2017 Toyota Sienna Limited AWD

2017 Toyota Sienna Limited Premier AWD (Staff Photo)

2017 Toyota Sienna Limited Premier AWD (Staff Photo)

Writer : Bill Boekholder - Photos : Toyota USA

I recently had the pleasure of reviewing the new 2017 Toyota Sienna minivan for a working trip up north to Battle Creek Michigan. This being a 4.5 hour trip, one way, I knew I would be able to use most, if not all the bells and whistles this minivan provided, and I was correct for the most part, but yet, it was a minivan

Photos provided by Toyota USA

Photos provided by Toyota USA

First impressions where, it’s a minivan, another young couple (with kids) or older persons (with grandkids) mode of transportation. To say the least, I wasn’t happy because I was expecting a vehicle with a little more pop and pizazz, some flash, some cool rims and a kicking stereo, not a minivan. It didn’t take long for me realize how nice a vehicle it was to drive and relax in.

Let’s talk a little about the nuts and bolts of this minivan. The 296 horsepower, 3.5 litre V6, AWD, makes it more than a minivan. This vehicle has a lot of get up and go, something I was seriously surprised by. For just putting around the town it does seem a little lacking in power, as it should, you’re just going to get groceries or pick up the kids from soccer. Once you get it out on the highway, the surprise comes the first time you go to pass a vehicle and you smash the gas pedal down. It might not be necks snapping speed, but it did get my attention and put me back in my seat a bit. Combined with the AWD, this so called minivan, handled like a sports car on rails. Power was there, steering was tight and neutral. It got around cars and trucks with no problems at all running at the speed limits provided and all with the giddy up and go of a smaller car or a luxury sedan.

Photo provided by Toyota USA

Photo provided by Toyota USA

The exterior was typical minivanish, solid color paint job; maybe a two tone paint or body strip would break it up a little, boring rims are just that, boring. What I liked was coming up on the van at night and pressing unlock on the key fob. The exterior lighting for the driver and passenger side lite up the side door areas real well. The passenger back doors take a little getting used to; I’m not used to using door handles with a delay in the door actually opening. The same can be said of the rear hatch style door. It would be nice if it was motorized like the side doors are when you manually opened it. It’s not a heavy door and is motorized, but if you don’t use the key fob to open it, it can be a little awkward. The roof rack really needs to have some cross bars to help with the various attachments you might need to haul a kayak or maybe some bikes. The two sun roofs are both adequate in size and are a nice feature for the passengers in the back to have their own.

The interior is spacious and accommodating. The third row of stow and go seats are easy to store and just as easy to put back up. The second row of seats move all the way up for easy entry and egress from the third row. With the second row seats all the way up, you have massive amounts of room to put stuff in the back. Since the seats move independently of each other, you can still haul one person and have plenty of room to haul stuff. The front seats are comfortable with plenty of electric adjustments to fit virtually anyone. The nice feature of two preset positions for the driver seat will definably come in handy if you are 6’ 2” and your wifey is 5’4”.

Photo by Toyota USA

Photo by Toyota USA

Sitting in the driver’s seat is like sitting in your own little world of funness. The gauges and controls are strikingly easy to read and operate. Nothing seems out of reach of any driver of any size. Knobs, buttons and the touch screen are well marked and easy to operate. I had to reset the clock because of the time zone changes; it was an absolute snap to do, just like the rest of the controls. The rear doors and rear hatch buttons are in their own little overhead console, combined with the sun roof controls, make this a nice feature. The steering wheel controls are also easy to use, but I wish they would put the cruise control on the steering wheel as well. My only complaint about anything is the location of the cruise control stalk, it’s awkward to use and when you’re on the highway and have to constantly use it, it becomes a bit annoying. The driver’s cockpit is generously equipped with the usual collision avoidance switches that are easy to turn off and on if they become a bother. The headlights are bright, maybe too bright as I was flashed at a couple of times while the lights where on low beam, but they did what they were supposed to do and that is to light up the road.

My only complaints were the cruise control, which I feel Toyota could and should do better. The other would be the outlets for plugging in 12 volt chargers and such. The middle passenger had none in the back of the center counsel or on the sides. There are plenty up front and in the rear of the vehicle. The 110/120 volt plug in the back area would be much more useful if it was a three prong grounded outlet. The USB ports are easily accessible and there are enough to go around, except for the middle seated passengers.

Overall I thought this was a well-equipped and well laid out vehicle that would suit any number of people. If I were to scale it, I would give it a solid nine out of ten. It was pleasant vehicle to drive and it didn’t disappoint me, my passengers or my equipment.

Like to thank Toyota USA for the opportunity to review this vehicle.  Any questions please contact your nearest dealership. 

 

2015 Toyota Sienna XLE AWD

As a husband and father of two, sometimes I think about what it would be like if I bought a minivan.  That jump from having a 2 or 4 door vehicle cool looking car to a big minivan is a leap I don’t often think about.  Well this week I had opportunity to spend some time with one of the best-selling mini vans in the market, and now my wheels are turning.

The new 2015 Toyota Sienna XLE AWD showed up and I was pretty excited to have the opportunity to spend some time with this vehicle and tow my family around Chicago.  First off, yes it was a minivan, but it had a nice appearance to it.  The sleek front headlights and chrome grill really set it off.  Some minivans I’ve seen just look stretched out or look like a bad plastic surgery job.  Not in this case.  This year it received a face lift adding a different grill, LED driving daylights integrated with the headlights, turn signals on side mirrors and a slightly updated front bumper.  Toyota left the rest of the vehicle with minimal changes from the previous year. 

The biggest changes I noticed were in the interior.  I had opportunity to review 2014 model and I wasn’t too impressed.  I thought it was too boring and there was not much that stood out to me.  Now, a year later, I stepped inside this new model and I was blown away.  It’s a night and day difference on what they changed, especially with the dash.  The pictures do all of the talking in this case.    

Overall this vehicle is great for a large family and/or those needing the extra space.  Living in downtown Chicago, it did give me some issues due to size but nothing that I wouldn’t get used to.  It drove really nice and my family really enjoyed the massive amount of room and the added bonus of the entertainment/multimedia features.  The flip down wide screen monitor was a big plus with its split screen viewing.  Might be a bit much on having two video sources being played but great to entertain the age difference on long trips.  Big plus is that this model is equipped with all-wheel drive and run flat tires.  Great for areas that receive a lot of snow like Chicago.  For gas mileage I was averaging 22 mpg in the city and high 20’s in the highway.  Not bad for a large vehicle. 

Check out the 2015 Toyota Sienna…it might just get you thinking about a minivan too!  I'd like to thank Toyota and Drive Shop for the opportunity to review this vehicle.

2014 Toyota Sienna XLE AWD

2014 Toyota Sienna XLE AWD

 

 

Click on image to be re-directed to Toyota official website. 

Click on image to be re-directed to Toyota official website. 

Toyota has come a long way with the new Sienna.  It has been a few years since I was last in one and wow, how fast time flies.   At review time, we had an almost 3 year old and another one due any moment, so this was a great test for us to experience the minivan world.  Both my wife and I have not really been fans of minivans due to how big and bulky they look.  Living in big city we thought it would be a tough challenge to get around.  

 

First impression – typical minivan, big and bulky, though I did like what Toyota did on attempting to make it look little more sporty and modern.   As I got inside the vehicle, I noticed that the driver’s seat was really comfortable.  However, the whole dash area felt really outdated and not very functional to me.  Though everything was simple and easy to figure out, the layout was not the greatest.  The control screen was very small and located on top of the dash in the middle.  I guessed (correctly) that there would be a struggle to see it while driving.  The media screen also seemed outdated.  It looked to be an older Panasonic double din from the mid 2000’s.  It was hard to reach and use, and it just did not fit the large dash area available to work with.

 

The passenger area had two captain’s chairs in the middle and a split back bench.  Much like the front seat, I found these to be very comfortable.  The middle seats had a good amount of room to be moved forward and back, and had a recline much like a Lay-Z-Boy.  How convenient for long trips like the one we were planning in a couple of months.   I thought for sure my wife, being nine months pregnant, would love that feature, but she thought that it was a bumpy ride, above and beyond what we would expect with our rough city roads.

 

The back row had 60/40 folding seats that sunk into the floor.  This gave a great amount of room to load up after a long day of shopping or a massive Costco run.  Even with the seats in their upright position, there was a fair amount of room for passengers or cargo.


Though my wife was not a fan, our three year old LOVED it.  For me it was a breeze to install the Britax convertible car seat, which was even better when you think about the sliding doors to access it.  Once I opened the door, he jumped right in and got into his seat, after running around to check everything out of course.  He really liked sitting high as he could see the sights as we were driving, not just the top part of the back door in our sedan.


For the driving part, it proved to be smooth enough for my son to be knocked out in about five minutes.  I made a trip to the suburbs and the ride was, for the most part, comfortable from my perspective.  The hardest thing was seeing the small dash monitor and navigation screen.  They were just too small for the humongous dash.  When I tried to change radio channels or enter an address to the navigation, it was just small and difficult to read.   The dash itself was all plastic.  I mean the whole football field size of a dash. I really was shocked by this.  Maybe when they designed it they were looking for an easy way to clean up after a food fight in the car.  I don’t know, but I personally would desire better quality and appearance if I would be paying over $40k for the vehicle.  

 

Comfort wise, other than my wife’s complaints above, there was one thing that really got to me the longer I drove it.  The front and middle armrests were super thin, which begs the question, why bother?  It really got on my nerves when I would try to relax my elbow on it and it would just fall off.  With the amount of room in the front and middle areas, I would think that Toyota could find a way to put wider armrests in for comfort.  They did add a total of 4 cup holders, a massive center console to store things and a double glove compartment, which means bonus points in my book.  The center console also moved by an extra foot to give 2 cup holders to the middle row. 

 

Overall I think with just a few improvements, this could be a flagship vehicle in the minivan world.  I really enjoyed the amount of space it had, as well as the numerous room adjustments you could perform by simply sliding the middle row.  I didn’t have to help my son when we were heading out; he could jump right in and into the car seat.  He has great view out the window and when we have our second child, I know how convenient it would be to haul around the entire lot of baby gear we would need for the day.  The vehicle really didn’t give me good gas mileage.  Might be for the fact it was an awd, but it averaged only 12 mpg.  Highway did better but it sure ate some fuel driving in the city.  For the size, it was pretty easy to get around.  Yeah I felt big initially, but it grew on me.  My wife just doesn’t like minivans, so it didn’t really grow on her.  (That can also be attributed to the fact that she was thinking of other things, like the impending arrival of our second son.)  I do think that in the future, she could be swayed when we start needing the extra room for sports practice, hauling friends around, etc. 


Personally, I am looking forward to getting the 2015 model soon to see what improvements have been made.  I would hope to see an updated center console with bigger screens and easy controls, along with wider and bigger arm rests.  I think those would make the van a perfect vehicle for our family.

click on image to be re-directed to Toyota website

click on image to be re-directed to Toyota website