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Nicely Packaged Minivan: 2011 Toyota Sienna

The all-new 2011 Toyota Sienna is a very accommodating minivan for a large and growing family, and it has a host of safety and convenience features that families want and need, writes Sally Miller Wyatt.

(Above): The 2010 Toyota Sienna Limited

Toyota has been making Sienna minivans since 1997, and over the past 13 years it seems they’ve been gathering lots of information about what customers want and desire when it comes to vehicles in this classification. So when it came time to do a complete make-over on this popular family vehicle, Toyota opted to really change it up.

They have made their 2011 Siennas look and drive more like sedans, designed them so seating can be easily moved around to more easily transport large loads and big people, and yet still incorporated lots of new ways to enhance personal comfort.

And yes, all that translates into a very family-friendly vehicle with lots and lots of room for people and all their stuff. For busy, big families, that’s a winning combination.

(Above): The 2010 Toyota Sienna LE

The 2011 Sienna’s exterior design has a sportier look that comes from its distinctive fender flares and headlamps that are positioned more highly up on the front grille. Windows are sloped but not enough to minimize visibility.

The 2011 models offer consumers a choice of two engines: either a 3.5-liter V6 or a 2.7-liter four-cylinder. Depending on the engine, mileage ratings range from 16 to 19 miles per gallon for city driving to 22 to 26 miles per gallon for highway driving.

Both engines are paired with a state-of-the-art, electronically controlled six-speed transmission with sequential shift that offered a quiet, responsive performance.

There are five grades of Siennas: the base Sienna, LE, SE, XLE and Limited. You can opt for an all-wheel drive with a V6 engine, which is available on the LE, XLE and Limited models.

(Above): Interior view of the 2010 Toyota Sienna Limited

At the base level, you will have such standard features as cruise control, tri-zone air conditioning, six or eight-way adjustable driver’s captain’s chair, power windows and door locks, keyless remote entry, an AM/FM/CD player that has XM compatibility, and three 12V outlets. Not bad for base level.

Upgrades include dual sliding doors, always a super convenience for the family; a multi-information display with back-up mirror; MP3 compatibility added to the audio system; USB port with iPod connectivity; hands-free phone capability; and steering wheel audio controls.

Naturally, if you want to keep upgrading, such things as leather seats, a moon-roof, a premium sound system, and heated front seats become available.

On the inside, you’ll find that cabin space is larger than ever before, thanks to an additional two inches. Depending on whether you select models with seating for seven or eight, you will get a second row bench seat, or a second row with captain’s chairs.

(Above): Interior view of the 2010 Toyota Sienna Limited

Seats can slide forward and backward more, making it possible to accommodate passengers large, long-legged or small. The second row of seats also has a Tip Up and Long Slide feature, which allows them to slide around on rails, making accommodations for cargo or people. The third row of seats can split and stow, all with one folding motion. Even if the third row is in use, there is plenty of room back here for lots of packages, suitcases, golf clubs or bags of groceries.

There are countless cup holders and storage bins located here and there, and the large passenger windows give you a great view to the outside.

Finally, as for safety features, the Toyota Sienna includes anti-lock brakes, Electronic Brake Force Distribution, Brake Assist, Enhanced Vehicle Stability Control, and Traction Control, and all this state-of-the-art braking technology is standard on all models. A Pre-Collision System is available on Limited version. There are also seven air bags located through the vehicle.

Overall, we found the all-new 2011 Toyota Sienna to be a very accommodating minivan for a large and growing family. Visibility is great, the vehicle handles very well, and it has a host of safety and convenience features, all things that families want and need, nicely packaged.

Sally Miller Wyatt is a freelance writer who writes family-oriented auto reviews for newspapers, magazines and the Web.


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