When a vehicle has earned bragging rights as one of the best in its class, the question is how to improve it? Toyota seems to have found an answer by boosting the horsepower of its Sienna minivan a couple of notches to stay leader in class, and by maintaining its stance as a rare breed with available all-wheel-drive for those times when the troops simply must get through.
As the once high-in-demand minivan segment has gone into glide mode, Toyota is continuing to maintain its version as a sort of status vehicle as well. The result, when loaded with amenities, can get pricey. But a minivan flush with luxurious touches, including leather trim and the latest in hi tech, has to convince its owner there's a pleasurable flip side to utility.
The Sienna's most obvious upgrade for 2007 is the bump up to 266-horsepower with Toyota's new 3.5L V6 under hood, a considerable improvement power-wise from the previous 3.3L, 215-HP V6. A five-speed automatic with intelligence (ECTi) helps fuel economy stay in the target range of 19/26 for front-drive models and 18/23 with all-wheel-drive. Base model pricing starts at $24,155 (not including $605 destination fee).
In general, minivans are big, often bulky and not prone to doing hot laps around a track. They were, after all, born to bear the weight of countless progeny trips to the soccer practice field, to convert into cavernous cargo haulers and to make loading and unloading possible in seemingly inaccessible parking areas.
They scoop along low to the ground, a wise accommodation of their need to remain grounded and safe even when heavily loaded. While adding bad weather underfoot could make a trip dicey, having power at all-four wheels to prevent slipping has to be comforting insurance along with a full complement of airbags and active safety technology. Three of four Sienna models—LE, XLE and top-line Limited—can opt for AWD. The base CE is front-drive only.
And if Sienna's seating for seven isn't enough, the CE and LE versions have a trick of their own. Either can come with seating for seven or for eight.