People & Stuff Hauler
By Ron Amadon
DAMASCUS, MD. – If you are unalterably opposed to buying a van there is nothing I can do to change your mind.
But if hauling large quantities of people and their gear is the number one priority in your daily life, read on because here is one high quality van.
And you can jazz it up with the Salsa Red paint of the test van, nice looking 19-inch alloy wheels, a bit different front end design in the upscale SE Premium model and, good grief, even a sportier suspension.
The power liftgate is always welcome in such a vehicle, as are the heated front seats assuming winter ever appears in the East, a sunroof in case it doesn’t, and there were lots of other knickknacks plus the usual array of safety equipment.
So this is far from the stripped down aged VW Camper van I parked next to yesterday. But you don’t care about all this stuff – You want to know what it will haul.
Eight good friends, or just one shy of a pickup baseball team, can be comfortably accommodated when the second row is the 40/20/40 split bench. Subtract one body if the van has the second row, and very comfortable, captain’s chairs of the test vehicle. If you have been elected to pick up the 6’ 9” starting center on the basketball team you should know the seats slide back and forth to give him plenty of stretch out room.
On the other hand, if you are hauling the entire holiday gift load to Grandma’s on the 25th, those seats fold or they can be removed to create a max of 150 cubic feet of hauling space compared to 148.5 in the Honda Odyssey. But get some help because those seats are not light.
With the second row seats folded there is 117.8 cubic feet of storage space, and do not overlook the very deep covered bin just ahead of the liftgate. Properly equipped, the Sienna will tow up to 3,500 lbs.
Ahead of the nicely trimmed interior lies a 3.5-liter, V6 rated at 266 hp with 245 lb-ft of torque married to a responsive six speed automatic tranny. It allows the Sienna to merge quickly and smoothly onto an interstate where it settles in quietly for the remainder your trip. Only a tiny amount of wind noise could be detected.
From the driver’s seat the Sienna does has a heavy feel to it, but after all we are talking about 4,560 pound van here. Visibility was good to all sides helped by the cross traffic alert, and a nice touch was the three row side curtain air bags.
Running on the cheap stuff, 87 octane, the Sienna is rated at 18 mpg around the city, 25 on the highway, for a combined 21 mpg according to the EPA. I logged 23 mpg on mostly interstate travel.
The heated, leather covered six-way power adjustable driver’s seat was very comfy on a long drive. Controls are easy to reach, fit and finish was excellent, and I would strongly recommend you check the box for the rear entertainment system for younger passengers. It will allow one to watch a movie while the other plays a game adding immeasurably to the bliss factor on long trips.
To keep up with everything going on up front, there was a 5” TFT screen in the instrument cluster, and 7” high resolution screen center dash housing the navi and Toyota’s Entune system that doesn’t require a PHD in computer science to operate.
Ride quality was excellent even over pot holed rural roads and handling was about what one might expect in a van, which is to say a tad on the soft side. Toyota offers All-Wheel Drive, which is not available on the rival Odyssey. But the Sienna doesn’t offer a vacuum cleaner.
With a few minor options, the test SE Sienna with the Premium Package carried a bottom line of $40,994, a figure you could easily ring up in an SUV.
And my bet is that you can negotiate a better deal on a van these days thanks to the red hot market for SUVs, something to consider when you write that monthly payment check.
And with a dizzying array of models and options, one can create a Sienna that is all yours with the promise of a long term, trouble free relationship.