2012 Toyota Sienna XLE AWD
2012 Toyota Sienna XLE AWD. Click image to enlarge

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Toyota Canada

Review and photos by Greg Wilson

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2012 Toyota Sienna

Redesigned in 2011, the Toyota Sienna minivan is basically unchanged for 2012 except that the top-of-the-line Toyota Sienna XLE minivan is now available with all-wheel drive as well as front-wheel drive; last year, only the LE V6 model was available with optional all-wheel drive.

It’s surprising that Toyota is still the only manufacturer offering all-wheel drive in a minivan considering that AWD is an important safety feature for winter driving in what is primarily a vehicle for parents with infant or school-age children.

Today’s test vehicle is a 2012 Sienna XLE AWD, the most expensive Sienna with a base price of $40,835. That’s a large sum, but it’s not inconsistent with the pricing of its top-trim competitors. For example, the Honda Odyssey Touring is $46,990; the Nissan Quest 3.5 LE is $48,578, Chrysler Town & Country Limited is $46,095, Kia Sedona EX Luxury w/Navigation is $40,995, and the Volkswagen Routan Highline is $42,975. Only the Dodge Grand Caravan R/T comes in cheaper at $38,895.

A more accurate pricing comparison is available using a comparison tool on Toyota Canada’s web site. Comparably equipped prices show that the Sienna XLE AWD comes in at a lower price ($42,395) with the exception of the Dodge Grand Caravan R/T which works out about $2,000 less. But let’s not forget that the Sienna XLE AWD includes all-wheel drive.

2012 Toyota Sienna XLE AWD
2012 Toyota Sienna XLE AWD
2012 Toyota Sienna XLE AWD. Click image to enlarge

Standard stuff in the Sienna XLE AWD includes seven-passenger seating (2-2-3) with two front Captain’s chairs, two centre (removeable) Captain’s chairs that slide fore and aft and have adjustable reclining footrests (a la La-Z-Boy); a rear three-person 60/40 split rear bench seat that folds into the floor; power sliding rear side doors and a power rear liftgate; a powerful 266-hp 3.5-litre V6 engine and six-speed automatic transmission, 18-inch tires and alloy wheels, four-wheel disc brakes, tilt and telescopic steering wheel, three-zone automatic climate control (driver/passenger/rear) with air filter and rear heater vents, AM/FM/CD/satellite radio with six speakers and steering wheel controls, conversation mirror, back-up camera, sliding sunshades on the second and third rows, USB audio input, Bluetooth hands-free phone, and safety features including a front, side and curtain airbags and a driver’s knee airbag and rear child seat anchor points.

Our test van had the optional Limited Package which lumps a shirt-lode of options into one $8,375 package – you have to take it all, or nothing. It includes (take a deep breath) premium two-tone leather upholstery, driver’s side memory seat, four-way power passenger seat, woodgrain and leather-wrapped steering wheel, woodgrain trim, JBL audio system with four-disc CD/MP3 player and ten speakers, navigation system, DVD entertainment system with second-row dual-view 16.4-inch wide screen and two wireless headphones, dual power moonroofs, Smart Key with pushbutton start, wide-angle back-up camera, front and rear sonar sensors, power-folding heated auto-dimming mirrors with integrated turn signals and reverse tilt-down feature, puddle lamps, chrome grille, rain-sensing wipers, two 110-volt outlets, and automatic headlamps.

With the Limited Package, $1,635 Freight and PDI, and $100 A/C tax, our test van’s price came to $50,945. Well-to-do families may be able to afford this price, but typical wage-earners may want to go for the base four-cylinder Sienna LE starting at $28,120 or the LE V6 for $29,120. Check out our recent reviews of the four-cylinder Sienna LE, the Sienna LE V6 and the Sienna LE V6 AWD. It should also be mentioned that the Sienna Mobility can be ordered with a special ramp for wheelchairs and a custom-designed interior for people with disabilities.

2012 Toyota Sienna XLE AWD
2012 Toyota Sienna XLE AWD
2012 Toyota Sienna XLE AWD. Click image to enlarge

As the top dog, the Sienna XLE AWD has a rather rich-looking instrument panel highlighted by swaths of walnut trim, a combination leather and wood steering wheel, large and bright backlit gauges, and a centre screen for navigation and audio and a smaller information screen above it for driver information. There’s a lot of functionality here too, starting with the dash-mounted transmission shift lever positioned close to the driver’s right hand, plainly marked climate controls in the centre dash, twin gloveboxes on the passenger side, and a centre console with a deep storage bin and two cupholders. My only complaint with the instrument panel is that the large centre screen sometimes gets washed out with the sun’s glare.

The centre touch-screen displays a variety of functions: navigation, audio, phone, rearview camera and setup functions. Traditional buttons around the perimeter of the screen can be used to find the main menus while sub-menus are accessed using the touch-screen. Adjusting audio Volume and Tune can be done with the dials on the radio or the buttons on the steering wheel, but most other audio functions are done using the touch-screen, which can be frustrating if you can’t see the screen because of glare. Hands-free Bluetooth cell phones can be accessed with buttons on the steering wheel or touch-screen, once your cell phone is paired with the system.

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