Toyota Sienna is big and roomy and may be configured to seat seven passengers with second-row captain’s chairs or eight with a three-position bench. It’s the only minivan we know of that offers all-wheel drive as an option.
The 2017 Toyota Sienna gets an upgrade to its 3.5-liter V6 engine in the form of direct fuel injection, hiking horsepower by 30 hp. 2017 Sienna models also get a new 8-speed automatic transmission. EPA-estimated fuel economy has increased for 2017 Sienna: up to 22 mpg Combined (city/highway) with front-wheel drive, or 20 mpg Combined with all-wheel drive.
Notably well-equipped, the Sienna comes in five trim levels, plus three Premium variants. All-wheel drive is available for Sienna LE, Sienna XLE, and Sienna Limited. The upgraded V6 engine now develops 296 horsepower and comes with all models.
Sienna stresses family-oriented features, versatility, interior space, reliability. Upper trim levels add entertainment options and accessibility equipment. A 6.1-inch touchscreen and Bluetooth connectivity comes standard. Extras include rear-seat entertainment, power sliding doors, navigation, and voice projection for communicating with back-seat passengers.
Side-curtain airbags protect occupants in all three rows. Outward visibility excels. All Siennas include a rearview camera, which has been upgraded to provide a 180-degree view. Government and insurance-industry crashworthiness scores are good but the best. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration gave the Sienna a five-star rating overall, but only four stars for frontal crash protection and for rollovers. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety ranked the Sienna Good in most areas, but only Acceptable for the small-overlap frontal crash procedure.
A number of contemporary safety features are optional. Among them: forward collision warning and adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, front/rear parking sensors.
The 2017 Toyota Sienna comes in L, LE, SE, XLE, and Limited models, plus premium editions.
Sienna L ($29,750) gets seven-passenger seating with fabric-trimmed upholstery, three-zone climate control, rearview camera, 6.1-inch touchscreen, 3.5-inch information display, Bluetooth connectivity, 17-inch wheels.
Sienna LE ($32,540) has eight-passenger seating, power sliding doors, power front seats, and a 7.0-inch touch screen. All-wheel drive with seating for seven and 18-inch wheels ($2,540) is optional. Automatic Access Seating is available.
Sienna SE ($36,110) features leather seating surfaces, eight-passenger seating with heated front seats, sport mesh grille, foglamps, LED taillights, sport instruments, 19-inch wheels, and smoked exterior accents. Sienna SE Premium ($40,830) includes a 16.4-inch rear entertainment system with Blu-ray player, keyless ignition/start, and a Driver Easy Speak system that amplifies the voice.
Sienna XLE ($36,310) reverts to 17-inch wheels, with seating for eight plus woodgrain accents, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, and a moonroof. All-wheel drive with seven-passenger seating and 18-inch wheels is optional ($2,210). An Automatic Access Seat is available. Sienna XLE Premium ($39,505) adds the Blu-ray player and Driver Easy Speak system. All-wheel drive is optional ($2,210).
Sienna Limited ($42,800) has seven-passenger seating and adds navigation, an upgraded 10-speaker stereo, 18-inch wheels, chrome exterior accents, and dual moonroof. All-wheel drive with seating for seven is optional ($1,140). Limited Premium ($46,170) seats seven, adding the Blu-ray player and rain-sensing wipers. Adaptive cruise control and forward collision warning systems are available. All-wheel drive is optional ($1,740).
The Toyota Sienna looks like your typical minivan and does not try to masquerade as something else. Little has changed visually since the 2015 model year. A finned grille is installed on LX, XLE, and Limited trim levels. Limited and SE versions display LED headlights.
The Sienna SE looks the sportiest of Toyota’s minivans, especially with an optional appearance package. Rocker panels and larger-diameter wheels stand out a bit, as do the SE’s clear taillight lenses; but the overall shape differs little from other trim levels.
Inside, Sienna offers a smart interior appearance and convenient layout. Siennas are among the biggest and most spacious of minivans, promising exceptional comfort to all riders. Adults should have no difficulty entering or exiting the rear compartment.
A sweeping, contoured dashboard separates front occupants, placing essential controls on the driver’s side. Instruments are large and easy-to-read. Audio and climate controls can be reached easily by the front passenger.
A 6.1-inch touchscreen is standard. Lower trim levels also get a 3.5-inch black-and-white LCD information screen, while upper models upgrade to a 4.2-inch color display.
Front occupants enjoy comfortable, supportive seating. Most models have a second-row bench, for eight-passenger seating. The bench slides to expand either occupant or cargo space. Removing one section provides access to the foldaway third row, which can actually carry grownups and isn’t so difficult to reach.
Captain’s chairs are standard with all-wheel drive, though they don’t fold totally flat. In the front-wheel-drive Limited, reclining lounge-type seats include footrests and leg-cushion extenders.
Small-item storage is bountiful, with a deep console and dual gloveboxes. A handy storage platform below the center dash between the front seats provides a convenient place for a purse or your take-out order.
Cargo space totals 117.8 cubic feet with the second-row seats folded and pushed forward and the third-row seats folded. That’s a lot of cargo space. Behind the third-row seats is 39.1 cubic feet of cargo space, and the deep well in the floor there easily holds and confines a massive load of groceries, superior to SUVs.
We found the power doors could be reluctant to open at times. A passenger we picked up curbside at a busy airport struggled to get the side door open, trying to operate it manually, which is what so often happens when passengers are trying to get in under pressure. And the rear hatch required holding down the button on the remote several beats longer than expected.
Performance in minivans is more a matter of safety and maneuverability than acceleration or passing power. As long as it reaches highway speeds promptly, halts effectively, and is agile enough to steer around trouble spots, a minivan scores well.
That said, the Sienna feels heavy and sluggish, slow to respond in transient maneuvers and seems to require more steering input than many SUVs do.
Because of its size and weight and its tall profile, handling is lethargic. There’s a fair amount of nose dive when braking. Sienna isn’t quiet on the highway, either.
With nearly 300 horsepower for 2017, the V6 suffers no shortage of energy on the road, ranking above average for its class. Shifts are smooth and practically imperceptible from the new 8-speed automatic, though downshifting to pass can be slow. The engine and transmission do not seem perfectly coordinated, however. When taking a right-hand turn at an intersection the transmission often selects a relatively high gear (third) in the middle of the turn; then, as the accelerator is depressed to accelerate out of the corner, the transmission has to downshift (to second gear) to call up sufficient torque to accelerate, an annoying trait.
With its tighter-tuned suspension and 19-inch tires, the Sienna SE is the sportiest model, but differences from top trim levels are subtle. With a towing package, a Sienna can haul as much as 3,500 pounds, a lightweight boat, for example.
Fuel economy ranks as respectable with the new, stronger engine and 8-speed automatic, though all-wheel drive lowers the mileage significantly. The front-wheel-drive Sienna is EPA-rated at 19/27 mpg City/Highway, or 22 mpg Combined. All-wheel drive drops those figures to 18/24 mpg City/Highway, or 20 mpg Combined.
The Toyota Sienna is relatively expensive, but it delivers interior space, seat comfort, convenience and versatility, as well as Toyota’s reputation for reliability.
Driving impressions by Aaron Cole, The Car Connection. James M. Flammang contributed to this report.