Driven: The All-Wheel Drive Toyota Sienna

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The 2019 Toyota Sienna is the only all-wheel drive minivan available.

The last time the industry sold 1 million minivans was in 2006, just before the recession and the start of crossover utility vehicles. Today, just under 500,000 units are sold in the United States each year, as manufacturers such as Ford, GM and Nissan no longer participate.

But the segment isn’t dead and we might also see some stabilization as the remaining players go head-to-head. These models include the Chrysler Pacifica, Dodge Grand CaravanHonda Odyssey, Kia Sedonaand the Toyota Siena.

Toyota is the second best-selling model in the segment, flanked by Fiat Chrysler’s two entries. The Grand Caravan maintains its leading position as the volume leader – you’ll frequently find it available in rental fleets, hence its sales leadership.

2019 Toyota Sienna Preview

Toyota offers the Siena 2019 in seven versions. Most notably, it’s the only model available with all-wheel drive. Like its competitors, the Sienna is front-wheel drive with room for seven or eight.

The base L model starts at $31,315. It is followed by the LE ($34,135), LE with Auto Access Seat ($40,060), SE ($37,465), XLE ($37,465), XLE with Auto Access Seat ($43,600 ) and the Limited ($44,210). Models equipped with the access seat have a power-swivel seat in the second row, passenger side. Choose all-wheel drive and your cost will increase by $1,505 and your seating capacity will drop from eight to seven. Add $1,060 for destination charges.

As with most models, Toyota offers package options with the Sienna, but not with all trims. The base “L” trim does not have a package. The LE offers the LE Preferred Package ($955), which adds a blind-spot monitor with rear cross-traffic alert, and a keyless entry system with push-button start and remote light input. Upgrade to the SE model and you’ll find a sunroof with sunshade option ($850). You’ll also find an SE Preferred package ($3,815), which builds on the LE and sunroof packages. Here you will also find a 10-speaker JBL audio system, navigation, Wi-Fi and other technical features.

Choose the XLE model and you’ll find a navigation package ($1,410). Among the tech upgrades are additional USB ports and rear parking assistance. The top Limited trim gets a Premium package ($3,520), which adds high-intensity discharge headlights and rain-sensing wipers.

A matter of style

The minivans share a common layout marked by a sloped hood, long slab bodies and a rear hatch. Variations on the theme generally mimic what automakers offer elsewhere. Indeed, the Sienna’s front fascia matches well with other Toyota products from a few years back, but it doesn’t have the extreme cutouts or severe creases found on the camry or the C-HR.

The front of the Sienna is reminiscent of the previous-generation Avalon with its narrow upper grille and oversized lower grille. Signature lines connect the headlights and taillights with obvious rocker panel sculpting. Both rear sliding doors move fully rearward when opened. The rear hatch rises well above head level.

All models are equipped with alloy wheels. Most trims include projector-beam halogen headlights. Among the upgrades are LED daytime running lights, fog lights, heated exterior mirrors, power sliding doors and designer rims.

Inside, the cabin is cavernous, offering room for eight or seven people, with the second-row seat replaced by captain’s chairs. The latter is the arrangement you’ll find with all-wheel-drive models and some trims.

Toyota organizes the Sienna’s dashboard by facing most of it forward and toward the passengers. The dashboard and central display merge with the gear lever located on the top of the stack and to the left of the cabin controls. A huge open storage space divides the front seats as well as an equally large storage compartment between these seats.

Our all-wheel-drive tester featured the second-row captain’s chairs, which offered front-row-rivaling comfort. Dual armrests, seat maneuverability and ample legroom make these seats the perfect choice. If you don’t need space for eight people, this is the option for you. Rear passengers will also be pleased to have more space to maneuver. On top-trim Limited models, the middle seats recline and recline seat extenders and footrests.

Standard features include cloth seats, three-zone climate control, full-power accessories, and a tilt-and-telescoping steering column. The list of upgrades includes leatherette or genuine leather seats, power front seats, heated front seats, second and third row sunshades, heated steering wheel and power third row seat.

Storage space is everything with minivans and provides another reason why these models hold up. The Sienna’s second and third row seats fold/move forward, but they can also be removed, providing 150 cubic feet of storage capacity. You’ll go far beyond garage sale finds to bring home your real estate largesse.

Security and technology

Toyota equips the Sienna with a six-speaker audio system, 7-inch touchscreen, Siri Eyes Free, CD player, Bluetooth and USB ports. You also get the Scout GPS Link app, which provides directions. But it’s not as reliable as Apple CarPlay, which is now standard. Unfortunately, Google Android Auto compatibility is not yet possible.

Upgrades include HD radio, satellite radio, 120-volt power outlet, additional USB ports and a premium sound system. Toyota also offers a Blu-Ray disc entertainment system starting with the XLE trim, which includes two screens, a suite of apps and two 120-volt power outlets.

Safety-wise, Toyota “brings it” with its standard suite of equipment bundles. Under the Toyota Safety Sense (TSS) umbrella, you’ll find automatic high beams, dynamic radar cruise control, lane departure warning with steering assist and a pre-collision system with pedestrian detection.

Available options include blind spot monitor with rear cross traffic alert, rear park assist sonar and a bird’s eye view camera. Headlamp technology upgrades accompany the top-of-the-line model. Overall, Toyota’s standard safety package leads the segment, although competitors offer similar technologies.

On the road

There are no minivans on the market with performance credentials, despite what some manufacturers might suggest. Typically what you have is a vehicle with a V6 engine delivering just under 300 horsepower. That’s a far cry from the original minivan models, for vehicles equal in size to today’s three-row midsize crossovers.

The 2019 Sienna is powered by a well-known 3.5-liter V6 gasoline engine. It produces 296 horsepower and 263 lb-ft of torque, the best numbers in its class. An 8-speed automatic transmission sends power to the wheels. In addition to carrying a full load of people and their belongings, the Sienna has a towing capacity of 3,500 pounds.

It takes a while to get used to the location of the transmission on the center console. Flip the ignition on, move the shifter to drive, and the Sienna moves along with ease. The engine delivers a lot of energy, and when accelerating hard, its full power becomes evident. The drivetrain is well coupled here too as it shifts easily between gears.

This model’s light steering will appeal to most riders. The Sienna stays planted and provides a comfortable ride. You’ll need to consider this vehicle’s wide turning radius and heavy feel, the latter of which is particularly evident when cornering. No surprise here – the Sienna keeps up with the competition and provides an alternative to the similar Highlander Crossover.

Auto Trends recommends

We love that Toyota offers an all-wheel-drive Sienna. Choose this option if you live where winter conditions weigh down. Otherwise, the front-wheel-drive setup should work well for most consumers.

Start your search beyond the base model and all-wheel drive becomes available. Choose the SE with the SE Premium Package and you’ll enjoy many of the amenities families want. Priced at $41,280 before rebates, this model can deliver everything you want in a family hauler.

Specifications of the 2019 Toyota Sienna

  • Sticker price from $32,375 (includes $1,060 destination fee)
  • Price as tested: $45,223
  • Seven or eight seats
  • Engine: 3.5 liter V6 petrol
  • 296 hp at 6,600 rpm
  • 263 lb-ft. of torque at 4,700 rpm
  • 8-speed automatic transmission
  • Wheelbase: 119.3 inches
  • Length: 200.6 inches
  • Width: 78.1 inches
  • Height: 68.9 inches
  • Passenger volume: 164.4 cubic feet
  • Storage volume: 39.1/87.1/117.8 (150.0 with 2nd row seats removed) cubic feet
  • Towing capacity: 3,500 pounds
  • EPA: 19/27/22 mpg city/highway/combined (FWD)
  • Ordinary Gasoline
  • Fuel tank: 20 gallons
  • Curb Weight: 4,655 to 4,750 lbs.
  • IIHS safety rating: good, except for a small marginal or acceptable frontal overlap
  • Vehicle Limited Warranty: 36 months/36,000 miles
  • Powertrain Warranty: 60 months/60,000 miles
  • Anti-corrosion warranty: 60 months/unlimited mileage
  • Vehicle Assembly: Princeton, Indiana

This article was originally published by Automotive Trends Magazine.

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