2007 Toyota Sienna Expert Reviews

Expert Reviews

2007 Toyota Sienna

New Car Test Drive
© 2007 NewCarTestDrive.com

A minivan might be the perfect vehicle for growing families, and the Toyota Sienna remains one of the best minivans going. It has all the elements that make minivans so useful, with good performance, an abundance of feature choices and excellent finish and function.

For 2007, the Sienna has more power than ever, with a larger, more powerful 3.5-liter V6 under its hood. The new engine gives the Sienna class-leading power, without a significant reduction in EPA mileage ratings. We found the 2007 Sienna offers impressive acceleration and just seems to have more driving excitement about it than last year's model.

The Sienna is big and roomy, but it doesn't drive bulky and it's not hard to park. It's smooth, responsive and quiet, and compared to sport-utility vehicles with comparable functional capability, it's more fuel efficient. It will switch from eight-passenger mini-bus to cargo hauler in minutes, with room for full sheets of plywood, 10-foot ladders and significantly more cargo space than most full-size SUVs. It will tow a family camper or small watercraft, and it doesn't look odd in the line for valet parking.

This family van is available in a wide range of trim-levels, making it accessible to a wider range of buyers. The base Sienna CE starts below $25,000 well equipped, with a full compliment of power features, air conditioning with separate controls front and rear, and a six-speaker CD stereo with a jack for MP3 players. The line-topping Limited easily breaks $40,000, equipped with leather memory seats, high-intensity headlights, active cruise control and rear-seat DVD entertainment. Yet all models have the same flexible seating arrangements, the powerful V6 and a five-speed automatic transmission.

Sienna also offers all the important safety equipment, and then some. Front passenger side-impact airbags, full-cabin head protection airbags and a sophisticated anti-lock brake system are standard. Electronic stability control, or Vehicle Stability Control as Toyota calls it, is available on all models. An optional rear-view camera helps the driver spot objects or children behind the vehicle when backing up, augmenting an audible park-assist system. All-wheel drive is available for those who need it, though the standard front-drive Sienna works just fine for suburbia in the Snow Belt.

It's easy to identify traits that make the Sienna a great minivan, but some of its strengths are more subtle and less tangible. Small conveniences contribute, including hooks in the just the right place or seats that fold with one hand. Almost everything works as people expect, without struggle or confusion. The Sienna removes family transport as a source of stress and pleasantly fades into the background until its time to go.

Model Lineup

Toyota Sienna CE ($24,155); LE FWD ($25,680); LE AWD ($29,295); XLE FWD ($30,125); XLE AWD ($33,330); XLE Limited FWD ($35,465): XLE Limited AWD ($37,665)

Walk Around

Love its styling or hate it, one thing is certain: The Toyota Sienna has an imposing presence. Measuring 200 inches front to rear, on a 119-inch wheelbase, the Sienna is nearly identical in length to a full-size Chevrolet Tahoe sport-utility vehicle. There's nothing mini about this van, most especially when its big, angular headlights are bearing down on the car ahead at dusk.

The Sienna was developed expressly for the United States, and it's a very American vehicle, regardless of what its brand name might suggest. It was designed in Southern California and engineered in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and it's built in Princeton, Indiana. This family van may not inspire macho envy on cruise night, but its basic shape has its appeal, and it's nearly impossible to beat for utilitarian practicality.

Sneering grille work and those big headlights, freshened with a restyling for the 2006 model year, create the Sienna's first impression. The taillight clusters are big, too, in the name of visibility and safety. The windshield is huge, but long wipers and wiper-mounted washer nozzles are up to the worst conditions winter in the Snow Belt can dish up. On high-trim Siennas, a nearly invisible electric element at the bottom of the windshield keeps the wiper blades from freezing to the glass. Power-folding side mirrors are also available, and these feature bright puddle lights that illuminate when the doors are unlocked. They're handy for both functions.

In side view, the Sienna's profile is clean. The slot for the sliding doors is cleverly hidden. Black window pillars and extensions on the steeply raked windshield lend a sleek appearance, and make the Sienna look even larger than it is. Unfortunately, the overall impression of strength is undercut a bit by proportionally small wheels arches.

That's one reason we like the look of the Sienna Limited best. Its standard 17-inch wheels and lower profile tires maximize the impact of the small wheel wells, and its extra splash of chrome trim adds a bit of detail to the expanse of painted metal.

Interior

If there's one word to describe the 2007 Toyota Sienna interior, it's versatile. In a matter of minutes, with very little fuss, the Sienna can switch from carrying eight people in reasonable comfort to swallowing full 4X8 sheets of plywood or drywall, securely enclosed and protected from the elements. This flexibility is both the essence and core appeal of a good minivan (assuming, of course, that the minivan is not a chore to drive), and the Sienna delivers in fine style.

The emphasis on versatility shouldn't imply that the Sienna is Spartan or doleful inside, however. Even the base CE model comes with most of the requisite creature comforts, including air conditioning with separate temperature settings front and rear. In spots, materials in the CE reflect its relatively inexpensive price, but overall fit and finish quality are first rate. Moving up the Sienna line, the trim and upholstery get richer, and the high-end Limited has luxury features that not so long ago were reserved for very expensive luxury sedans.

Getting in and out is easy, front or rear. Step-in height is about six inches lower than the typical SUV, and that's nice when you're dressed up or dealing with toddlers or dogs (or just about every time you get in or out). The manual sliding doors and manual rear hatch on LE and CE models work easily, with minimal effort, but the power doors are a nice convenience. They're some of the smoothest going, and they open quietly and relatively quickly.

As noted, the Sienna's trim materials improve as you go up the line. The basic fabric in the CE is fine, but the door panels and inserts suggest a low price. The LE features richer fabric, and the XLE nicer still. The Limited is upholstered in leather, which is optional on all models but the base CE.

The Sienna driver sits before a smooth, organic dashboard, with a prominent if slightly awkward center stack housing most key switches and controls. The standard trim is dark, lacquered-look plastic, and it looks good; the faux-wood trim on the Limited model looks tacked on. The seats are comfortable, even for long drives, and the steering wheel tilts and telescopes on all models. Big mirrors and lots of glass give the driver a good view in all directions. The dash-mounted shifter seems unusual at first, and has a bit of a spindly feel. On the other hand, it has a slightly sportier air than a conventional column shifter, and it doesn't eliminate pass-through space between the front seats, as a floor shifter might.

The heating/air conditioning system works well, and it's easy to operate, manual or automatic. The upgrade automatic system features digital temperature readouts and dual front-seat settings. The three temperature zones (driver, passenger, rear) are easy to sync by pressing a button. Switches for the power sliding doors and power rear liftgate are overhead.

Other manufacturers have been gaining ground, but Toyota's optional navigation system remains one of the best. Its screen is larger than most, and its touch-screen operating system is far superior to the point-and-click systems increasingly used in luxury brands.

Still, our favorite thing about the nav system is that it comes with the rearview camera. Shift the Sienna into reverse and a video camera mounted in the rear door automatically displays a wide-angle view behind the vehicle on the nav screen. The viewing perspective provided by such cameras has improved considerably since their introduction, and in the Sienna it really helps for parallel parking or backing into tight spaces. More importantly, it also helps the driver see small children or obstacles that might be hidden below the rear glass. Shifting into reverse also turns on an outside warning beeper, which is probably a good thing in crowded parking lots, but may not be popular with neighbors late at night.

The rearview camera is a nice complement to the optional park-assist system, which so

Driving Impressions

The family van convenience and versatility packed inside the Toyota Sienna comes without a significant price, measured by everyday driving.

The Sienna is a big vehicle, yet it never feels overly bulky and it's never hard to handle or park. It's generally smooth, responsive and quiet, and compared to many family vehicles with comparable functional capability, it's relatively fuel efficient. An owner won't feel guilty or excessive driving it empty for errands. On long trips or school runs, loaded with people or just the driver, the Sienna is always comfortable and pleasant to drive.

With a new, more powerful engine for 2007, the Sienna moves closer to fun. This 3.5-liter V6 replaces a slightly smaller, 3.3-liter engine in all models, and it features the latest in control and materials technology, including four-cam variable valve timing (Dual VVT-I in Toyota parlance). VVT-i helps reduce emissions and deliver more power without increasing fuel consumption. In the new V6, it generates 266 horsepower and 245 lb-ft of torque. That gives Sienna class-leading power, and a few pound-feet shy of class leading torque.

We never considered previous Siennas underpowered, but the new engine makes this a hot rod among minivans. By the seat of our experienced pants, we'd say that the Toyota is now the quickest accelerating minivan you can buy, bar none, despite its hefty overall weight (more than 4500 pounds for loaded all-wheel-drive models).

Yet the hot-rod quality extends beyond acceleration. The 3.5-liter V6 is so powerful that it responds aggressively, even abruptly, to anything more than a bit of gas. A driver may jerk some heads until he or she gets a bit of practice and adjusts to the throttle response. Moreover, peak torque and particularly peak horsepower come fairly high in engine's rpm range. We wanted to keep the gas pedal floored well past respectful cruising speeds just to keep the engine pulling toward peak output and to feel maximum acceleration. The V6 remains smooth and relatively quiet all the way to the redline on the tachometer.

Gear ratios in Sienna's five-speed automatic help exploit the extra power, and the engine and transmission interact nicely. At steady speeds, the transmission keeps the engine purring at fairly low rpm. Yet if the driver floors the accelerator, the transmission immediately kicks down a gear or two, and holds that gear all the way to the redline before shifting up again smoothly and smartly. A low first gear offers quicker response off the line; the overdrive fifth gear means lower engine speeds when cruising, which translates into less engine noise and better gas mileage. It's a key reason that the 2007 Sienna gets nearly identical mileage to its less powerful predecessors (1 MPG less on the highway for all-wheel-drive models, according to the EPA), despite improved acceleration.

The same balance of smoothness and response in the engine/transmission package applies to the Sienna's ride and handling. On curving mountain roads in Southern California, the Sienna drives more like a car than a minivan or sport-utility. Its steering is responsive and there's only a little body roll, or lean, when cornering.

Transient response is good, meaning the Sienna can quickly change directions without losing composure. It feels stable at high speeds. The steering is nice and light at low speeds, and with a turning radius of less than 37 feet, the Sienna is easy to maneuver through tight parking lots or U-turns. That radius is tighter than most minivans.

The ride, too, is generally very comfortable, helped by a long wheelbase that limits chop, or bounce, over recurring pavement joints. On smooth pavement, few will notice any more suspension movement or roughness than one experiences in a typical sedan. On the winter-scarred tarmac that passes for roads in parts of the Mid-West, the Sienna's solid rear axle can makes its presence known by

If we were choosing one vehicle to fill every transportation role for a large or growing family, it might be a Toyota Sienna. The Sienna is one of the most appealing minivans available. It's more powerful than ever yet reasonably economical. It's comfortable, responsive and roomy, with flexible seating options and the capability to tow a camper or haul 4x8 sheets of building material, 10-foot 2x4s and big-screen TVs. It's up to the rigors of a Midwest winter, even in standard front-drive trim, and it's available with all the requisite safety features. And it comes in a wide range of models, from reasonably priced and well-equipped to luxury grade, with leather, navigation, DVD entertainment and active cruise control.

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