2011 Toyota Sienna XLE: Just heavenly

11 May 2011 | 2,104 views | No Comment
By Don Hammonds I think I've gone to minivan heaven. I just finished testing Toyota's new 2011 Sienna minivan, and it's a winner for so many reasons it's hard to know where to begin. But generally, this seven passenger Sienna XLE all-wheel drive minivan has everything I've ever wanted on a family hauler, except for a hybrid engine to really boost the mileage. The all-wheel drive feature--an exclusive with Sienna--is worth the price of admission alone for snowy Pittsburgh. The new Sienna has terrific new features I haven't found anyplace else, at least yet. For instance, entry and exits for the second and third  row have been made far easier because of a feature that gives the second row seats a lot longer travel space than what you find on other minivans. In fact, the "Long Slide" second row seats offer almost two feet of fore and aft adjustability for added legroom and easy access to the third row. As an added attraction, the Sienna's third row seats can be stowed quickly underneath the cargo floor and the "Tip Up" and "Long Slide" second row seats can be moved all the way forward, which makes a really huge cargo area available for your use. Then there's the fabulous lounge seating option for the second row.  A simple lifting of a handle on the side of the seats turns them into an automotive lounge chair as the bottom front of the seat becomes an elevated rest for your legs and the back portion of the seat reclines. Perfect for napping or watching the passing sceneray as you cozily take a break. Great! There's plenty of other new features for the Sienna.  They include a dual view entertainment center, a dual moonroof with a front power tilt/slide feature as well as a rear slid feature.  It also offers a panorama camera that has an integrated backup camera with two views--regular mode and wide mode-- and on screen backup guides.  Other new stuff includes a sliding center console that also is fantastic.  Hitting an easy-to use handle on the top causes the rear part of the console to open side to almost file cabinet size.  It's wide enough and practical enough to be used for a host of things. Also new: a pre-collision system,  vehicle dynamics integrated management system, automatic high beam headlights, aluminum alloy wheels and several other things. Our car had the 266 horsepower, 3.5 liter V-6, rated aty 16/22, with estimated annual fuel cost of $2,168 based on gasoline selling for $2.60  per gallon and 15,000 miles.  Acceleration was pretty swift for a minivan, and the engine operation was so quiet and tranquil that it was almost intoxicating.  And if you decide to buy either the Sienna base model or LE grades, you can get a 2.7 liter fouyr cylinder engine that gets even better gas mileage On top of it all, the Toyota Sienna is actually pretty--sleeker and more elegant than most of its competitors, with a particularly contemporarty and aggressive looking grille and front end.  Problems and concerns?  If you're used to the pretty lush looking wood and chrome trim seen on some previous high-line Siennas, you'll find that the new model looks somewhat plainer inside with less wood trim and what seems to be more hard plastic surfaces. I think it's more tasteful now, but some of you who love the glitz might think otherwise.   I also noticed a couple of loose screws and stray plastic parts, but given that this is a press car and journalists often abuse the heck out of a car, I am reluctant to assume that's the fault of Toyota. It's just as likely to be careless media handling. I also found the controls for the air conditioning and climate system to be somewhat confusing and counter-intuitive, with a circular dial that it took some getting used to. And the last problem I had was the price:  a rather lofty $38,661. But that's probably because I would dearly love to see this car in my driveway and know that I can't afford it.  But on the other hand, there are several other less costly Siennas that are plenty enticing too. .

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