DETROIT – If ever there was a scourge of the auto industry, it is a minivan. Most people don’t want to be caught dead in one. They are thought to convey a boring lifestyle, subservience to kids and the driver is viewed as an all-around gofer for the family.
But even though sales have fallen, more than 1 million people a year purchase a minivan, most of them after they’ve had a second child. And the Toyota Sienna ranks among the best of the family haulers.
We had the 2015 Toyota Sienna SE. It had a 3.5-liter V6 engine that made 266 horsepower and 245 pound-feet of torque. Mated to a six-speed automatic transmission the Sienna had plenty of power to maneuver on the expressways here as well as on the surface streets. It had an EPA rating of 18 mpg in the city, 25 mpg on the highway and 21 mpg combined.
You should know that we weren’t carrying passengers, so our test vehicle was rather spry on the pavement. But if you’re hauling kids around, a reasonable argument is that you have no business whizzing in and out of traffic anyway.
We had captain’s chairs in the second row. That meant that our Sienna could carry seven passengers in a 2+2+3 configuration. A second row bench seat increases its capacity to eight passengers. We had the front-wheel-drive model, but there is an all-wheel-drive version. Toyota said the Sienna is the only minivan available with all-wheel-drive.
As we were preparing this review, we got notification that the Toyota Sienna had received the Best in Class Minivan Award in the fifth annual New England Motor Press Association Technology Conference. Indeed, with 150 cu. ft. of storage space, with the second and third row seats taken out, the Sienna can haul a bunch of stuff. But its main purpose is to haul kids, their friends and all their stuff.
The Sienna is equipped with a speaker that will project the driver’s voice through the audio system’s rear speakers. It uses the same microphone as the voice controls. Used with the Sienna’s standard conversation mirror in the overhead console, a driver can get up close and personal with the people in the back of the van, especially the munchkins in the third row who think they are beyond reach.
Toyota’s Entune App system was standard equipment on the Sienna. Of course, there was a rear seat entertainment system. And our Sienna had a backup camera with cross traffic alert and it was equipped with blind side alert.
The SE is, more or less, the sport model. It was lower, featured a sport tuned suspension and it had 19-inch wheels. The side skirts and at lower profile headlights with LED daytime running lamps gave it and even more muscular look.
The interior had what Toyota called exclusive instrumentation. Instruments had black numerals on white dials. The black interior featured white French stitching. The navigation/information screen was atop the center stack, climate controls were beneath it and the audio controls were beneath that. We had a CD player, a feature that is bordering on being obsolete, and a slot for an SD card. There was also a 110-volt outlet with easy second row access.
Our tester had climate controls for the rear and there was also a power off button for the sliding doors. We thought that was a nice touch to keep young explorers inside the Sienna.The vehicle had a smart key, a sunroof and the fit and finish was what you’d expect of a Toyota vehicle. It was flawless to the naked eye.
For $41,108, our 2015 Toyota Sienna SE wasn’t a bad deal.
Frank S. Washington is editor of AboutThatCar.com.