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2004 Minivan Buyer's Guide
by Martha Hindes

2005 Toyota Sienna

Once again Toyota has proven it will go the extra mile. Following a major redesign of its popular Sienna minivan a year ago, it now basks in a collection of "best" awards among minivans and trucks. In the spirit of not tampering with what works, Toyota scarcely changed the Sienna for '05, merely adding standard power passenger seating for the up market XLE and XLE Limited models. The major news for this second year version, however, becomes a price tag adjustment upwards on all models except the eight-passenger, entry CE model that lops off $200 for a new $23,374 base price. Increases on other trim levels range from just under a percent to nearly 2 percent for the upscale XLE.

With nine Sienna versions to choose from, what does one get? Beyond some extra length as a foundation and standard front drive, there's available AWD on three models, telescoping steering wheel, and Toyota's "dynamic Laser Cruise Control." A tire pressure monitor and brake assist aide in safety. Black lacquer interior trim is strikingly handsome and third row seats flop into the floor to expand storage. For dealing with rear seat sibling rivalries, a flip-down convex "conversation" mirror keeps track without a need to turn around. (Call it mom's best friend.)

We found the Sienna; powered by a next generation, 230-horsepower V-6 with five-speed automatic, handles easily, and is gutsier than some competitors, but has a taste for premium fuel. Models range from the base CE to the top-trimmed Limited AWD with 17-inch run-flat tires. Despite the sticker boosts (bases now run from $23,225 to $37,495), you also get trendy amenities for the dollar. And with grocery bag hooks mounted on just about every available spot, maybe they'll replace the often-cited cup holder count that for years has helped define "minivan."