Sacramento, California – Let me start by saying that, 20 years ago, I would have crawled on my hands and knees on broken glass to possess a minivan like anything out there on the market today.
I would have loved the vehicle’s easy road manners on family driving vacations. I would have been overjoyed at the cargo-carrying capacity as we made our way with 15 suitcases, 3,000 toys and 16 coolers to our next destination. Trips to the grocery store would have been a breeze, too.
And in-vehicle entertainment? Oh my goodness, what a blessing that would have been. Just think how many fewer times I would have had to answer the question: Are we there yet?
Alas, this baby boomer is nearing the empty-nester era, and my prime minivan years have past. And let’s face it, minivans don’t get much respect on the roadways these days.
Fellow drivers will cut off a minivan in traffic in a New York-minute. Tailgaters seem to prefer that you drive in the ditch. Sports cars blast around vans for sport.
And yet, the minivan still has a place in the hearts of urban and suburban families. So if you’re in that crowd and seriously looking for new wheels, check out the 2011 Toyota Sienna. It has been redesigned – think third generation – and you’d be hard-pressed to find anything better in the current minivan market.
Yes, that includes the still-worthy minivans produced by Chrysler and Honda.
How good is the 2011 Sienna? Let’s count the ways.
There are TWELVE ways to have it. Mine was the slightly higher-end XLE 3.5L with a starting price of $34,515. Seven passengers, all-wheel drive and a 3.5-liter, 266-horsepower V-6. About that last part: The Sienna really scoots along with that power plant.
Naturally, you don’t get the feeling of the wind in your face and a Corvette-like growl, but my Sienna more than held its own in fast-moving freeway traffic. It climbed hills and took corners with sedan-like agility as well.
Inside, you have a veritable home living room. The large, comfortable chairs can be moved and switched around to the point that you could have a new arrangement every day for a month. Double-digit cupholders and rear-seat climate control only add to the rolling home feeling. If the kids can’t enjoy these quarters, send ’em back to camp.
Gas mileage is ugh-ly … a mere 16 miles per gallon in the city and 22 mpg on the open road. Well, you have to pay some kind of price for the Sienna’s scoot, right?
For some reason – and my own incompetence is high on the possibilities list – I struggled mightily with the center dash-mounted navigation system and audio-readout screen. I couldn’t seem to get a single requested command to stay on screen, and sometimes I became stuck altogether. It makes little sense, because I recently had no problem with a very similar arrangement in a Lexus.
For folks who have the 2011 Sienna for more than a week and master the controls, I’m guessing this will not be a problem.
As for me, I felt a twinge of emotional pain knowing that my time with the Sienna was short. Hmm, wonder if the grandkids are up for a road trip?