Let’s face it: Toyota’s production cycles can be very long – some of the longest in the industry – and as ingrained in the culture of the automaker as the Toyota production system and the notion of genchi genbutsu (go see for yourself).
Toyota prefers to make small changes as a vehicle ages from generation to generation, but keeping big changes for the next redesign. At the very least, this is a profitable strategy that maximizes returns on almost any investment, as long as customers keep buying. But that has a side effect: When a long-toothed Toyota gets a late makeover, the results can be, wellâ¦ shocking.
Case in point: the 2021 fourth-generation Sienna minivan.
The infotainment system, powertrain and interior of the third-generation Sienna were bogged down at the start of the previous decade – it debuted in 2010 – very similar to how the Dodge Grand Caravan compares to a Luxurious Chrysler Pacifica. It’s not a bad strategy if you have an alternative product to offer, like the FCA segment leader did when it kept the Grand Caravan running.
Think about energy efficiency. The 2020 Sienna was one of Toyota’s last non-hybrid vehicles, and it boasted a combined fuel economy rating of just 21 mpg as front-wheel drive and 20 mpg as all-wheel-drive. With the redesign of the TNGA-K platform, the 2021 Sienna gets a standard hybrid powertrain and a jump to 36 mpg combined with front-wheel drive and 35 mpg combined with all-wheel drive.
Inside, the outgoing Sienna’s cockpit and dashboard looked like a static display hanging on a wall. There was a physical separation between the dashboard and the center console. In the 2021 Sienna, designers built a horizontal “bridge” console that wraps around the driver and puts storage and technology right at your fingertips.
Along with the infotainment system, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are now standard, as is dynamic navigation, with a crisp, clean interface on a 9-inch touchscreen.
Like its exterior styling, the Sienna’s driver assistance and safety systems received a generational upgrade, with Toyota Safety Sense 2.0 standard, including blind spot monitoring, adaptive cruise control, lane keeping, pre-collision loading and rear cross traffic alert. There are seven USB ports, a wireless charger, and so many cup holders – 18 – that the 2021 Sienna should probably be available with its own bathroom on board.
If the redesigned Sienna falls among peers, it’s because the second-row seats don’t sink into the floor like FCA’s Stow N ‘Go seats do on most of its minivans. The Sienna makes up for this feature with second-row seats that slide back enough to extend an available legrest. Still, the Sienna can fit a 4-by-8-foot sheet of plywood if the second and third row seats are folded in their middle.
Toyota estimates that there are over 1.9 million Sienna in service and that the average age of these Sienna is over 10 years. The automaker also estimates owner loyalty among its minivan customers at 68%. For dealers, this is a significant set of potential customers driving dilapidated minivans, thanks to the redesign.