Toyota has no illusions about what this all-new next-generation minivan must be: "Simply put, this has to be a home run," says John Jula, executive engineer/program manager for the Toyota Sienna. "And we think we've done more than that."
The all-new Sienna, built from the new Camry platform, is longer, wider, faster, and loaded with many (if not all) of the best features offered by the competitors. "This segment is about kids, so we've tried to give them everything they (and their parents) might need," Jula says.
The Sienna's engine is the same transverse-mounted 3.3-liter V-6 and five-speed automatic transmission recently introduced in the new Lexus RX 330. In fact, many of the Sienna's interior details remind us of the Lexus compact SUV, and, of course, that's no accident. Gone is the column shifter, replaced by the familiar dash-mounted lever from the RX 330 and Toyota Highlander, allowing for more dash visibility and an overall sportier feel (although, maybe that's not so important for a minivan).
In addition to being longer, wider, and taller than the previous model, where other manufacturers said it couldn't be done, Toyota found a way to accommodate an all-wheel-drive system (an option) with an easy-to-use fold-away full-size third-row seat. Toyota has done away with the underside-stored spare tire by equipping all-wheel-drive models with runflat tires. Among the upgrades, the third-row seat is one of the most impressive pieces of technology we've seen in a while. Equipped with spring-loaded struts, the two-step pull-and-flip system is the easiest, most convenient way to use and store additional seating we've seen. Other comforts include electronic, driver and passenger sliding rear doors, as well as a hands-free rear hatch (complete with annoying warning beeps). The new Sienna offers roll-down windows in the electric sliding passenger doors, too. Only two vehicles in the category have that option.