportive. The dashboard is sweeping and contoured, with big gauges that are easy to read. Audio and climate controls are easily reached by the front passenger. A 6.1-inch touchscreen is standard. Lower trim levels also get a 3.5-inch black-and-white LCD information screen, while upper models upgrade to a 4.2-inch color display.
The standard second-row bench slides back for legroom or forward for cargo space. Removing one section provides access to the foldaway third row, which can actually carry grownups and isn’t so difficult to reach. In the Limited, reclining lounge-type seats include footrests and leg-cushion extenders. Captain’s chairs are standard with all-wheel drive, which fold but not flat.
Adults can climb in and out of the back easily, however it can be a struggle to open the side door manually from the outside, should the power doors be reluctant to respond to the key fob, which commonly happens with SUV and minivan liftgates, and sedan trunks as well.
There is a massive 39.1 cubic feet of cargo space behind the third row, and the deep well in the floor there easily holds and confines many grocery bags and boxes, superior to SUVs. With both rows folded, the space climbs to 117.8 cubic feet, not quite like a cargo van because the seats don’t fold into the floor, but still a ton of space.
The cabin of the Sienna isn’t as quiet on the highway as we would hope a family minivan to be.
The Sienna is more than okay, with a very healthy 296 horsepower from its 3.5-liter V6. It suffers no shortage of energy on the road, well above average for its class.
Tall and heavy, Sienna offers sluggish and lethargic handling. It’s slow to respond in transient maneuvers and seems to require more steering input than many SUVs. And there’s a fair amount of nose dive when braking. The SE is the sportiest model, with a tighter suspension and 19-inch wheels and tires.
The 8-speed automatic delivers upshifts so smooth they are practically imperceptible, however the engine and transmission don’t seem perfectly coordinated, as downshifting to pass can be slow. And, curiously, in the middle of a right-hand turn at an intersection, the transmission often selects a gear that’s too high (third), then is slow to get back down to second gear to accelerate. It’s disruptive and grows annoying.
The Toyota Sienna delivers cabin room, cargo space, seat comfort, convenience, versatility, safety, reliability, strong power from a V6, smooth shifting (most of the time) from an 8-speed automatic, and last but not least available all-wheel drive. All at an affordable price for the family.
Sam Moses contributed to this review, with staff reports.