In the face of fresher competition from Chrysler and a new version of the Honda Odyssey, the Toyota Sienna remains a popular choice, as Toyota’s well-earned reputation for reliability is a compelling notion for buyers of a hard-use vehicle like a minivan. There’s also the fact that Toyota has strived to keep the Sienna in the hunt.
For 2017, that effort takes the form of a new powertrain. The Sienna’s 3.5-liter V-6 is a familiar size and configuration, but this engine is all-new. Swiped from the Highlander, the engine can switch between the typical Otto cycle and the fuel-sipping Atkinson cycle, and it also employs port and direct fuel injection (sometimes simultaneously) as needed. Despite the high-tech features, it’s still happy to drink regular fuel. The new V-6 pairs with an eight-speed automatic that’s a worthy upgrade from the previous six-speed. Eight forward ratios may not make any headlines next to the Pacifica’s nine-speed gearbox and the 2018 Odyssey’s nine- and 10-speed units, but the Sienna’s transmission is pretty adept at choosing the right ratio, something that can’t always be said of the Pacifica.
With the new powertrain, the Sienna is good for an EPA-rated 19 mpg city and 27 mpg highway with front-wheel drive, as on our test example (all-wheel drive lowers the city number by 1 mpg and knocks 3 off the highway figure). Those figures put the FWD Sienna about on par with the Pacifica’s 19/28 city/highway EPA ratings, and it ties the outgoing Odyssey. Our observed mileage was 20 mpg; we’ve seen 20 and 22 mpg in two recent tests of the Chrysler and 22 mpg with the older and soon-to-be-replaced Honda equipped with a six-speed auto.
The Toyota’s new ticker pumps out a robust 296 ponies, 30 more than before, along with 263 lb-ft of torque, up from 245. That horsepower figure is tops among minivans, and this particular Sienna is the quickest we’ve tested, scooting from zero to 60 mph in 6.8 seconds. And should mom or dad be emboldened to take the family minivan to the drag strip, they can be confident in its ability to outrun any Pacifica or pre-2018 Odyssey that shows up, based on our quarter-mile results of 15.5 seconds and 93 mph. In everyday driving, the Sienna responds with alacrity. Gun it on a freeway entrance ramp, and the Sienna lunges forward, to the point of even inciting a bit of torque steer in front-drive models like our test car. (We also have tested the Sienna with all-wheel-drive, a feature the competition does not offer.)
See the SE
Our Sienna was the SE Premium trim, a purportedly sporty model that comes with its own specific tuning for the suspension and power steering. The result won’t be confused with a BMW M5, but the firmer suspension at least wards off the woozy ride motions that often afflict minivans. The SE’s 19-inch wheels are wrapped in 50-series tires, so there’s still a decent amount of sidewall to cushion sharp-edged bumps. And while the steering offers no…