Tuesday, January 25, 2011

2011 Toyota Sienna Review

The 2011 Toyota Sienna may be the Japanese automaker's third-generation minivan, but Toyota emphasizes that the new Sienna is becoming more carlike than ever. Toyota says the base price of the 2011 Sienna will come in below the current vehicle's $25,000 price point. Competition includes the Dodge Grand Caravan and Chrysler Town & Country, the Kia Sedona, the Nissan Quest and the Honda Odyssey.

The 2011 Sienna has new body panels with a more dynamic front end, but it's nothing to draw a flashmob or attract civil disobedience. Inside, the Sienna has adopted the latest Toyota styling theme, with a dramatic arc separating driving controls from secondary and passenger-shared controls. Plastic trim is replaced on some versions by matt woodgrain trim; pricier versions get Optitron gauges like those in some Lexus models.

The "Toyota Sienna is redesigned for 2011", and reviewers agree that it’s a far better minivan than before. No longer stuck behind the Honda Odyssey, the new Sienna takes on the former class leader in dynamics and comfort, while losing the bland styling that marked the previous Sienna. Most reviewers say that the 2011 Sienna is the best minivan on the market.

Muscular and shapely, the new Sienna’s design infuses style into a segment marked by anonymity. Stepping inside the 2011 Sienna reveals an all-new interior as well. The base Sienna is one of the least expensive minivans, but Dodge and Kia also offer minivans at similar starting prices. The Sienna also stands out as the only minivan on the market to offer optional all-wheel drive.

New for 2011 is the sporty SE model. Reviewers generally favor the driving characteristics of the Odyssey over the Sienna, commenting that only the sporty SE Sienna can compete with the Odyssey for road manners.

Falling short dynamically compared to the Sienna and Odyssey, the Town & Country, Dodge Grand Caravan are viable alternatives to Toyota’s latest minivan effort. While the Sienna was not involved in Toyota’s accelerator pedal recall, some critics have begun to raise questions about Toyota’s quality.

There are five trims available on the 2011 Sienna: base, LE, SE, XLE and Limited. SE models are differentiated by sporty exterior touches, and recalibrated steering and suspension tuning for a sportier driving experience.

Though flawed in a couple key respects, the Sienna's fundamentals are sound. The Sienna comes in five trim levels: base, LE, SE, XLE and Limited.
The Sienna's 36.9-foot turning circle nearly ties Honda (36.7 feet) and beats Chrysler vans' 39.1-foot circles.

Base, LE and XLE models carry 17-inch alloy wheels. The outgoing Sienna's five-speed automatic felt far more responsive. (Yes, even minivans can have cool exhaust notes.) I did not sample a Sienna with all-wheel drive. Toyota's 2.7-liter four-cylinder, of recent Venza and Highlander vintage, comes standard on front-wheel-drive base and LE models. At the L.A. Auto Show, where the Sienna was introduced, I puzzled over the wisdom of offering a four-cylinder on a large minivan. The V-6 Sienna gets a competitive 18/24 mpg with front-wheel drive and 16/22 mpg with all-wheel drive.

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