2011 Toyota Sienna SE
2011 Toyota Sienna SE. Click image to enlarge

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Toyota Canada

Review and photos by Jil McIntosh

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2011 Toyota Sienna

Considered pretty cool vehicles when they first came out, minivans gradually went from top-of-the-pops to almost a running joke, fit only for soccer-mom suburbia. The reality is that while you’ll probably never hear anyone longing for one the way they might a Jaguar or Porsche, they’re pretty hard to beat when it comes to their intended purpose.

Each year, I make a 2,000-kilometre-plus trek to an antique automotive flea market in Pennsylvania, which requires room for a Radio Flyer wagon (car parts get heavy when you’re carrying them across several acres), luggage, purchases, and one husband and one friend. Over the last two decades, we’ve taken trucks, SUVs and even a 1979 Monte Carlo (it was a pretty tight fit that year) and nothing has ever worked as well for the job as a minivan. As I’ve so often said, when you have to regularly transport a full house, these vehicles are the best.

2011 Toyota Sienna SE
2011 Toyota Sienna SE
2011 Toyota Sienna SE. Click image to enlarge

This year’s conveyance was a Toyota Sienna, a model completely redesigned for 2011. The styling changes decreased its overall length by 20 mm but widened it by that much, and despite the shorter exterior dimension, an inside redesign has increased the interior length by 40 mm. My tester was the new SE trim line, which includes a sport-tuned suspension and sport-calibrated steering (yes, I know how silly that sounds on a minivan), 19-inch rims, unique grille and gauge cluster, and unique 19-inch wheels, bumpers and side skirts. I couldn’t believe my ears when my husband, for whom minivans are generally boxes that other people use to clog up the roads, went on about how impressed he was with the Sienna SE’s looks. That’s pretty much the equivalent of Don Cherry raving about a hockey player who eats tofu and never makes a fist.

The new Sienna line-up starts with a four-cylinder LE at $27,900, the only model that doesn’t use a 3.5-litre V6, and rises up to the Limited in AWD, the only minivan on the market to offer four-wheel power, at $49,100. My SE clocked in at $36,600, which seemed like a very fair price. Features on the SE include eight-passenger seating, USB port, Bluetooth, tri-zone automatic climate control with second-row controls, eight-way power driver’s seat, fabric and “leatherette” upholstery, second-row sunshades, power sliding doors and tailgate, sunroof, fog lamps and backup camera.

The 3.5-litre V6 makes 266 horsepower and 245 lb.-ft. of torque and is hooked to a six-speed automatic; the gearshift lever is on the dash but is positioned so that it doesn’t get in the way of adjusting the stereo or heater controls. The throttle response is smooth and linear and it’s well-powered under most circumstances, even when we had it fully loaded.

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