By Kevin Miller
Toyota revealed their all-new third-generation Sienna minivan at the LA Auto Show yesterday. While minivan sales have been losing market share in recent years, with GM, Ford and Hyundai suspending their minivan programs, Toyota has upgraded its Sienna to take on the class-leading Honda Odyssey.
The new Sienna seems to take a few of its styling cues from Toyota’s Venza, and definitely has a more stylish look than the outgoing van. The new Sienna will be available in five different grades (base, LE, SE, XLE and Limited), two engine choices, seven- or eight-passenger seating. The Sienna continues to be the only minivan available with all-wheel drive.
Of the different trim levels, the SE stands out from the crowd. The Sienna SE rides on a lower, sport-tuned suspension and 19-inch wheels with low-profile tires. The SE also features a sport-mesh front grille and larger lower grille, enhanced lower side moldings, and more aggressive front and rear bumpers. Exclusive instrumentation and unique interior trim provide for a dynamic interior look.
With both seven- and eight-seat cabin configurations, the Sienna seems to have more seat-folding and –adjustment options than any minivan before it, though the second row doesn’t fold in to the floor like Chrysler’s Stow’n’Go seats. The new Sienna’s interior is more than two inches longer than its predecessor, and the seats now have longer ranges of travel, making it possible to comfortably accommodate a wider range of heights and sizes. In seven-seat cabins, the second row captain chairs slide 23 inches, to create legroom for tall passengers or to make it easy to care for a child passenger, while also allowing easy access for third-row passengers. The front seats have more rearward travel, and the steering wheel has a less upright position, so the driver can adopt a comfortable driving posture.
The Sienna’s two engine choices include a 266 HP, 3.5-liter V6 with expected EPA-estimated mileage ratings of 18 mpg city/24 mpg highway (16 mpg city/22 mpg highway on AWD models), and a 187 HP, 2.7-liter four-cylinder engine with expected EPA-estimated fuel efficiency ratings of 19 mpg city and 26 mpg on the highway. Both are mated to a six-speed automatic transmission and both engines offer the latest in efficient, lightweight technology, including Dual Variable Valve Timing with intelligence (VVT-i), roller rocker arms and an Acoustically Controlled Induction System (ACIS) that changes the length of the air-intake pipe to supply more torque on demand.
Seven airbags are standard equipment, including dual-stage front and seat-mounted side airbags for driver and front passenger, plus a new driver’s side knee airbag. Side curtain airbags cover the length of the cabin, from the front seats to the third row. Other technological upgrades include a Toyota-first Panorama Camera rear monitor. It provides two views behind the vehicle including a 180-degree view, and on-screen back-up guides, helping drivers to reverse out of parking spots or driveways.
Toyota’s press release for the new Sienna indicates that the new Sienna has a fun-to-drive spirit. I’m not sure that any Toyota product actually fits that description, but the new Sienna surely has the possibility of improving on the driving dynamics of its predecessor.
When Chrysler pioneered the minivan segment a quarter century ago, it was an all-American idea and design. Following in that American minivan heritage, the new Sienna was designed by Toyota’s Calty design studio in Southern California, it was completely engineered and developed at Toyota Technical Center in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and it will be produced at Toyota’s manufacturing facility in Princeton, Indiana. With a lower base price than the current Sienna, the 2011 Sienna should be a popular choice with American families when it arrives at Toyota dealerships in February, 2010.
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