Clifford AtiyehCar and driver
The Toyota Sienna is all-new for 2021. It’s sportier on the eyes, smarter on the road with standard driver aids, and comes only as a hybrid with all-wheel drive available. But what matters in any minivan is the cabin and how that space treats the little (and big) humans that inhabit it. Here’s your detailed rundown of the features we liked the most.
Tested: Toyota Sienna
Open plan seating
Sienna’s second-row captain’s chairs offer extraordinary legroom or cargo space when the third row is stowed flat. Both seats can slide 25 inches rearward, two inches more than the previous Sienna. This prompted Toyota to change the seat’s official name from Long Slide to Super Long Slide. (Watch out for what falls into the sliding rails. A Sienna couple with four young children informed us that these rails will – not – get clogged with crumbs and other messes that render the sliding action unnecessary.)
Central vacuum essential
They were a selling point for new McMansions built in the 1990s, but now central vacuuming is the indulgence of modern minivans. The Honda Odyssey has been a vacuum for seven years, and starting in 2016, a vacuum became a port-installed accessory on Sienna models sold by Southeast Toyota, an independent distributor in Florida. It’s only for 2021 that a vacuum cleaner is available as a Toyota factory option, and unlike those before it, the new Sienna’s vacuum cleaner is in the center console rather than the cargo hold. Twist the hose into the fitting near the feet of your second row passengers, press a button near the two USB ports and brrrrooooom! You’ll be entertained for minutes, maybe longer, with three accessories and a hose that extends to every corner of the van’s interior. The ignition must be on, but if the hybrid battery is sufficiently charged, the engine will not start to run the vacuum. The dust cup and air filter slide out of the bottom of the console for easy cleaning. For liquid spills, you’ll need a full-size Shop Vac.
Cold drinks for the second row
Above the vacuum is a luxury typically found on Land Rover SUVs: the refrigerated storage bin, with room for a handful of small water bottles or other refreshments. On the pre-production model we drove, there were several blank switch plates near the bin. Much like the airlines, the Sienna is temporarily suspending drink service (and vacuuming) due to a supplier issue, so do what normal people do and pack a cooler. This will be an option at a later date.
Cutest third row window blinds
Concealed hybrid battery
Every 2021 Sienna is a gas-electric hybrid. To keep the van’s cargo area low and flat, Toyota placed the 1.9 kWh nickel-metal hydride battery under the front seats. The telltale sign is the set of air vents under the seat controls. If you’re wondering why Chrysler didn’t do the same with the Pacifica hybrid, it’s because the Sienna’s battery sucks. That’s one-eighth the capacity and so it can’t deliver the range-extending EV performance of a plug-in setup.
Gesture control for sliding doors
Touching van doors has always been disgusting. Chrysler recognized this feeling when it first offered gesture-controlled power sliding doors for the Pacifica. Toyota has therefore followed the hands-free trend. By kicking under either sill just aft of the front doors, the Sienna’s sliders will open and close at the command of your foot. Not even Rolls-Royce and your local supermarket offer the Sienna’s obsessive control over an automatic door. There are five ways: gesture, pull the outside handle, press a button on the B-pillar, press a button on the overhead console or press a button on the key fob.
Lexus-style taillight trim
Those polished black fins on the rear fenders allude to the air vents that more exotic cars use to reduce turbulence in the wheel arches. They don’t do anything functional but are pretty and remind us of the Y-shaped taillight treatment on the Lexus LC500, the Sienna’s distant relative.
Pickup trucks and SUVs aren’t the only vehicles optimized for tailgate parties. The Sienna’s JBL stereo uses the hatch for its rearmost speaker.
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