2011 Toyota Sienna: Up Close


Rarely one to abandon a shrinking segment, Toyota unveiled a third-generation Sienna at today’s L.A. Auto Show. The automaker had a host of trim levels on hand — the loaded Limited, well-equipped XLE and cool-for-some SE — to poke around in. We did just that. The early word is that minivan shoppers — or at least those who haven’t yet fled the segment for large crossovers — have plenty to look forward to. The Sienna doesn’t go for broke on family features like Chrysler’s minivans do, and Toyota misses the mark on functionality in a couple areas. But the Sienna presents solid utility and impressive seating configurations; cabin refinement rivals the likes of a Honda Odyssey. The company also says it will cost less than the current version.

Front and rear, it’s clear the Sienna got the Venza treatment, which isn't too surprising since both models were styled at Toyota’s California studios. These proportions seem better, though. There’s more surface area on the Sienna, so the grille doesn’t overpower the rest of the face quite as much as the Venza's does.

Inside, Toyota scores solid hits on utility and roominess. The front seats present a high driving position and decent sightlines, though the entertainment system’s extra-wide screen obstructs much of your six-o’clock view. There’s plenty of storage space in both the center console and a large open area below the center controls, and the dash sports larger dual glove compartments than before.

The second row slides forward and back with impressive range. If no one is using the third row, slide the second row back for near-ridiculous legroom. NBA players could lounge back there. Toyota says it moved the third row 2 inches farther back than in the previous generation. It still sits too low to the ground — as most third rows do — but it’s suitable for kids. On the off-chance you’re carrying five or six adults, second- and third-row passengers will have to work out a compromise on where to position the second-row seats. I did — with a non-Cars.com journalist, no less – and legroom in both rows was tenable.

The third row folds into the floor manually or via power operation. The three-step manual process feels more cantankerous — like the Odyssey’s third row — than in the outgoing Sienna, whose third row collapsed into the floor with relatively little effort. Toyota doesn’t offer any way for the second row to fold flat into the floor like Chrysler’s Stow 'n Go seats or into themselves like the Odyssey’s or Chrysler’s Swivel 'n Go chairs. If you need the cargo room, you’ll have to remove the chairs entirely, a Toyota official told me.

Still, with available features like all-wheel drive, a more efficient four-cylinder engine and a starting price confirmed to be less than the outgoing Sienna’s $24,540 sticker, this minivan has the potential to snag a wider array of buyers than its competitors. We’ll be driving it next week, with a full review to follow. Stay tuned for more.

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It's scary how much is the same from the previous gen. Really Scary actually. But then again, how do improve something that is already really really good?


This is an excellent looking van, and makes me wish I was in the market for one. Expect Toyota to boast sales just on the design alone.


Aren't minivans goin extinct?


The fake wood looks awful. Other than that - great! They really should come up with an easier method for the 2nd row seats, though. Then, it would be no question, especially when the Chrysler products start falling apart the minute you drive them out of the showroom.


Is Toyota really giving the Sienna a four cylinder engine? Cars.com should review both the 4 and 6 cylinder engines and give a full comparison.


Why would minivans be going extinct? People too cool AGAIN for them?


its an awesome mini van, iam 20 and i would not mind driving, great job Toyota.

Ken L.

I know comments on styling are always subjective, but I really like most of Toyota's redesigns lately (2010 Prius, Camry SE, Venza, Tundra, and now the Sienna). Their new designs get noticed without encroaching on the Lexus nameplate. This Sienna is by far the best looking minivan, imho. The faux wood could’ve been applied more liberally if they truly wanted to create that upscale look. Honda’s Odyssey is also nice, but I predict the upcoming Sienna will outsell the Odyssey if Honda/Acura follows with their current design direction…which is way too polarizing for what is suppose to be a family vehicle for the masses.


Ironically, almost a decade ago, Toyota had priced their Sienna at 37K when Honda came with a bigger, better and lower priced Odyssey at 28K and stole Toyota's lunch right in front of their own eyes. A decade later, Honda has priced Odyssey considerably higher than Sienna and refuse to budge on prices. Toyota is doing right by pricing Siennas lower than Odyssey and is year ahead than 2011 Odyssey upgrade. My guess is Toyota will steal some of Odysseys market share. Only gripe, I wish Toyota would offer variable cylinder management like Honda to improve fuel economy.


Is there going to be an 8-passenger AWD option?


It looks good on the outside, and inside, but why would they not increase the third row seating when they know that is a factor for most people. You don't carry kids everywhere, sometimes its adult time. Got to have the leg room on third row or don't have one at all.


I am in the market for minivan and after looking at the 2011 Sienna I have decided to purchase the Odyssey simply because of the third row seat quality and comfort on the Odyssey, why would I buy a minivan if I don't have strong need for third row seating.


This vehicle seems way to large for a 4 cylinder engine.

Al G.

I recently got to get in the new Sienna at the Philly car show. Overall I like the 3rd generation. I agree with Kelsey. The design language does work better on this car than the Venza. The interior is nice and roomy. One thing I didn't like is the hard plastic dashboard. Seems that is an obvious area were Toyota saved the money again. Just as hard and cheap looking as on my Highlander. Come on Toyota bring back the softer touch materials of yore.


We just test drove this along with 2010 Odyssey.

We really like the Sienna. They have really packed a lot of features into the lower level LX model. Bluetooth, backup camera, iPod integration, power sliding doors. The AWD was a nice selling point. In the end we chose a 2011 Sienna LX AWD.

The only down point of the Sienna is in the 8 passenger configuration if you take out the center seat it leave a mounting rail behind on the floor, which of course everyone trips over. We opted for a 7 passenger AWD so it wasn't an issue for us.

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