2011 Toyota Sienna Review – A minivan with swagger

Expert Reviews Toyota


  • Smooth and quiet ride
  • Star Safety System is standard on all Sienna models
  • Tri-zone climate control
  • Dual power sliding side doors with power lift gate
  • Front/rear parking sonar
  • Dual view widescreen with split-screen capability
  • Many, many convenient storage bins and cupholders strategically placed


  • Navigation screen defaults to displaying map view and no option for “night” view when headlights are switched on
  • Plastic dashboard materials look and feel cheap
  • Second-row seats don’t stow or swivel, and removing them requires muscle
  • Top-line versions get pricey

The minivan is one of the great automotive innovations of the past 50 years. It’s been beloved, berated, embraced, and shunned since the Dodge Caravan/Chrysler Town & Country version took the box-on-wheels design mainstream in the 1980s. And that’s a good thing because the minivan takes a stand and makes a statement: “I can carry you and yours and your stuff’ anyplace you want to go … and do it in comfort.” Now, as Toyota introduces the third generation of Sienna minivan, you can add “… and swagger” to that statement.

The 2011 Toyota Sienna is the first all-new Sienna in more than seven years. It replaces the 2004-2010 Sienna and gets expressive new styling, more interior room, and additional safety features. It’s also available with ottoman-style reclining bucket seats and a 16.4-inch widescreen video display. Better fuel economy is on tap thanks to a newly available four-cylinder engine. It joins the V6, itself more fuel-efficient for 2011. The 2011 Sienna remains the only minivan available with all-wheel drive. Note that neither the 2004-2010 Sienna nor the redesigned 2011 Sienna were among the Toyotas subject to safety recalls for unintended acceleration. In fact, the 2011 Sienna is the first Toyota with an electronic override that in effect disengages the throttle when the driver depresses the brake pedal.

2011 Toyota Sienna

Those in the market for a larger family van will generally be pleased with the 2011 Toyota Sienna. The vehicle offers a 266-horsepower 3.5-liter V6 engine mated to a 6-speed automatic transmission to briskly carry seven or eight people inside. And it has a 3,500-pound towing capacity.

Minivan buyers might not be too interested in sports car handling, but there’s a generous amount of power available if needed, even with a full load. The base Sienna is front-wheel drive, but the LE, XLE, and XLE Limited models are available with an optional all-wheel-drive system offered on the V6 Sienna. EPA estimates are 18 city/24 highway (16 city/22/ hwy on AWD model). During our week of hauling kids, adults, and all their stuff around town we observed 20 mpg overall.

For the first time Toyota is offering a 2.7 liter 4-cylinder engine that muscles-up 187 hp which is competitive with other less endowed V6 engines, the same powerplant available in the Highlander and Venza. Toyota thinks enough mileage-conscious shoppers will be willing to trade power for fuel efficiency. Reports from other sources say the the 4-cylinder mill is more than adequate and splurging for the V6 option is not really necessary. The EPA says to look for mileage in the range of 19 mpg city and 26 mpg highway with a combined figure of 22 mpg average.

2011 Toyota Sienna

We drove the Limited model driven by the 3.5L V6 and were impressed with ride quality and snappy throttle response. Steering was slightly weighted at low speeds, but the Sienna had good on-center feel and tracking. The Toyota engineers did a good job of erasing the vague, electrically-boosted power steering feel that plague earlier versions.

Ride and handling is greatly improved over its predecessor by way of retuned MacPherson struts in front and a more traditional Torsion Bear setup in the rear. The sportier SE model, a fifth model added for 2011, receives the new spring package, which includes a lowered suspension of about ¾ of an inch, revised spring rates and an overall lower ride height to assist in more precise handling.

Size Does Matter

Despite the new styling, the 2011 Toyota Sienna’s exterior dimensions change little. The body has about an inch less length and about an inch more width. Height is the same, though the new sheet metal creates the welcome impression of a lower roofline. Also unaltered is the key metric: the wheelbase. This distance between the front and rear axles is a prime determinate in how much space a vehicle can allot for passenger room. Despite no increase in wheelbase, the 2011 Sienna’s reshaped body lengthens usable interior space by about two inches.

The Sienna is wider but slightly shorter than its predecessor. Compared to the 2011 Honda Odyssey, the new Sienna is 2.6 inches shorter, 0.4 inches less wide and has 0.6 inches less height, with a wheelbase 1.2 inches wider.

2011 Toyota Sienna interior

The 2011 Sienna again matches the Odyssey as one of only two minivans that can seat eight. It also comes in a seven-passenger configuration. For 2011, Sienna’s seats slide fore and aft over a greater span to allow for more leg room in all rows.

While there are many changes, the new model is still quite recognizable as a Sienna. Besides the lower stance, the 2011 Sienna has improved aerodynamics to help boost fuel economy. The SE, which stands for Sport Edition, is visually distinguished from other Siennas by a more aggressive grille appearance, lower side skirting, smoked-lens tail lamps, and unique instrumentation and interior trim.

Major competitors include the Honda Odyssey, Nissan Quest, and Chrysler’s twins — the Town & Country and Dodge Grand Caravan.

Minivan Segment
Passenger Volume
Max. Cargo Capacity Wheelbase Length MPG MSRP
2011 Toyota Sienna LTD (FWD) 266 hp 3.6L V6 141.9 ft3 150 ft3 119.3 inches 200.2 inches 18/24 $39,970
2011 Honda Odyssey Touring 248 hp 3.5L V6 154.0 ft3 149 ft3 118.1 inches 202.9 inches 18/27 $40,750
2011 Nissan Quest ? hp 3.5L V6 N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
2010 Chrysler T & C New Limited 251 hp 4.0L V6 142 ft3 140 ft3 121.2 inches 202.5 inches 17/25 $35,875
2010 Volkswagen Routan SEL Premium 251 hp 4.0L V6 144 ft3 144 ft3 121.2 inches 202.5 inches 17/25 $42,500

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  • reviews.carreview.com says:

    2011 toyota sienna review a minivan with swagger.. Outstanding :)

  • Toyota driver says:

    If you want night view on the navigation screen when the headlights are on, hit the display button and the next screen will have the “day” view button. Just press it to put on night view.

    • Derek says:

      I also discovered lowering the brightness of the instrument cluster lights gets the nav-screen to switch into night-mode automatically. Apparently, the gauge lights were set a maximum brightness.

  • here says:

    2011 toyota sienna review a minivan with swagger.. Huh, really? :)

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