For the past eight years, Toyota has managed minor changes annually for its popular Sienna minivan without a major makeover, and for 2019 has basically stood pat again.
For 2019, minor changes make Apple CarPlay and Amazon Alexa standard features and options increase in some trims.
The quintessential “soccer mom” vehicle entered the U.S. minivan market in 1997, and Toyota has defied conventional wisdom in an industry that typically launches major redesigns every 3-to-5 years.
It is the only minivan offering all-wheel-drive — not making it off-road ready — but giving it traction and driver confidence on rain-slick, snowy or icy pavement when transporting precious cargo, like children.
It’s also the most powerful minivan with a V-6 engine and has the most cargo space when third row seats fold flat and captain’s chairs are removed.
We test drove the XLE, one of five trims and just below top trim Limited. It was outfitted with a premium variant with top safety features, mating with Toyota’s highly touted Safety Sense-P with pedestrian detection. Premium is available, along with all-wheel-drive, in all but the base L trim.
All seven leather-trimmed seating positions are comfortable, including the third row for adults. Entry/exit is easy with side sliding doors and manipulatable second row chairs.
The ride is composed with only minor road feedback on 18-inch alloy wheels wearing run-flat tires. (There is no spare.) There is some expected lean in higher speed turns. Visibility is excellent, handling average.
Minivans gobble gas and Sienna’s no exception. Road and wind noise intrudes with the radio off.
Three drive modes – power, normal and eco – react well with the 8-speed transmission. Top Sienna trims XLE can tow 3,500 pounds.
Inside, family oriented features include a drop-down conversation mirror to see what’s happening in rear seating rows, a moonroof, Easy Speak to talk to third row speakers, 12 cupholders (six in the front row), roof rails for extra luggage, and a drop-down second row Blue-Ray entertainment screen with split screen capability.
Increasingly popular in the auto industry, CarPlay transports iPhone features to the 7-inch touchscreen, like talking using Siri on the phone. Sienna keeps a CD player.
Alexa uses Toyota’s Entune 3.0 infotainment system to interface voice-activated Alexa features, just like it does at home.
Sienna earned top crash scores in government crash tests.
LIKES: Power, cargo space, all-wheel-drive, ride, safety/family features, reliability, versatility.
DISLIKES: Gas mileage, wind/road noise, run-flat tires.
BOTTOM LINE: All-wheel drive adds to already ample safety features, still competitive minivan.
TOYOTA SIENNA XLE PREMIUM
Base price w/destination fee: $43,385 ($45,123 as tested)
Vehicle weight: 4,750 lbs.
Wheelbase: 119.3 inches
Length: 200.6 inches
Width: 78.1 inches
Engine: 3.5 liter, V6, DOHC variable valve timing
Horsepower: 96 hp @ 6,600 rpm
Torque: 263 lbs.-ft. @ 4,700 rpm
Transmission: 8-speed automatic w/manual mode
EPA rating: 18 mpg city/24 mpg hwy
Range: 20-gallon tank, regular
Performance: 0-60 in just over 7 seconds