While minivans have reserved a place in automotive history for themselves they are rarely the first (or second or third) type vehicle most folks think about when dreaming of a new car. Not to mention the minivan segment has shrunk considerably over recent years in response to that line of thinking (and buying).
Toyota is one of a handful of automakers that has remained loyal to the segment and has given its 2011 model Sienna a significant makeover, along with quite the marketing campaign. Dubbed the “Swagger Wagon” the new Sienna has been given life in primetime thanks to entertaining TV commercials bolstered by a strong social media push. Toyota even sent a slightly modified “Swagger Wagon Supreme” Sienna to the SEMA aftermarket show in Las Vegas.
As for the model they recently sent me to drive for a week, well, let’s just say I probably won’t be appearing in any of its commercials. Don’t get me wrong, there is very little to fault in the new ride – until it comes to pricing. Our loaded Limited test model came in at just over 46 grand, but to be fair, the competition has topped out models in the same price range. I just can’t stomach paying that much for – gasp – a minivan. Relax – base models begin at $24,460.
“The all-new Sienna is an example of Toyota’s commitment to lead the marketplace as it anticipates consumers’ needs and changes in lifestyle,” said Bob Carter, group vice president and general manager, Toyota Division, Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A. “The third-generation Sienna combines a contemporary style with features not previously seen in a minivan, and a fun-to-drive spirit that will surprise many, along with the flexibility, spaciousness and features that have defined the segment.”
The 2011 Sienna has been completely redesigned. It features “A stronger profile, high shoulder character and responsive handling,” Carter adds. “With state-of the art features and rewarding driving dynamics, it is a vehicle that current minivan, passenger car and sport utility vehicle owners will find satisfying to drive. Sienna will offer new models, including a sporty SE and a four-cylinder powertrain, as it continues to be the only minivan with an all-wheel-drive option.”
The Limited review vehicle that graced our driveway included the sprite 266hp 3.5-liter V-6 engine (garnering 18 mpg city and 24 mpg highway). Both four- and six-cylinder engines are mated to a smooth six-speed automatic transmission with sequential shift and all 2011 Siennas now have electronic power steering.
Being a Toyota the Sienna is bathed in the corporate Star Safety System halo that features all of the latest safety technology and is even recognized by the IIHS as a top pick for safety.
Standout comfort and convenience features include the second row reclining chairs and rear seat dual view entertainment center that utilizes two displays side-by-side for a seamless wiiiiiide view. There is also a new 180-degree panorama camera for rear view when backing.
Over the decades minivans have become a bit sportier, more stylish and offer a great deal more content then when they first appeared on the horizon. They are easy to operate and offer a great deal of flexibility to match varied lifestyles and demands. And more power to the automakers as they keep trying to make owning one cool.