CHATHAM, Mass. – Once upon a time the original Toyota Sienna was the ugly duckling of minivans. Now, in its 25th year, it has evolved into a beautiful all-wheel-drive, hybrid-only thoroughly modern swan amongst automotive people movers.
We spent a comfortable week in the luxury-oriented 2023 Toyota Sienna Platinum AWD (all-wheel drive) which included the one available option package – the rear-seat entertainment system ($1,715 with 11.6-inch roof-mounted color monitor, wireless headphones, remote control and 1500W inverter to power 110 Volt accessories) as well as the video rearview mirror ($30), roof cross rails ($210) and carpeted floor mats ($260) for a segment-competitive $55,325 (including $1,335 deliver, processing and handling fee).
Minivans are all about the interior
This is a large vehicle, designed to move up to seven folks very comfortably along with their stuff. Power side doors and rear liftgate make ingress/egress as well as package loading/unloading a breeze and once inside it is all about comfort, convenience and amenities.
The leather-covered seats are heated in the first two rows while the fronts are electrically adjustable and ventilated as well. The second-row captains’ chairs have a super-long (25 inches) slide mechanism for an unbelievable amount of leg room or use of the built-in footrests.
A four-zone automatic climate system means everyone can tailor the environment for their personal comfort. And for their connection and refreshment needs, the Sienna offers seven USB outlets, WiFi and 18 cupholders.
Keeping everyone entertained is the infotainment system controlled through a nine-inch color LCD touchscreen (with supplemental steering-wheel controls as well as dash-mounted volume and tuning rotary knobs). AM/FM, satellite radio, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, streaming Bluetooth audio and a navigation system are featured in the system which pumps out the tunes and other sounds through a 1,200-watt, 12-speaker JBL Premium Audio system.
Not forgotten are those traveling in the second and third rows thanks to the 1080p HD rear entertainment system.
If interior noise level should rise, say, due to a minor altercation between certain young passengers, Sienna’s Driver Easy Speak, essentially a built-in PA system that carries the driver’s voice through the audio system’s rear speakers right to the source of the disturbance.
ADAS a major part of the Sienna safety systems
As I mentioned, this is a large vehicle, but Toyota equips the Sienna with its Toyota Safety Sense 2.0 (TSS 2.0), a suite of advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS) which, along with large windows and high seating position, makes maneuvering the 203.7-inch long by 78.5-inch wide (69.7-inch high) machine a breeze.
The ADAS roster includes:
- Blind-spot monitor
- Rear cross-traffic alert
- Pre-Collision System with Pedestrian Detection
- Lane Departure Alert with Steering Assist
- Full-Speed Range Dynamic Radar Cruise Control
- Automatic High Beams
- Lane Tracing Assist
- Road Sign Assist
The Sienna is equipped with 10 airbags: driver and front passenger airbags; driver’s knee airbag; passenger seat cushion airbag; front seat side airbags; rear outboard seat side airbags, plus curtain side airbags for all three rows.
Toyota’s included Star Safety System includes Enhanced Vehicle Stability Control (VSC) with Traction Control (TRAC), Electronic Brake-force Distribution (EBD), Brake Assist (BA), Anti-lock Braking System (ABS), and Smart Stop Technology (SST).
Additionally, features like a rear passenger seatbelt reminder and electric parking brake (EPB) – as well as a feature called Rear Seat Reminder has been part of the mix since the fourth generation was introduced for 2021.
Designed with family safety in mind, the rear occupant detection is based on door sequencing logic in which the Combi Meter MID provides a warning “Attention: Check Rear Seat for Passengers and Cargo.”
Hybrid power, all-wheel drive
A hybrid powertrain motivates all versions of the Sienna. Primary is the 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine producing 189 horsepower and 176 pounds-feet of torque. The addition of electric motors front and rear brings the output to a combined 245 hp and allows for an all-wheel-drive (AWD) system without the need for a long driveshaft (a rear motor powers the rear wheels).
The combination provides both good performance and excellent fuel economy. The strong performance is obvious when you press the accelerator pedal as response is immediate thanks to the electric motors (which generate maximum torque at 0 RPM). The AWD Sienna gets to 60 miles per hour from a standstill in under 8 seconds (according to Car and Driver).
The Sienna exhibits typical hybrid fuel economy. The federal Environmental Protection Agency rates the Toyota minivan at 35 miles per gallon in urban aa well as overall driving and 36 in highway. These numbers reflect hybrid/electric-vehicle strengths in lower-speed activity, but 36 mpg on the highway for a minivan is nothing to sneeze at.
I saw approximately 37 mpg during my week behind the wheel, a number which stands out for a vehicle like the Sienna.
The entire platform was new with the 2021 introduction of the fourth generation Sienna which features a four-wheel independent-suspension setup with MacPherson-type struts up front and a multi-link design at the rear. Both ends are bolstered by a stabilizer bar (27.2 mm front, 15 mm rear).
The power-assisted braking system features anti-lock (ABS), brake-assist, electronic braking distribution and ventilated rotors front (12.9 inches) and rear (12.5 inches).
The 20-inch metallic alloy wheels are fitted with P235/50R20 all-season tires.
A celebration of a minivan silver jubilee
Minivans take a lot of derision within the market, but they remain the best-designed vehicle at moving people and things. Large power side doors, wide aisles between or around middle-row seats and legitimate third rows — seats big enough in which adults can travel — provide cabins which cannot be matched for ease of use by even the biggest SUVs.
Add in solid room for up to seven occupants’ stuff in a package about the same size as an SUV, a minivan like the 2023 Toyota Sienna can be a perfect vehicle for all types of consumers.