It’s the best minivan I’ve ever driven, but it’s still a minivan. Now Toyota would prefer you not to think of their redesigned 2021 Sienna as a minivan. That’s why they run a bunch of commercials featuring young people, who are clearly not parents, driving him along the mountains and parking him next to the back door of a sold-out theater. This is not your father’s minivan!
Except that is totally the case. The reason Toyota threw all these kids in their place isn’t because they expect them to actually buy this pickup (the fully loaded Platinum Edition I tested has a sticker price of $ 53,770; buy one for your Uber driving contract and it won’t pay for itself), but because they want middle-aged consumers to feel younger when they drive.
And on first impressions, the 2021 Sienna succeeds. It’s a nice pickup truck. The always reliable 2011 Sienna I own is made almost exclusively from Tupperware. 2021, on the other hand, relies on a thick layer of bells and whistles. A new exterior with a silhouette that resembles a luxury SUV. A magnificent interior. A hybrid transmission that beats my old 2011 9 mpg. Better turning radius. A deck console that makes you feel like you’re in control of the Enterprise spaceship. Impeccable parking cameras. Motion sensors for sliding doors, ooooh. Radar cruise control. Tinted windows for optimal soccer mom energy. And driving dynamics that, like any good car, make it seem like you’re not driving as fast as you really are.
But it’s still a van. The driving is not very smooth. The driver’s side floor has, surprisingly, less space than the 2011 one, which is a big deal for guys like me who use the van’s time to stretch out freely. The bumper still hangs low enough to fight with any curb. And when my wife and I took out the new Sienna on our first road trip, we got into an immediate argument.
It’s a minibus, kids. It’s a minivan the whole way.
In some ways, this is reassuring. I like minivans. I am not picky. Minivans are the right tool for the job. I would love if you gift me a 2021 and park it in front of my house with a Christmas car advertising knot stuck to the roof. After all, you are buying an interior van, and it is possibly the best interior of all the minivans available in America right now. But Toyota, maker of the legendary Alphard minivan in Japan, should have the resources and engineering know-how to design a minivan that truly looks like another breed of car. The 2021 Sienna doesn’t. It really is, and this one costs $ 22,000 more than the average American’s annual salary. At this price point, you won’t want to treat the Sienna like crap. And the whole point of a minivan is that you can treat it like crap.
So what the 2021 Sienna represents is the ultimate lush of normal cars. This is something Toyota has long achieved in the Camry. You get all the fancy shit inside, plus a Fuck You-sized grille up front to make you look richer and maybe dumber than you really are. Every new car and every new van that rolls off the assembly line until global warming suffocates humanity (call it 2052) will have all of this equipment. And you will like them. You’ll love the head-up speedometer hidden at the bottom of the windshield. You will love the blind spot warning on the exterior mirrors. You’ll love that the parking brake automatically disengages without you going 40 miles with the damn thing still on. You will love the seat warmers. (Text from my wife: “Ps, I found the seat heaters. Omg, I can’t go back.”) You’re going to love all this shit.
But you won’t be fooled. You will always know exactly what you are driving just like the nightclub bouncer.
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