Review of: 2016 Toyota Sienna 5dr XLE 7-Pass AWD
2016 Toyota Sienna XLE Limited AWD: The midivan with a difference
By G. R. Whale
Sep. 9, 2016
Sienna is arguably the oldest vehicle in class, facing renewed competition from Pacifica, Sedona, Metris and the stalwart Odyssey. Yet beyond the daily drudgery than minivans endure, it works and it has two big things going for it: A decent value proposition and an ace up its sleeve.
Pros & Cons
- + Practicality
- + Price
- + Traction
- - No spare tire
- - Steering feel
- - Handling
A bulbous snout reminds me of a sea bed-skimming ray, and makes me think the tires are never wide enough (all Sienna have similar tire width, regardless of wheel diameter). It’s clean and simple, the elements that most positively catch my eye being the sliding door channels and how the rear spoiler crease begins in the rear pillar giving designed-in — not added-on — coherency. I don’t find it inspiring overall but vans are about space efficiency, so I won’t dock points for that.
Middle-row seats define a van, and these are neither Sedona loungers nor Pacifica’s smaller hide-in-the-floor seats. They slide 37 cm fore-and-aft locked for seating and a further 24 cm for stowage, feel as comfortable as the fronts less power adjustment, and have armrests on both sides.
Third row is van-typical, a 60/40-split fold-in-floor bench. Cargo volume is 1,100 litres with all seven seats up, about three times that with second-row folded and four times middle row removed.
Front seats offer plenty of room and storage options are plentiful, especially that by the driver’s window. I wish the steering wheel wasn’t offset and gauge ornamentation is busy—why legible numbers but lines through the fuel and temperature gauges? The display between offers useful data and simple menus.
Glossy woodgrain livens up the dash but on adds glare and fingerprints to door panels. The gated shifter’s a delight and switchgear, even left of the wheel, is easy to see and operate. If there’s a functional element missing, it must be a built-in vacuum.
Top trim brings a 16.4-inch widescreen Blu-ray entertainment, JBL sound and the driver can admonish juvenile delinquents through the sound system, the effect far more jarring than the warning. It also has RCA, SD and HDMI inputs and dual 120-volt outlets.
Nav offers traffic and weather overlay, but the traffic data took longer to load than in most vehicles—can’t tell you if that’s the hardware, software or signal but satellite radio behaved normally. Entune apps mightn’t offer the breadth of some others, but they are subscription-free.
Blind-spot and rear cross path warning are standard, collision warning and mitigation are not available.
The Sienna’s ace in the hole is all-wheel drive, unique in vans this size (and explains only seven seats and no spare). It’s employed for inclement weather traction, not rear-drive handling. Based on silty dirt performance and less weight than most three-row crossovers, I’d wager this an excellent snowbound people-mover on winter tires (run-flat all-season are standard).
It drives like a van: Yawn. Light steering offers little feedback, the van manoeuvers easily, stops as desired, soaks up bumps without tossing occupants around—and little changed with 300 kg on the floor. No matter how I pushed—too fast into a bend, full throttle out, quick transitions—it predictably groaned the front tires as speed scrubbed off. Like a donkey on a trail ride, it might be slow and squealing but never unstable. For driving amusement, think Metris or the TRD catalog.
Toyota’s 3.5-litre V-6 rates 266 hp and 245 lb-ft of torque well up the rev band but it’s adequate for eight-second 100-kph sprints and never felt overwhelmed. Engine noise isn’t a bother and from the driver’s seat most wind and road noise comes from the sliding doors behind. I was pleasantly surprised by solid, smooth gear-shifts and good engine braking that managed six km-long, 8 percent descents at 80-100 km/h never needing the brake pedal.
NRC puts the AWD consumption penalty at 0.8 l/100km over the front-drive van, something many will find acceptable. At 9.0 highway, 12.2 in town and average of 11.2, I beat the ratings, not bad considering what I put it through…and put in it.
You might think a $51,000 van is not “reasonable money” but only a Sedona SXL+ ($47,000 with collision mitigation braking, etc.) strikes me as any better value. Crossovers haven’t the space, an Odyssey Touring is $49,000, Chrysler’s Pacifica up to $55,500 and neither of those vans is all-wheel drive. The front-drive LE or XLE Sienna is about $2,800 less than the AWD models.
Is Sienna the best midivan? That’s hard to say, but a legion will tell you it gets the job done reliably for them, and what else do you want in a van? The all-wheel drive Sienna’s a class of one, but has more going for it than just AWD.