If you’re in the market for a minivan, you have to consider the consistently top-rated Toyota Sienna. And if you live somewhere with inclement weather and need all-wheel drive, it’s really your only choice. After a major refresh last year, including a revised interior and a suspension upgrade, the Sienna has become a more attractive family car than ever. Throw in the versatile and intuitive Entune infotainment system, plus good acceleration and handling in the 2016 model, and it’s a solid– but expensive-option.
Pricing and design
The 2016 Toyota Sienna ($42,197.00 at Truecar)(Opens in a new window) comes in five base trim levels, all with a 266-hp 3.5-liter V6 engine mated to a 6-speed automatic transmission. The base L trim starts at $28,850 and comes with 17-inch alloy wheels, cruise control, automatic headlights, intermittent windshield wipers, manual sliding rear doors, seating for seven passengers , cloth-trimmed front seats, manual height-adjustable driver’s seat, fold-and-slide second-row seats, 60/40 split and fold-away third-row seats and cloth upholstery. It also has three-zone automatic climate control, keyless entry, tilt/telescoping steering wheel, rear view camera, 3.5-inch LCD instrument cluster, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, Siri Eyes Free voice activation for iPhone users, and a four-speaker audio system with 6.1-inch touchscreen, AM/FM radio, CD, and USB outlets and aux-in.
The LE starts at $31,640 and adds available all-wheel drive (with 18-inch wheels), black roof rails, heated exterior mirrors, body-color exterior trim, power sliding rear doors, upgraded cloth upholstery, an eight-way power driver’s seat with lumbar support, privacy glass, floor and ceiling consoles, conversation mirror, and second- and third-row sun visors. You also get the Entune Audio Plus infotainment system with a 7-inch touchscreen, connected navigation via a Scout GPS Link app, and a six-speaker audio system with AM/FM HD and satellite radio.
The SE starts at $35,210 and adds 19-inch alloy wheels, sport mesh grille, chrome door handles, sport suspension, front and rear spoilers, sport headlights, LED daytime running lights, fog lights, eight-passenger seating, power tailgate, leather-trimmed seats and steering wheel, and a 4.2-inch dash display.
The upgraded SE Premium we tested has a base price of $39,930 and adds blind-spot detection, rear cross-traffic alert, power sunroof, perforated leather-trimmed front seats, gauge cluster sport, a Driver Easy Speak car intercom, Bluetooth for phone and audio, and Entune Premium Audio With Navigation and App Suite. It also has a rear-seat entertainment system with Blu-ray player, a 16.4-inch screen that can be split to display two different sources, HDMI and SD card inputs and two power outlets 120 volts. Our test car also had individual options, including $55 for wireless headphones for the rear entertainment system, $129 for mud flaps, $330 for carpeted floor mats and a door sill protector. , $99 for a universal tablet holder, $395 for a paint protection film and $359 for a glass breakage sensor. With $900 delivery, handling and processing fees, the sticker total came to $42,197.
The XLE version starts at $35,410 and adds a security system, keyless start, leather-trimmed seats, four-way front passenger seat, faux wood trim, power door opener and rear quarter windows. The XLE Premium starts at $38,605 and adds the rear entertainment system, rear parking sensors and Driver Easy Speak as standard equipment.
The Limited version starts at $43,040 and includes a different grille, projector beam headlights, auto-dimming and power-folding mirrors, front and rear sunroofs, front and rear parking sensors, high leather upholstery first- and second-row seats, driver memory settings, a heated steering wheel, Toyota’s Safety Connect telematics system and a 10-speaker JBL surround sound system. The top-of-the-line Limited Premium starts at $45,270 and adds HID xenon headlights, automatic high beams, rain-sensing windshield wipers and the rear entertainment system.
While the Sienna’s interior has been upgraded and is one of the best and most comfortable in the segment, the exterior styling falls short of the sleek Kia Sedona. ($44,690.00 at Truecar)(Opens in a new window) and segment leader Honda Odyssey ($34,255.00 at Truecar)(Opens in a new window) . But a more streamlined grille lined with revised headlights and LED daytime running lights on SE trims and above helps distinguish the Sienna from more blocky, monolithic designs on vehicles like the Dodge Caravan and Chrysler Town and Country.
Connectivity, interface and technology
Toyota’s Entune is one of our long-time favorite infotainment systems because it doesn’t require you to pay a subscription for cloud-connected features. All apps use a connected smartphone to access streaming music, local search, and information on stocks, sports, and pitstops. Some information, such as weather and traffic, is accessible via HD radio instead of cellular data and is not available when the vehicle is outside of coverage area.
We experienced intermittent connection issues with some cellular apps using Entune, even when we had a good signal. For example, the system couldn’t connect to Facebook Places, which we could easily live without, but it also failed with Pandora, which is very unusual in our experience with app-based infotainment systems. We also couldn’t get the GPS Scout navigation app to work properly, although our test car had built-in navigation. And you can still connect Pandora or other streaming apps to the Sienna’s sound system using Bluetooth audio, although you lose control in-dash.
Toyota is one of the few automakers to reject Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, so the Sienna doesn’t offer an Entune alternative for, say, app-based music and messaging. The vehicle’s Bluetooth system offers hands-free messaging, though it’s not as easy to use or feature-packed as CarPlay and Android Auto.
The 2016 Sienna’s 7-inch touchscreen interface is intuitive and lets you organize the Home screen and Apps screen icons to easily access the ones you use most often. The home screen can also be configured in a two- or three-panel layout. While some Toyotas we tested use hard buttons for controls surrounding the head unit, the Sienna has low-profile capacitive touch controls which we find much harder to use.
The Sienna offers unique technical features not found on other cars, such as Easy Speak, which is essentially an in-vehicle intercom that picks up the driver’s voice using voice recognition and broadcasts it through the rear speakers so third-row passengers can hear it. .
Performance and Conclusions
One of the Sienna’s strengths is how its V6 engine delivers good acceleration whether in town or on the highway, while the six-speed automatic transmission smoothly delivers power to the wheels. This double-six combo also offers decent fuel economy for such a large vehicle.
The revised suspension makes the 2016 Sienna ride less floaty than in the past and more controlled than its competitors. The Sienna handles corners with confidence and has good body control over bumps. If you’re used to driving a car and just switching to a minivan, the SE will help you make the transition easier.
While we can argue about the head unit’s capacitive controls and some connectivity issues in testing, the positives of the 2016 Toyota Sienna far outweigh the negatives. That’s why it’s been one of the best-selling minivans for years, and the only one you’ll need if you need AWD traction. Thanks to good acceleration and handling, as well as a nice interior, it’s also a strong candidate to consider even if you don’t.
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