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Toyota Sienna

by Martha Hindes

Toyota Sienna
Toyota Sienna

Toyota Sienna must seem like a national treasure. It has earned a following with precision, price and perceived excellence, despite a variety of competitive minivans nipping at its heels. This is not a Toyota for its native Japan. Rather, the U.S.-designed and built current model that debuted two years ago and aimed straight at the hearts of American buyers, with many responding.

For the 2006 model year, Toyota has invested in refinements rather than anything radical. Among noticeable exterior changes are the grille, headlamps and fog lamps of the redesigned front fascia (a vehicle's "face"). Rear lamps also get an update. Power folding outside mirrors with turn signal and puddle lamps on the Limited edition should keep driver and passengers from stepping out into sloppy surprises. Color key sonar warns of unseen items when backing up.

Inside, cabin changes are subtle, with all designed for maximum comfort. Among them are entertainment enhancements, including a large rear entertainment screen for LE, XLE and Limited models, and a mini-port jack. CE and LE models get silver toned interior trim. Among goodies, depending on trim level, are an engine immobilizer, windshield wiper de-icer and manual side window sunshades.

Unlike some of its competitors that remain two-wheel drive only, Sienna comes in both front- and all-wheel-drive configurations, with eight distinct versions to choose from. Both drives pair with five-speed automatic transmissions. Fuel economy ranges from about 19 city/27 highway for front drive to 18 city/24 highway with AWD. All-wheel-drive models get runflats instead of spares.
Base prices range from the high 20s to mid 30s.

Toyota bit the bullet in a couple of areas in recent months. In July, it announced a voluntary recall of some '04 and '05 Sienna models to repair a mid-row seatbelt, an item presumably corrected for '06. And despite a potential for confusion that could last awhile, the company jumped in early to retest and restate powerplant numbers before many of its competitors to meet new industry-wide engine testing protocols. The Sienna's V-6 powerplant is a carryover, but horsepower ratings now are listed as 215 at 5,600 RPM and 222 lb. ft. of torque at 3,600 rpm, changed from 230 and 242 respectively.