The Toyota Sienna, which in 2011 debuted in its third generation with more versatility and a four-cylinder engine option, has added in 2012 in its XLE grade a standard power passenger seat and auto on/off headlights.
The 2012 Sienna is available with a 3.5-liter V6 or 2.7-liter four-cylinder engine. Both DOHC engines offer Dual Variable Valve Timing with intelligence (VVT-i), roller rocker arms and an Acoustically Controlled Induction System (ACIS) that changes the intake tract length to optimize torque.
The 3.5-liter V6 generates 266 horsepower at 6,200 rpm, with EPA-estimated mileage ratings of 18 mpg city/24 mpg highway (16 mpg city/22 mpg highway on AWD models). It also has a 3,500-pound towing capacity.
With 187 horsepower at 5,800 rpm, the 2.7-liter four-cylinder engine produces responsive power and delivers EPA-estimated fuel efficiency ratings of 19 mpg city and 24 mpg on the highway. Both engines are matched with Sienna’s state-of-the-art, electronically controlled six-speed transmission with sequential shift that provides a smooth gear-shift feeling, quiet performance and a lightweight, compact size.
The suspension uses front MacPherson struts, combined with rack-and pinion steering for smooth, linear steering feel. Electronic Power Steering (EPS) and a wide stance help deliver a solid, direct on-road feel. Aerodynamic under-body elements also contribute to Sienna’s dynamic performance.
The 2012 Sienna is available in five grades: Sienna grade, LE, SE, XLE and Limited. All-wheel-drive is available with the V6 on LE, XLE and Limited models. All others are front-wheel drive.
Both seven-and eight-seat cabins can be configured for a full contingent of passengers, a load of cargo, or a mix of both. In seven-seat cabins, the second row captain chairs slide 23 inches, moving to the rear to create legroom for the tallest passengers and easier ingress and egress. Or, they can be moved forward close to the front seats to make it easy to reach a child passenger, while also allowing easy access for third-row passengers.
A sliding center console on the XLE all-wheel-drive and Limited grades can be shared between the front seats and second row passengers. The illuminated console slides into the second row area to provide convenient access for both rows, so the need for storage and passenger comfort can be equally served.
For more passenger comfort, there is standard second-row Lounge Seating on the Limited grade, which includes leg and foot support. Second-row captain’s chairs on all grades have dual armrests, and a one-motion release mechanism facilitates seat removal.
On eight-passenger models, the second-row center seat can be removed and stowed in the left side of the rear-storage area. When the center seat is stowed, a cupholder and storage tray is revealed. The eight-passenger interior can easily be converted for seven passengers.
The available rear-seat Dual View Entertainment Center uses two displays side-by-side to create a seamless 16.4-inch widescreen image from a single source. The system can split the screen into two individual screens, each with input from separate sources. Used as a single screen, it can be easily seen from the third row, and it can be operated from any seat via remote control. Used as two screens, the system can accommodate the preferences of two separate passengers who might want to play a video game or watch a second DVD simultaneously via auxiliary inputs.
The Star Safety System, which includes Anti-lock Brakes (ABS), Electronic Brake-force Distribution (EBD), Brake Assist (BA), enhanced Vehicle Stability Control (VSC), and Traction Control (TRAC), is standard on all Sienna models. Enhanced VSC coordinates the Anti-lock Brake System (ABS), Electronic Brake force Distribution (EBD), Brake Assist with Traction Control (TRAC) and Electric Power Steering (EPS), to help provide a the driver a better-integrated, controlled vehicle in the event of an emergency maneuver.
A Pre-Collision System (PCS) with pre-collision seatbelt system is an available option on the Limited grade, as is the latest in advanced vehicle control technology, Vehicle Dynamics Integrated Management (VDIM). The VDIM system coordinates brake control with engine output and steering inputs, allowing all the control and safety systems to cooperate seamlessly. Unlike reactive traction systems, VDIM operates proactively. During normal driving, the system works smoothly to enhance control even before the vehicle reaches its limits.
Seven airbags are standard equipment, including dual-stage front and seat-mounted side airbags for the driver and front passenger, plus a segment-first driver’s side knee airbag. Side curtain airbags cover the length of the cabin, from the front seats to the third row. Active headrests are used in both front seats to help reduce the possibility of whiplash in a collision.
Article Last Updated: October 6, 2011.
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A sports, travel and business journalist for more than 45 years, James has written the new car review column The Weekly Driver since 2004.
In addition to this site, James writes a Sunday automotive column for The San Jose Mercury and East Bay Times in Walnut Creek, Calif., and a monthly auto review column for Gulfshore Business, a magazine in Southwest Florida.
An author and contributor to many newspapers, magazines and online publications, James has co-hosted The Weekly Driver Podcast since 2017.