2014 Toyota Sienna LimitedPosted on May 8th, 2014
Seven-passenger comfort for active families
By Nina Russin
My seven year-old friend, Riley, who is helping me to evaluate the Toyota Sienna minivan has just informed me that this is the best car she has ever ridden in, and that it reminds her of her living room. Riley is a very perceptive little girl, perhaps wise beyond her years.
While exterior styling typically trumps the interior when it comes to car purchase decisions, the opposite applies to minivans. Minivans are all about packaging. On a similar note, the focus is primarily on the passengers as opposed to the driver. This explains why Riley is enjoying her experience in the Toyota Sienna more than her mother’s Porsche Cayenne.
Riley points out the large side windows and sticks her hands through the open second-row sunroof. She loves the fact that her captain’s chair reclines back so she can take a nap in it. Her mother appreciates the ease with which she can install the booster seat.
The Limited is the most upscale of the Sienna models. The seven or eight-passenger Sienna is available in front or all-wheel drive. All cars come with a 3.5-liter V-6 engine and six-speed automatic transmission. Towing capacity is 3500 pounds, meeting out ALV minimum standard.
Base price for the Limited all-wheel drive model is $41,710, excluding the $860 destination charge. Options on the test car include high-intensity discharge headlamps, rain-sensing wipers, rear DVD entertainment system, navigation, backup camera with cross-traffic alert, premium audio, real-time traffic alerts, satellite radio, Bluetooth streaming audio, iPod connectivity and carpeted floor mats. Final MSRP is $47,895.
Test drive in Arizona
My excursion with Riley and her mother, Cindy is to a favorite ice-cream shop in Tempe, Arizona: about 20 minutes by highway and surface streets from our respective houses. Although its not a long drive, I have opportunity to test engine power and throttle response and use the standard blind spot monitoring feature while weaving through some rather dense traffic.
Over the course of the week, I try to replicate other situations that active families might find themselves in, such as shopping for groceries and commuting to work through rush-hour traffic. In each situation, the Sienna proves to be a very comfortable car to live with. It is an enabler for busy people who appreciate things that simplify their lives.
A shelf in front of the center console proves to be the perfect place to stash a purse or backpack, while the console itself offers more storage, plus a writing surface and two large cupholders. Power sliding doors and a power tailgate make it easier to load passengers and large cargo inside. The space between the second-row captains chairs eases third-row access and egress.
The 266-horsepower V-6 engine has plenty to get the job done, while the six-speed automatic transmission shifts smoothly with minimal shift shock. Electric power steering gives the car an exceptionally good turning circle making the car much easier to park than one might expect.
The suspension consists of an independent MacPherson strut setup in front and torsion beam rear axle. While I’m typically not a fan of live rear axles, this one seems to function just fine, and is more practical for towing purposes. Four-wheel disc brakes stop the car in firm, linear fashion.
Engineers did an excellent job of minimizing wind, road and engine noise intrusion inside the car so all three rows of occupants can converse comfortably or enjoy the premium audio system.
The rearview camera with regular and wide-angle views eliminates what would otherwise be large blind spots in the back corners. I find it especially useful in the grocery store parking lot.
Although designers had plenty of space inside the car to play with, they focused on maximizing its functionality. For example, the gearshift lever is on the instrument panel rather than the center console, leaving more room for storage.
A deep well behind the third-row seats holds a considerable amount of cargo, so families don’t have to worry about fitting in soccer gear or the weekly groceries. Standard roof rails on the test car make it easy to add a rack or carrier up top.
Standard keyless entry and start spares the driver for fumbling for the key fob. The driver’s seat is easy to adjust upward so smaller women will have a clear forward view. Two-position driver’s seat memory enables multiple family members to share the car.
Comfort and convenience controls are intuitive to operate and easy to reach from either front seating position. The dual-pane sunroof brings a welcome dose of ambient light and fresh air into the interior. Rear sunshades keep back occupants cool on hot summer days.
The center stack screen is large and easy to read, although it tends to wash out in bright sunlight. A larger hood over the screen would solve the problem.
The Toyota Sienna comes with front, side, side curtain and driver’s knee airbags, traction control, stability control, active front headrests, blind spot monitoring with cross traffic alert, child protecting sliding door locks, and safety connect that automatically notifies police and emergency medical personnel in the event of a serious collision.
Toyota builds the Sienna in its Princeton, Indiana assembly plant.
Like: A safe, solid and comfortable minivan with seating for up to eight passengers. The V-6 engine and six-speed automatic transmission is a proven powertrain. Available all-wheel drive enhances four-season performance.
Dislike: Center stack screen tends to wash out in bright sunlight.
Model: Sienna Limited
Base price: $41,710
As tested: $47,895
Horsepower: 266 Hp @ 6200 rpm
Torque: 245 lbs-ft. @ 4700 rpm
Antilock brakes: Standard
Side curtain airbags: Standard
First aid kit: N/A
Bicycle friendly: Yes
Fuel economy: 16/23 mpg city/highway2014, Luxury 2014, Active Lifestyle Vehicles, auto review, performance, pricing, standard safety, Toyota
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