On my own, I’d choose to drive a triple-white, Cheerleader Special 1987 Golf Cabriolet before I willingly placed my carcass behind the wheel of a minivan. Trouble is, when the 2015 Toyota Sienna XLE showed up in my yard, I was overruled by the two people in my house who don’t drive.
Here’s the setup: We were just days away from leaving Massachusetts for our once-time-a-year, stay-someplace-else vacation in York, Maine. I spent most of my young life in Maine in the summer, and every time I cross the Piscatiqua River Bridge on 95, I’m overwhelmed with nostalgia.
As a result, it’s no mistake that when I drive the family to Maine for our week, we always drive one of the old relics I have in my driveway.
1979 Chevrolet K5 Blazer
For the five years we’ve owned it, the Buick Roadmaster has been the vehicle of choice. It brings me no end of pleasure to roll up to a street-side parking spot in that ark, jam it in reverse and parallel park all 18 feet of it in one smooth move. I had a guy stop in traffic once to tell me how impressed he was.
This is the first year the Blazer was up for the job, since I just finished painting it last fall.
My family — more specifically, my two children — weren’t so hot on the idea of driving either car the two hours to Maine.
I have to admit, they have a point.
For three of the last five years, the Roadmaster has managed to overheat on the way back from vacation, and we end up driving the last 10 miles with the heat blasting to run some hot water through the heater core. The last time, I looked in the back seat as we rolled up our street and the two of them looked like Tyrann Mathieu in that video he made trying to convince people not to leave a dog in the car.
The Blazer doesn’t overheat, but it also doesn’t have air conditioning.
Or tinted windows. I mean, the glass is clear. It’s like being in a terrarium.
And it’s black.
And it has vinyl seats.
I was shuttled in cars just like this when I was a kid, but I’m pretty sure the Department of Youth Services would require supervised visits if you drove a kid around in July without A/C today.
So there it was, the 2015 Toyota Sienna XLE, and both kids were begging for it. They’d each have their own leather-trimmed captain’s chair, and they could buckle their seatbelts without actually touching each other. They both loved the buttons that automatically opened and closed the power sliding doors. They appreciated the extra legroom afforded by the sliding second row seats.
I’m from the era that remembers when the Ford Mustang GT finally got 200hp, so 266hp in a minivan seems impressive, but remember, you’re pushing 4,500 pounds around, unloaded. You can pack another 1,265 pounds in it and on top of it, so you’re sapping a lot of that power with weight. Still, it never feels ungainly or sluggish.
Yes, I will admit that I didn’t mind not sweating through all my clothes, either. The Sienna swallowed a week’s worth of coolers, beach chairs, umbrellas, suitcases and foam surfboards with room for at least a long weekend more, and even fully loaded managed to turn in 24 miles per gallon.
My daughter and I rented standup paddleboards that were 10.6 feet long, and with the seats down, we managed to sneak both of them inside with the tailgate closed. Clearly, a rack would be preferable, but I was impressed that you could two of them inside.
As it turned out, the Toyota Sienna was comfortable and pleasant to drive and actually ended up being a welcome partner on th…OH DEAR GOD WHAT IS HAPPENING TO ME?!
Ah, yes, complaints! I have two!
As I mentioned, I can put an 18-foot Roadmaster Estate Wagon just about anywhere, but the 119.3-inch wheelbase in the Sienna makes pulling into most supermarket parking spots a two-step process that takes a little getting used to. That nine-passenger Buick wagon has a wheelbase almost five inches shorter, which in my book is a win for the erstwhile chariot of the American Family, the full-size station wagon.
Second, I’ve always managed to put a universal, Walmart Special bike rack on whatever vehicle I take on vacation, from a 2001 Volkswagen Jetta Sportwagen to a 2000 BMW 528iT to the Roadmaster. The Sienna has a prominent airfoil over the rear glass, though, and it prevented the universal rack from fitting properly. I managed to get it secured with a couple of nylon tiedowns.
As I was on the way up to Maine, some other downtrodden family man passed me in almost the exact same Sienna, and he had tiedowns holding his bike rack on, too, so I’m not the only one.
Yeah, I feel you, bro. And not just about the bike rack.
So there it is. I spent a week in the 2015 Toyota Sienna XLE and not once was my manhood called into question, nor did I lose my love for beat-up old cars. I did gain some appreciation for why people like these things, though, even though I didn’t like admitting it.
2015 Toyota Sienna XLE
Base Price: $35,200
Price As Tested: $36,860 (est. not including destination charge)
- Quonset hut-like interior volume
- Power doors
- Decent fuel economy
- Turning circle
- Ease of mounting a bike rack
- My kids and their insistence on air conditioning