When it comes to minivans, there’s a lot to be said for the Toyota Sienna. Indeed, it won the most recent Autos.ca minivan comparison test thanks to its combination of roomy and comfortable interior, low step-in height, extra-wide rear sliding doors, potent and willing powertrain, decent handling and reasonable pricing. And that’s before factoring in its status as the only minivan available with all-wheel drive.
The Sienna’s win wasn’t uncontested, however, with the Honda Odyssey nearly stealing the victory largely due to its much nicer interior. Compared to the Odyssey, the Sienna was accused of having a “mouse-furred” interior with “rather pedestrian dash plastics and plain interior styling.”
But that was the old Toyota Sienna. For 2015 Toyota has refreshed its popular family hauler, and while it doesn’t look too much different on the outside (it gets an updated grille and taillights), on the inside it’s an entirely different van, with upgraded materials, a completely restyled dash, and nicer trim. Hidden from sight, but immediately apparent when you carve the Sienna into a corner, Toyota has revised the suspension and stiffened up the structure to provide more assured handling.
The Sienna is available in a wide array of trims, encompassing four front-wheel drive choices (base, LE, SE or Limited) and two all-wheel drive choices (LE or XLE). Base, Limited and all-wheel-drive versions seat seven passengers with second-row captain’s seats, while front-wheel-drive LE and SE versions get a removable centre section for the second-row seats, creating a 40/20/40 split folding bench and allowing eight-passenger capacity.
My test vehicle was a front-wheel-drive SE model fitted with a comprehensive optional Technology Package. The SE trim features big 19-inch wheels, unique front and rear fascias, sport grille, LED taillights and front running lights, fog lights, smoked headlight surrounds, unique sport gauges, leather upholstery and more. The Technology Package adds to this with such things as a power moonroof, navigation system, proximity entry with push-button start, blind-spot monitoring with cross-traffic alert, widescreen rear entertainment system and theft alarm. It might be a stretch to call a minivan sporty exactly, but as equipped my test van was about as close as I’ve seen yet, with the big fender-filling six-spoke alloys giving it a hunkered-down look, and the mesh grille and jutting chin spoiler adding a subtle touch of menace.
Under the hood, every Sienna gets a 3.5L V6 engine hooked up to a six-speed electronically controlled automatic transmission with lock-up torque converter. With 266 hp and 245 lb-ft of torque on tap, the V6 will hustle the 1,985 kg (4,376 lb) Sienna SE to 100 km/h in a hair under 8 seconds – impressively quick for a minivan – and during normal driving it’s smooth and refined. Towing capacity for most trim levels is 1,588 kg (3,500 lb), while the base and XLE trims are rated for 454 kg (1,000 lb). Fuel economy for the front-wheel-drive models is 13.0 / 9.5 L/100 km (city/hwy) using the new five-cycle testing. My own mostly city consumption ranged from a high of 16.5 L/100 km to a low of 11.5 L/100 km, with an overall average of 14.2 L/100 km.