2005 Toyota Sienna CE AWD
2005 Toyota Sienna CE AWD with 7-passenger configuration shown. Click image to enlarge

Sienna CE

Review by Richard Russell
Photos by Grant Yoxon

The minivan wars are far from over, particularly in Canada where they command a much larger share of the overall market than south of the border. While there is nothing very glamorous about minivans, you best have one in the line-up if you’re serious about competing as a major manufacturer.

There’s nobody more serious, or more interested in volume than Toyota, which has been relentlessly walking over the competition on its way to number one status in worldwide passenger vehicle sales. Depending on your count, it is already number two or three and shows no signs of backing down. So it comes as no surprise that the Toyota of minivans – the Sienna – is like everything else the company builds – a combination of exceptional quality and mainstream styling.

The words style and minivan rarely appear in the same sentence, and do so here only to make that point. There is only so much you can do to a big box with an engine stuck out front without compromising interior space – and Toyota was certainly not interested in that trade-off. The Toyota family resemblance is evident from either front or rear, but the slab sides, tall roof and vertical rear end combine to yield impressive interior volume.

The base 2005 Sienna CE is the entry level, bare bones model. Yet my 8-passenger test van showed how incredibly competent Toyota has become at reading and meeting the needs of the market. While the starting point of $31,240 may at first put you off, take time to compare and you’ll realize that is also the finishing point for most as it includes dual air conditioning, power windows and locks, height adjustable driver’s seat, tilt and telescope steering wheel, cruise control, remote keyless entry, power remote heated mirrors, ABS, eight-passenger seating and a six-speaker audio system with CD player. 7-passenger Sienna CE models, which have a two middle-row Captain’s seats and don’t include power rear quarter windows and privacy glass, are priced even lower at $30,000. Although the least expensive model in the line-up, the CE can hardly be called base.

2005 Toyota Sienna CE AWD

2005 Toyota Sienna CE AWD

2005 Toyota Sienna CE AWD

2005 Toyota Sienna CE AWD

2005 Toyota Sienna CE AWD

2005 Toyota Sienna CE AWD
Click image to enlarge

Changes to this model for 2005 are minimal; in fact the only one is the addition of steering wheel mounted audio controls as standard equipment.

Siennas have dual sliding side doors with a power window in each and are available in seven or eight passenger configurations, the difference being a pair of captain’s chairs in the middle row or a 35-30-35 split centre seat. Our tester was the latter and the “multi-function” middle seat is aptly named. The smaller centre portion can slide forward putting little Britney or Brandon within easy reach of those in the front. The split third row bench folds into a recession in the floor providing a flat load surface and enough space for the ubiquitous 4 x 8 sheet or other large objects.

You’ll find copious amounts of clever storage solutions throughout from the bi-level glove box to tie-down hooks in the cargo area. There are numerous trays and slots in the instrument panel and centre console, flip-up trays between the front seats, places for glasses and gloves, vanity and interior monitor mirrors and enough cup holders to hold the contents of a small lake. This interior was designed by people with families who sat in and used all positions for a wide variety of purposes.

The Sienna shares the same 3.3-litre aluminum V6 engine used in the Camry and several other Toyota and Lexus models. Equally at home in a Lexus or a truck, this is a high tech unit with variable valve timing, dual overhead camshafts and four valves per cylinder. With 230-horsepower directed to the front wheels it is neither the fastest, nor the slowest in the field but near the top. Despite lugging around 1900 kg, it propels the Sienna impressively thanks to the five-speed automatic which allows it to loaf along at fuel sipping revs, yet pass or climb long grades with ease. The engine is supremely smooth and quiet under normal operation, making its presence known only under full throttle and even then in a refined manner. It can also be pretty thrifty and thanks to a healthy gas tank capacity, is capable of going nearly 900 km between fill-ups on the highway.

While others have dropped all-wheel-drive from their line-up, the Sienna continues to make it available. For 2005 it is even available on the base CE model. The competition says there isn’t sufficient demand to warrant the added development, production and stocking costs. The truth is that the various methods of folding seats into the floor, have used up the room beneath the vehicle needed to send drive to the rear wheels.

Although among the more agile and responsive of minivans and equipped with a nice rest for the left foot, the Sienna isn’t exactly a sports car. Its height, weight and a suspension tuned for a pleasant ride through a wide range of loads, mitigate against this. Conversely it has the ability to soak up nasty surfaces and keep things on an even keel whether all eight or only one seat is occupied. The turning circle is pleasantly tight, a definite bonus in parking lot action and thanks to front-drive, it is less affected by strong cross winds than something presenting so much side surface to the wind ought to be.

Adding to the secure feel of driving this people mover is a current generation ABS system complete with electronic brake force distribution to further ensure the ability to retain steering control during panic braking.

The phrases reliability and Toyota have become synonymous. The Sienna will most likely provide perfectly trouble-free transportation for a very long period of time.

Sienna CE AWD

Review and photos by Grant Yoxon

2005 Toyota Sienna CE AWD

2005 Toyota Sienna CE AWD

2005 Toyota Sienna CE AWD

2005 Toyota Sienna CE AWD

2005 Toyota Sienna CE AWD

2005 Toyota Sienna CE AWD
Click image to enlarge

Typically, manufacturers reserve the best technology for upscale models. It’s frustrating for buyers, especially those on a budget (aren’t we all?), to have to spend thousands of dollars on luxury options that they don’t want, just to get the safety features they need. For example, side impact airbags are often available only with leather seating.

Well finally things are beginning to change, particularly in the minivan class. Honda’s new 2005 Odyssey comes standard with a full complement of safety features including front seat side airbags, side curtain airbags with roll-over sensor and vehicle stability control.

Now, Toyota has taken steps to make active safety technology more accessible by including all-wheel-drive (AWD) – something the Honda doesn’t have – available as an option on its base model, the CE.

The AWD package includes four-wheel disc brakes, traction control and electronic vehicle stability control, as well as the same 17-inch aluminum alloy wheels and Dunlop P225/60R17 run flat tires found on the LE and XLE AWD models. You get a base van, but a well-equipped base van, as Richard describes above, with a really nice set of wheels.

Cost of the package is $5,900 over the $30,000 suggested retail price of the 7-passenger CE with front-wheel-drive, or about the same as the Sienna LE FWD. AWD Siennas are available only with the seven seat configuration – four captains chairs and a three person 60/40 split third row, but include the power rear quarter windows and privacy glass found on the 8-passenger CE.

The Sienna’s all-wheel-drive system employs a centre differential to divide engine power 50/50 front and rear. Wheel slippage at either set of wheels automatically transfers more power to the opposite wheels.

Along with the added confidence of all-wheel-drive, vehicle stability control uses the Sienna’s anti-lock brakes and traction control system to enhance cornering stability by applying the brakes or reducing engine output when a yaw sensor detects an understeer or oversteer situation.

AWD adds some weight to the Sienna – the CE AWD weighs 1955 kg (4310 lbs) compared to 1870 kg (4123 lbs) for the CE – but you wouldn’t notice it in most driving situations. The Sienna has lots of power, the AWD a bit less with the added weight and additional parts to move.

Where you will notice a difference is at the gas pump – the CE AWD is rated at 13.1 L/100 km (22 mpg) in the city and 9.0 L/100 km (31 mpg) on the highway compared to 12.2 and 8.1 L/100 km (23/35 mpg) for the CE FWD. It doesn’t seem like much, but over the life time of a vehicle, the pennies can add up.

The Dunlop run flat tires, with their thick and rigid sidewalls, provide a slightly harsher ride in the Sienna than the standard tire, but also provide excellent wet weather traction. During a day of driving in some really awful fall weather, we never experienced any wheel slip at intersections or instability at speed.

Following tractor trailers on the 401, the Sienna CE AWD felt very solid, even in the buffeting wake and intense water spray kicked up by the trucks.

Run flat tires are a necessity on Sienna AWD models. The addition of a rear differential and the re-routing of exhaust hardware leaves no room for a spare tire. With the run flats, Toyota says the Sienna can be driven up to 160 km at speeds up to 88 km/h without replacing the tire after a flat.

Run flat snow tires are available, but they cost more than regular tires. Don’t think that snows won’t be necessary because of all-wheel-drive. To get the benefits of all-wheel-drive all year round, a set of snow tires are necessary. So you will have to factor that cost into your budget as well.

Active safety features like all-wheel-drive, anti-lock brakes, traction control and vehicle stability control help prevent accidents and provide a more confident driving experience when the weather gets bad.

Passive safety features like seat side airbags and side curtain air bags help prevent injury in serious crashes and roll-overs.

But if you want a Sienna with the full load of both active and passive safety features, you will still have to step up to the top-of-the-line, $52, 640 Sienna XLE AWD, as seat side airbags and side curtain airbags are only available on the XLE model.

Technical Data: 2005 Toyota Sienna CE and CE AWD

  Sienna CE Sienna CE AWD
Base price $31,240 (8-passenger) $35,900
Options none none
Freight $1,260 $1,260
A/C tax $100 $100
Price as tested $32,600 $37,260
Type 4-door, 7 or 8-passenger minivan 4-door, 7-passenger minivan
Layout transverse front engine/front-wheel-drive transverse front engine/front-wheel-drive
Engine 3.3 litre V6, DOHC, 24 valves, VVT-i 3.3 litre V6, DOHC, 24 valves, VVT-i
Horsepower 230 @ 5600 rpm 230 @ 5600 rpm
Torque 242 ft-lb @ 3600 rpm 242 ft-lb @ 3600 rpm
Transmission 5-speed automatic 5-speed automatic
Tires P215/65R-16 P225/60R17 run flat
Brakes front disc, rear drum four-wheel disc
Towing capacity 1587 kg (3500 lb.) 1587 kg (3500 lb.)
Curb weight 1870 kg (4123 lb.) 1955 kg (4310 lbs.)
Wheelbase 3030 mm (119.3 in.) 3030 mm (119.3 in.)
Length 5080 mm (200.0 in.) 5080 mm (200.0 in.)
Width 1965 mm (77.4 in.) 1965 mm (77.4 in.)
Height 1750 mm (68.9 in.) 1750 mm (68.9 in.)
Cargo capacity 1240 litres (43.6 cu. ft.) (behind third seats) 1240 litres (43.6 cu. ft.) (behind third seats)
  2680 litres (94.5 cu. ft.) (behind second seats) 2680 litres (94.5 cu. ft.) (behind second seats)
  4220 litres (149 cu. ft.) (behind first seats) 220 litres (149 cu. ft.) (behind first seats)
Fuel consumption City: 12.4 l/100 km (23 mpg Imperial) 13.0 l/100 km (22 mpg Imperial)
  Hwy: 8.2 l/100 km (34 mpg Imperial) 9.1 l/100 km (31 mpg Imperial)
Warranty 3 yrs/60,000 km 3 yrs/60,000 km
Powertrain warranty 5 yrs/100,000 km 5 yrs/100,000 km

Connect with Autos.ca