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Toyota Sienna, 2011: The Weekly Driver Car Review

Toyota Sienna, 2011: The Weekly Driver Car Review 1Now in its third generation since replacing the Previa in 1997, the 2011 Toyota Sienna debuted in February and became the first Sienna to receive a “Top Safety Pick” award from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

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The new Sienna is available in five models: Sienna, LE, SE, XLE and Unlimited, and it remains the only mini-van in its class to offer all-wheel drive. The option is available on the V6 engine choice and in LE, XLE and Limited models.

The 2011 Sienna has a standard 2.7-liter 187-horsepower 4-cylinder engine on the base and LE models, with a 266-horsepower, 3.5-liter V6 optional on those models and the same as the standard engine on all other models. Both engines have six-speed automatic transmissions.

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With a detachable second-row jump seat, the Sienna seats seven or eight passengers, and the second-row captain’s chairs can slide fore or aft up to 23 inches to increase the already spacious cargo area.Toyota Sienna, 2011: The Weekly Driver Car Review 2

The Weekly Driver Test Drive

It’s a shame to drive the Sienna with a maximum of three people in the vehicle. But my weekly test drive, unfortunately, was mostly a solo effort, with the exception of taking two friends for a test drive. For situations like this, I should borrow the neighbors and their kids to how everyone fits.

Toyota Sienna, 2011: The Weekly Driver Car Review 3

One of the few criticisms of the new Sienna is lackluster acceleration. No, it’s not a sports car, but a few times on the freeway, I did just fine accelerating to pass a slower motorist or when another need for increased speed arose.

Despite its status as a mini-van, in many situations, the Sienna drove “small,” which is a compliment. Its turning radius is tight and its feel on the road is more sedan-like than transport-like. The mini-van’s upright seating and near panoramic view are welcomed features.

Toyota Sienna Interior

The base upholstery has been described as “pleasant but old-fashioned.” But that’s not the case with the SE version I drove. Its upholstery and sleek cabin styling could easily transfer on a smaller scale to a sedan or sports car.

The dashboard, gauges and audio controls are intuitive and logically placed. But the navigation screen is small and doesn’t have the best visibility in daytime hours.

Toyota Sienna Exterior

It’s still a mini-van, but the third design of the Sienna in 14 years transforms the once stodgy-looking, function-only vehicle into a mini-van that differentiates itself from boxy competitors with a sportier profile.

Newly shaped (and tinted) windows, higher-angled headlamps, restyled taillights and a hidden door slider are all part of the new look, and it all works well.

Toyota Sienna Performance

Likes:

It’s not a new feature, but power sliding doors are among mini-vans’ best options. The Sienna’s work smoothly.

High quality, comfortable leatherette upholstery.

Ease of entry and exit.

12 cup holders. (Geez, that’s probably enough for eight people.)

Nice touch: the conversation mirror integrated into the sunglass holder in the overhead console.

Not sure what “pre-dawn gray mica” means, but it’s a handsome color for the Sienna’s new exterior.

Dislikes:

Small back-up camera display screen.

Rear door surprisingly heavy – power mode a must use.

2011 Toyota Sienna SE: Facts & Figures

Acceleration: 0-60 mph (untested).
Airbags: Dual front, seat-mounted side and full-length side curtain airbags for driver and passenger and driver’s side knee airbag.
Antilock brakes: Standard
First aid kit: N/A
Fuel economy: 18 mpg (city), 24 mpg (highway)
Government Safety Ratings: Not yet rated.
Horsepower: 265
Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price: $30,500
Price As tested: $33,738.00
Warranty: Bumper to bumper, 3 years/36,000 miles; Powertrain, 5 years/60,000 miles; Corrosion, 5 years/60,000 miles.

What Others Say:

“The redesigned 2011 Toyota Sienna becomes a must-see minivan almost by default, as it brings leading-edge design and features to a small, relatively stagnant market segment.” —- Consumer Guide

“This is the best minivan out there.” —- AutoWeek

“Though it might not be the vehicle of every man’s dreams, the 2011 Toyota Sienna is simply the best value in minivans sold today.” —- Edmunds

The Weekly Driver’s Final Words:

“If you don’t have children, coach a youth sports team or run an independent transportation company, it’s difficult to justify buying an eight-passenger vehicle. One exception is the 2011 Toyota Sienna. It combines impressive performance for its class, equally impressive functionality and has the overall comfort of a family room.”

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