No one buys a minivan for sex appeal. True, some have tried to make the mom-mobile more exciting, including for example the sportified 2015 Toyota Sienna SE and the rolling man cave-intended 2012 Dodge Grand Caravan R/T we’ve tested. But when it comes down to it, the minivan, including our current test 2016 Toyota Sienna SE, are made for utility, more so than the utility-in-its-name sport/utility vehicle, hauling people or things or a combination thereof. And since we had a lot of things to move, so we had the ’16 Sienna SE put at our disposal.
First, there have been some changes made to the 2016 Sienna compared to the 2015, though you’d be hard pressed to see them. Toyota gave last year’s Sienna its mid-generational refresh, as we noted in our 2016 first drive review, so for this year it was electronics Toyota didn’t get around to last year. Specifically, the Entune multimedia head units get an across-the-board update. The new Connected Navigation Scout GPS App Link for Entune Audio Plus uses the customer’s smartphone to provide navigation functionality through the head unit. All available head units now also include Siri Eyes Free mode.
But otherwise the 2016 continues as the comfortable and spacious minivan it was in 2015. It’s rigged to carry either seven or eight passengers in surprising comfort for anyone who has experienced three-row SVV’s and thought them the norm. The third row seats are well off the floor, at chair height for normal adults. What’s more, the second row seats slide forward up against the backs of the front seats. Not only does that give the third row limousine-worthy leg room and make access to the third row easy in the process, but also allows the front passenger better access to munchkins in car seats in the second row.
That’s about the people hauling. The 2016 Toyota Sienna has a few tricks there as well. The third row, of course, folds into a well at the rear of the vehicle. It allows a significant amount of cargo room even with the third row in place for passengers. Like other manufacturers, Toyota has its own way to collapse the third row into the well –patents?—but it’s not the slickest. We wrote in our notes that “it requires muscle to put up or down.”
More cargo capacity can be gained by folding the seat bottom of the second row up and then sliding the second row all the way against the front seatbacks. If the cargo area gets full, there’s still a bit of space to stuff in and around the collapsed second row.
To really max out the cargo area, however, means knowing you’ll need it all at the very start. The second row seats can be lifted out of the vehicle, though soccer moms will need the football boy to do it. The seats are heavy and have to be unlatched, the up and out. Putting them back in is worse. The seats have to be placed properly on the tracks and clicked into place. It’s not a task to be taken lightly. Literally.
We stuffed a front-wheel drive eight-passenger 2016 Toyota Sienna SE to the roof with assorted stuff as a part of helping in an interstate apartment move—we’ll collect on the pizza later—including a number of trips to take used furniture for another cycle through the local Salvo-type store.
By leaving the second row in and folded up against the backs of the front seat we had 117.8 cu ft to pack, and pack we did, though had we removed those seats and left them at home, we would have had 150 cu ft at our disposal…and could have used it. Just for reference, the max for the Chrysler Town & Country is 140 cu ft. For the Honda Odyssey it’s 148.5 cu ft, and 142.0 cu ft the Kia Sedona, while max cargo capacity for the Nissan Quest is only 108.4 cu ft.
We mentioned tracks. That’s what the second row slides on, and they do stick up out of the floor, and they get in the way, making it hard to slide heavy objects on the floor or allow items from lying flat on the floor. It’s not the most adept minivan cargo system. That prize still goes to the Dodge Grand Caravan/Chrysler Town & Country, and the new Chrysler Pacifica, with the Stow ‘n Go system that allows the second road to fold into the floor like the third row.
But because the cavities where the second row seats fold into block where a driveshaft to the rear would go, the Caravan/Chrysler Town & Country/Chrysler Pacifica are not available with all-wheel drive. The Sienna, on the other hand, has the option of driving all four wheels.
Including to, around town, moving, and home, mostly highway speed and loaded, we recorded 23.9 mpg, quite respectable for a 4,560 pound, 266 horsepower minivan. The 30.9 is respectable, but still a big hole to punch to through the air.
The 2016 Toyota Sienna SE, by virtue of the SE trim level, has what Toyota calls sport suspension and sport steering. Don’t worry. The suspension won’t make the Sienna rough riding, but neither will it make the Sienna something you want to pitch around your favorite country roads.
If we were concerned about swapping back and forth between passengers and cargo, we’d pick the Town & Country (and its Dodge Grand Caravan twin). But for the greater minivan cargo capacity, the Sienna is the choice.
Of course, for vehicular sex appeal…why are you still reading?
Specifications and window sticker on next page.