Toyota Sienna Review

Toyota Sienna ReviewThe Toyota Sienna is roomy, comfortable and does everything well. It's easy to live with and comes loaded with features that make life easier and more convenient. Everything operates exactly as people expect, so equipment struggles are rare. Its smoothness and convenience allows the vehicle to fade into the background while you go about your life.

On the road, the Sienna delivers a smooth ride, responsive handling, and brisk acceleration performance. Its 230-horsepower V6 engine and five-speed automatic transmission deliver responsive throttle response while variable valve timing assures good fuel economy. The Sienna is rated to tow up to 3500 pounds.

The Sienna has a strong reputation for safety. Front seat-mounted side-impact airbags plus side curtain airbags for all three rows are now standard on all models. A rear-view camera is available to help the driver spot objects or children behind the vehicle when backing up. All-wheel drive is available for more secure travel in foul weather well.

In short, the Toyota Sienna is one of the best minivans available for 2006, and it may be the best.

Completely redesigned for the 2004 model year, the Sienna features gets some upgrades for 2006. The styling has been freshened in the form of new headlamps and fog lamps, a revised grille, and redesigned tail lamps. A new power folding third-row seat for the Sienna Limited model makes switching from carrying people to cargo easier. The available rear-seat entertainment system features a larger, nine-inch LCD screen, while a universal mini-jack port now comes on all audio systems for connectivity to portable music players. New, power folding mirrors on 2006 Limited models feature puddle lamps and turn signals. New Optitron gauges, similar to those used by Lexus, come on 2006 LE, XLE and Limited grades.

The 2006 Toyota Sienna comes in four trim levels: CE, LE, XLE, and XLE Limited. All come with the 3.3-liter V6 and five-speed automatic. All are equipped with anti-lock brakes (ABS), electronic brake-force distribution (EBD) and brake assist, which together help the driver maintain control when braking and swerving to avoid an accident. There's a choice of front-wheel drive and all-wheel drive. All models come standard in seven-passenger configurations; eight-passenger variations are available on the CE and LE.

Sienna CE ($23,625) and all other models come standard with a 60/40 Split & Stow third-row bench seat, power windows, door locks and mirrors, sliding doors on both sides with power windows, keyless entry, AM/FM/cassette/CD with six speakers, and dual-zone (front and rear) air conditioning with rotary dial controls. The CE comes with 16-inch steel wheels with 215/65R16 all-season tires, captain's chairs for the first and second rows (for seven-passenger capability), a folding tray table between the front seats, tilt/telescopic steering column, black lacquered interior trim, tire pressure warning system, variable intermittent front and rear windshield wipers, 10 cup holders, four bottle holders, three 12-volt power outlets, and a heavy-duty rear window defogger with timer. All grades now have a universal audio mini-jack port and MP3 capability standard. New High Solar Energy-Absorbing glass on the windshield and front side windows helps reduce cabin temperature. An eight-passenger CE is also available ($23,775).

The Sienna LE ($25,130) is the most popular model. The LE comes with nicer cloth fabric, upgraded trim, the new Optitron instrumentation, and a host of convenience features: engine immobilizer, audio controls on the steering wheel, heated power mirrors, a roof rack, privacy glass, cruise control, driver's seat manual-adjustable lumbar support, illuminated vanity mirrors, color-keyed license plate garnish, and a fold-flat front passenger seat. The LE is available with all-wheel drive ($28,745). It's also available as a front-drive, eight-passenger model ($25,280).

Sienna XLE ($29,425) is more luxurious, with yet another level of upgraded fabric; dual power sliding side doors and a power open/close liftgate; tri-zone climate control (driver, front passenger, and rear) with air filter; 16-inch alloy wheels; eight-way power adjustable driver's and front passenger's seat; six-way power adjustable passenger seat; JBL Synthesis 360-watt AM/FM/cassette/CD stereo with 10 speakers, rear seat audio controls and wireless headphone capability; overhead console with trip computer, outside temperature display, and HomeLink universal transceiver garage door opener; leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls; wood-grain trim, in a lighter grain for 2006; chrome door handles; color-keyed heated power mirrors; auto on/off headlights; fog lamps; an anti-theft alarm; removable center console; and 16-inch aluminum wheels. XLE is available only in the seven-passenger configuration. XLE is available with all-wheel drive ($32,630).

The XLE Limited ($35,880) adds leather-trimmed seats and other luxury features. XLE also comes standard with dynamic Laser Cruise Control, wood grain/leather steering wheel with audio controls, six-disc CD changer, second- and third- row sunshades, high intensity discharge (HID) headlamps, driver and front passenger heated seats, chrome accents on bodyside molding, grille and rear license plate garnish, daytime running lights, windshield wiper de-icer grid, an auto-dimming electrochromic driver's side mirror and inside rearview mirror, 17-inch alloy wheels with 225/60R17 all-season tires, and heated outside mirrors with memory, puddle lamps and integrated turn signals. The Limited is available with all-wheel drive ($38,080).

Safety equipment on the XLE Limited is upgraded with electronic stability control (VSC) with traction control and Brake Assist, rear disc brakes, and front and rear sonar park assist.

All Sienna AWD (all-wheel drive) models come with four-wheel disc brakes, electronic stability control and traction control, windshield-wiper de-icer, and P255/60R17 all-season run-flat tires on aluminum wheels.

Option packages are numerous. Of note for 2006, Sierra's optional rear seat entertainment screen has been increased in size from seven to nine inches.

Standard safety features include three-point seatbelts in all seats with adjustable seatbelt anchors for front- and second-row seats; driver and front passenger pretensioners and force limiters; height-adjustable head restraints in all seating positions; low tire-pressure warning system; child-protector sliding door locks; pinch protection function with auto-reverse on available power sliding doors; and a new LATCH (Lower Anchor with Tether for Children) system used in all second-row seating positions to accommodate new-design child seats. Standard safety equipment on all models includes front seat-mounted side-impact airbags for driver and front passenger and curtain airbags designed to provide head protection for all three rows of seats.

WalkaroundToyota Sienna Review
This second-generation Toyota Sienna was designed in California, engineered in Michigan, and is built in Indiana. It was redesigned and launched as a 2004 model, with the wheelbase lengthened five inches and the track widened by four inches over the older, first-generation Sienna, a dramatic change. Measuring 200 inches front to rear, on a 119-inch wheelbase, the Sienna is a big vehicle. There's nothing mini about it.

Overall, with its big headlamps and big taillamps, restyled for 2006, the Sienna has an imposing presence, especially at night. Black window pillars and extensions on the steeply raked windshield lend a sleek appearance and make it look even larger than it is. Nevertheless, the overall impression of strength is undercut a bit by the proportionally smaller wheels and grille. The grille has been restyled for 2006 models.

A big windshield, big wipers, and wiper-mounted washer nozzles were designed to improve driver visibility in the worst conditions the Snow Belt can dish up. The slot for the sliding doors is cleverly hidden, offering a cleaner look.

The Sierra won't inspire macho envy at the carwash, but it is an attractive vehicle and unsurpassed for utilitarian practicality.

InteriorToyota Sienna Review
The Toyota Sienna boasts a roomy interior, with lots of space for passengers and cargo. Fold the second- and third-row seats flat and it can carry 4x8 sheets of plywood.

Getting in and out is easy. Sienna's power sliding doors and power rear liftgate work superbly. Step-in height is about six inches lower than that of the Sequoia SUV, a benefit when dressed up or dealing with toddlers or dogs, or just about every time you get in or out. The power sliding doors are smooth and quiet and move relatively quickly, a good feature when dealing with impatient passengers (and aren't they all impatient?). Manual sliding doors and the manual rear hatch on LE and CE models have a quality feel as well. But the power doors are a nice convenience.

The rear side windows lower partly, but not below the center of gravity of a toddler, and feature anti-pinch protection designed to reduce chance of injuries to small hands and fingers. A nice feature is the availability of sunshades for the second- and third-row seats, as they filter strong sunlight even better than privacy glass.

The driver sits before a smooth, organic dash, though the center stack looks a bit tacked on, especially with the faux-wood trim on the Limited model. The seats are comfortable, even for long drives. The steering wheel tilts and telescopes. Big mirrors and lots of glass give the driver a good view. The dash-mounted shifter seems unusual at first and has a bit of a spindly feel. The heating/air conditioning system works well and features dual front seat controls that are easy to sync by pressing a button. Switches for the power sliding doors and power rear liftgate are overhead.

Trim materials improve as you go up the line, but are of good quality even on the base CE model. The CE comes with a nice cloth interior, though the door inserts are plain. LE features nicer cloth, nicer door inserts, and other trim. XLE offers even better cloth. The Limited is upholstered in leather.

There are lots of cubbies for storage. Two glove boxes are provided. A big center console holds 12 CDs. Armrest compartments each hold six CDs, and there's a spot for a small cell phone just to the right of the shifter. The dry cleaning hooks look big enough to accomodate big loads. Hooks in back are provided for plastic grocery bags. A standard 115-volt outlet, like the kind in your house, is provided, allowing you to power computers or other small electronic appliances from your car, though a blow dryer might be pushing. All models come with a battery saver feature that deactivates the dome lights after 30 minutes, an important feature since minivans are often used with the doors open as all-day bases for picnics or outdoor activities.

The second row of seats is roomy. There's good space for legs, and an airy feel with welcome room next to the passenger's head. That's impressive, particularly with the Sienna's standard curtain-style airbags; they do not intrude into rear headroom as much as other designs. When not needed, the second-row seatbacks flip down and the seat bottoms tumble forward, presenting a friendly surface for cargo or pets. The second-row seats are mechanically easy to remove and reinstall, though the 49-pound captain's chairs may require two people to wrestle in and out.

Seven-passenger models use captain's chairs for the second row. The right-hand seat can be repositioned laterally (side to side), offering either a small bench seat or a pair of bucket seats with space between them. Moving them close together makes getting into the back row easier. Moving them apart makes them more comforable for adults. The seat has to be removed and reinstalled in one of two locations, however; it does not slide on tracks, which is a more costly design. Toyota says most people normally don't move the second-row seats once they've decided on the favored position. Unfortunately, this setup leaves the attachment points exposed. A neat feature is the center console that can be removed from between the front seats and relocated between the second-row seats. This leaves room for a bag between the front seats. Owners who want a center console in both locations can order a second unit from the dealer.

Eight-passenger models (available on the CE and LE) differ mainly in the second row, which is a three-way split/folding bench seat with a small middle section that can be moved nearly 13 inches closer to the front seats, putting children in child seats within arm's reach. When not being used, the center seat converts into a big armrest.

Third-row seats have a rake adjustment, which improves their comfort. The third row is split 60/40 for added versatility when hauling a combination of passengers and cargo, long items for example. Sienna offers more space behind the third row than most minivans. The third-row seatbacks flip forward, then each seat folds easily into a deep well when not needed, a two-step operation that can be done with one hand. Headrests are integrated into the seats so they don't have to be removed as on some minivans, but it's very important to remember to pull the headrests back up when putting passengers back there, something that's easy to neglect. Folding the third row away leaves a flat cargo floor with tie-down hooks. We were able to slide in a six-foot ladder without moving the second-row seats.

Toyota's navigation system works well and is an option worth having.

An optional rearview camera monitoring system, included with the navigation system, helps the driver see children or obstacles when backing up, a great feature. Shift the Sienna into reverse and a video camera mounted in the rear door automatically displays a wide-angle view behind the vehicle to assist the driver in safely pulling out of parking lots or garages. The rearview camera really helps for parallel parking, allowing the driver to back within an inch of the vehicle behind.

The camera is a nice complement to the audible park-assist system that sounds a tone inside the vehicle when backing up or pulling forward toward close objects; this is very useful when parallel parking or for detecting unexpected objects around this big vehicle. There are different tones for front and rear and the tone beeps faster as objects get closer. Shifting into reverse also turns on an outside warning beeper, which improves safety in crowded parking lots, but may not be popular with neighbors late at night.

Driving ImpressionsToyota Sienna Review
The Toyota Sienna boasts a smooth ride and responsive handling, striking a good balance between the two. Smooth and responsive describes the powertrain as well. It all adds up to a vehicle that's enjoyable to drive, whether on long trips or for quick errands, loaded with people or by yourself.

On curving mountain roads in Southern California, we found the Sienna drove more like a car than a minivan or sport-utility. Its steering is responsive and there's little body roll, or lean, when cornering. Transient response is good, meaning the Sienna can quickly change directions without losing composure. It feels stable at high speeds. The steering is nice and light at low speeds, and with a turning radius of less than 37 feet the Sienna is easy to maneuver in tight parking lots and in U-turns. This compares with more than 39 feet for a Dodge Grand Caravan and 40 feet for a Nissan Quest.

The Sienna accelerates relatively quickly, 0 to 60 mph in 8.3 seconds, according to Toyota, performance that's more than adequate for most traffic conditions. Toyota's 3.3-liter V6 features a two-stage variable-valve setup, called VVT-i or Variable Valve Timing with intelligence, for good torque at both low rpm and high rpm, and significantly improved fuel economy (by 3 mpg over pre-2004 models).

A smooth-shifting five-speed automatic transmission adds to the Sienna's responsiveness around town and on the highway. The five-speed automatic helps with fuel efficiency, achieving an EPA-estimated 27 mpg on the highway test. Sienna runs clean, too, clean enough for Ultra Low Emissions (ULEV II) certification. Toyota recommends premium fuel, but the Sienna will run on regular.

Braking is smooth and powerful. Making big 16-inch wheels standard equipment allowed Toyota to design bigger brakes. Four-wheel anti-lock brakes (ABS) with Electronic Brake-force Distribution (EBD) and Brake Assist come standard. ABS helps to prevent the brakes from locking during severe braking conditions. EBD distributes the braking force to the tires with the most weight on them for quicker, more stable stops. Brake Assist adds brake pressure during emergency stopping situations when the driver mistakenly reduces pedal pressure.

Vehicle Stability Control (VSC) with Traction Control (TRAC) is optional. Vehicle Stability Control utilizes the braking system to help the driver maintain control in adverse driving conditions. Traction control helps reduce tire slippage during acceleration.

All-wheel drive adds greatly to all-weather capability and recommend it for anyone who drives in wintry conditions or heavy rain. In normal driving on dry pavement, we could not discern much difference in ride quality between front- and all-wheel drive models. That's in spite of the fact that AWD models come with 17-inch run-flat tires. Run-flat tires are equipped with reinforced sidewalls with a special bead shape to permit driving for up to 100 miles at speeds up to 55 MPH even when all the air pressure is lost. We associate run-flat tires with a rougher ride quality but they're improving all the time. Run-flat tires can significantly improve safety by eliminating the need to stop to change a tire in an unsafe location. A spare tire is available for all-wheel-drive models. [source :]


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