Road Test: Toyota Sienna Hybrid Limited

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Lubec, yes, the quaint (and quiet) little seaside village with the easternmost lighthouse in the United States as well as some of the most beautiful coastlines in Maine, has little in common with Natick, the mecca Massachusetts’ bustling shopping and ‘burb community’ just west of the over-paved megalopolis of Boston. Apart from Natick, we picked up this week’s Sienna hybrid van and several crates of tiles for the Navigator renovation project, then spent hours mired in typical 128/I-95 traffic, while the scenic Lubec turned out to be the balm that revealed the Unlimited Virtues in this family hauler.

The fact that the Sienna has proven to be an outstanding performer in these two opposing environments is credit to Toyota’s determination to continue adding value to its big wagon while naysayers try to undermine what remains the best way to get lots of people from point A to point B — as well as every place in between.

Toyota’s lineup of hybrid vehicles continues to grow – and every show proves the merit of building these smart vehicles. From the small Prius to this 201-inch-long seven-passenger minivan, the hybrid powertrain (245 hp combined from the 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine, electric motor and battery) provided ample power and fuel economy. more than exemplary fuel. Against an EPA estimate of 36/36/36 mpg (no misprint), our root beer colored pickup truck (actually Sunset Bronze Mica) achieved a real world over 37 mpg for four adults, with all our gear, driving more than 240 miles covering the Bold Coast of Maine, Washington County and all of Lubec’s rural neighborhoods. With a full tank your range is over 600 miles – try that in your electric battery!

Every Sienna this year is a hybrid. You can choose from five trim levels (starting at $31,640), including the sporty new XSE and optional AWD returns, making the Sienna and Pacifica the only two minivans that feature both: hybrid power and / or all-wheel drive.

Highlights include long-rail second-row captain’s chairs that include folding ottomans, a 12-speaker JBL audio system, hands-free power sliding doors and tailgate, and four-zone automatic climate control. Our leather-wrapped Limited’s front seats (fully outfitted for $50,010 with wireless rear entertainment, 1500W inverter, all-weather mats, but no head-up display) were heated and cooled, while seven USB ports are also distributed in the cabin. like a surplus of lockers and drink slot machines. The Sienna’s console layout earns four stars for gobbling up a boatload of travel essentials, neatly, while the flat shelf all over the dash, to the left of the steering wheel too, including a no-frills charging house thread, is very useful.

In the harrowing return from Massachusetts, a four-and-a-half-hour grind, the Toyota’s seats proved to be excellent. During meandering visits to 11 of 35 conservation parks around Lubec and Trescott over three days, the Sienna’s ease of access, great visibility and roomy cabin made it easy to transition between the constant gear changes in the fog, rain, wind and more fog.

Everything was fine; these 11 parks are very impressive. Several were existing and familiar retreats like Quoddy Head Light, however, the recent entry of the Butler Conservation Fund in Lubec has a huge impact. Their work is extremely important, A) for the quality of land secured for all to share, B) maintained trails, seclusion huts and general high levels of improvements, plus C) spirit than exposure to the trails and people of Lubec will do the trick for a community that has undeniable beauty and an indomitable spirit. At each meeting, from our bed and breakfast to each restaurant visited, the Lubecois know how to welcome you to their home.

The Sienna made us feel that too. We trashed the mats on every ride, littered the cabin with food, wet clothes and “gift shop” extras—the Sienna seems to relish abuse. And then it got 37 mpg, again.

OK so maybe the sill is a bit wide getting in and out – but that’s due to improved safety standards, and also works to cover the wide track chassis below which provided great composure on less than perfect surfaces. The steering feel was better than I expected, and the tactile feel of the conventional controls is far superior to the vague commitment of too many “touchscreens”. Of course, Toyota’s many Safety Sense 2.0 electronic driver aids are all included.

With more space than the Highlander – a true adult third-row seat exists here – plus deep cargo well behind that third row, the Sienna is ready to battle this upstart minivan as well as its other two remaining rivals. The added benefit of hybrid power and improved fuel efficiency should be a home run for any minivan buyer who recognizes the inherent value available here.

As for Lubec, you are about to be discovered again. There won’t be any hidden gold scandals this time (look it up, it’s a fascinating story) and you won’t be packing sardines anymore. The treasure of the region are the places we will discover and the people we will meet.

Tim Splash

Tim Plouff reviewed the automobiles in the pages of The American Ellsworth weekly for almost two decades.

Tim Splash
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