Haul Your Family With the 2011 Toyota Sienna

2011, Toyota, Sienna

Minivan's aren't as popular as they used to be. Some manufacturers have stopped producing them. Less demand, less supply means that the best minivans have weathered the storm.

I don't think minivans are good looking. I don't think they're ugly, but let's face it, there's only so much you can do with a minivan. You can soften the lines, add some exterior cues, but minivans are minivans. There's a certain boxiness that is a minivan.

Having said that, if I had kids I would buy a minivan. I love all the options a van offers.The 2011 Toyota Sienna is available in five different configurations: two engines, seven or eight passenger seating, and front or all-wheel drive.

Kazuo Mori is the chief engineer of the third generation Toyota Sienna. Mori had a dream of being the chief engineer for a sports car driver. He loved racing go-karts at a younger age. The closest he has gotten to this dream is to develop the 2011 Toyota Sienna Sport edition (SE).

Toyota asked us if we would like Mori to join us on a drive. Since Mori liked racing, and Denise McCluggage was a race car driver we decided to venture out in Mori's favorite Sienna, the Sport Edition (SE).

Denise McCluggage has written about and photographed cars for half a century. She has raced against the likes of Stirling Moss and Phil Hill. She’s won trophies in rallies and races on three continents. McCluggage has raced in such cars as Porsche, Jaguar, Lotus, Mini Cooper, Alfa. In 1961 she won the grand touring category at Sebring in a Ferrari 250 GT.

Denise has a laugh that is infectious, and she will laugh with you, at you or at herself, as long as she can laugh. I told Denise that Mori didn't know she had been a race car driver. She threw her gray mane back in laughter and said, "What does he think, I'm the little old lady from Pasadena?"

Mori didn't know that Denise was a race car driver, competing against the likes of Phil Hill and Stirling Moss. But as we drove along and Denise put the car through its paces you could tell that Mori may not have known when we started, but quickly out of the gate he realized Denise knew her stuff.

Denise talked to Mori about the minivan, "what I like about certain cars are that they don't seem to be on the road, they seem to be in it. (The Toyota Sienna) follows every undulation, you have positive traction everywhere. It is really excellent."

This is the first time a four-cylinder engine has been offered in the Sienna. It's the same 2.7-liter powerplant that is available in the Venza. The 2.7-liter four-cylinder generates 187 horsepower at 5,800 rpm. The EPA estimated fuel economy for the 4-cylinder is 19 city/26 highway miles per gallon. Toyota says this is the highest fuel economy of any seven or eight passenger minivan.

The 3.5-liter V-6 generates 266 horsepower at 6,200 rpm, with expected EPA- estimated mileage ratings of 18 mpg city/24 mpg highway (16 mpg city/22 mpg highway on AWD models).

2011 Toyota Sienna base in a 4-cylinder 7-passenger, starting at $24,260 or V-6 7-passenger starting at $25,500. Both are front-wheel drives. 2011 Toyota Sienna LE in a 4-cylinder, 8-passenger, starting $25,345, or a V-6 LE front-wheel drive 8-passenger starting at $28,900, or a V-6 LE all-wheel drive 7-passenger starting at $31,130. There is only one 2011 Toyota Sienna SE. It is a V-6 8-passenger front-wheel drive that starts at $30,550. There are two 2011 Toyota Sienna XLEs. The first is a V-6 8-passenger front-wheel drive starting at $32,175, and an XLE V-6 all-wheel drive 7-passenger that starts at $34,515. There are two 2011 Toyota Sienna Limited minivans to choose from. There is a Limited V-6 7-passenger front-wheel drive that starts at $38,500, and a Limited V-6 all-wheel drive 7-passenger that starts at $39,770. 0.

Denise and I drove each vehicle, and we enjoyed the 4-cylinder and the SE best. I asked Denise which minivan she would recommend and she said it depended on your budget. Practical. She then went on to say that the SE is a "real grown up vehicle. It's really remarkable to have the drivetrain and the suspension be so cohesive. They are united, they match. I'm not even using the manual shift, because the car seems to know what it wants to do.

Toyota is the first automaker in North America to offer a factory-installed, rotating, power ascending/descending lift-up seat. Caregiving isn't easy, okay it stinks. Helping someone change their clothes and get in a wheelchair and into a car so they can see their doctor is grueling.

Auto-Access is a factory installed seat in the Toyota Sienna. No more buying a vehicle and then finding a place to get a swivel seat that lifts and descends.

Toyota has a seat-mounted ingress/egress switch and a wireless remote control that allows for easy and flexible seat operation. The seat rotates 90 degrees and can be lowered to within 19 inches of the ground. When inside the car, the seat can recline 24 inches. A sliding door sensor allows the seat to operate only when the sliding door is completely open.

The LE V6 2WD model starts at $28,900, and the LE AAS model with the same driveline starts at $35,135.

The XLE V6 2WD model starts at $32,175, and the XLE AAS model with the same driveline starts at $39,445.

As Denise put it, "this vehicle makes you hungry for the road, and you don't expect that from a minivan."

By Lou Ann Hammond

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Images of the 2011, Toyota Sienna

2011 Toyota Sienna
2011 Toyota Sienna
ease of use and great design
ease of use and great design
the perfect way to carry loved ones
the perfect way to carry loved ones
great from front to rear
great from front to rear