Ah, the minivan. The most polarizing car on the planet. You either love it and would sooner die than give yours up even when your kids are in college, or you hate it and want them all to burn in the fiery pits of hell. Depending on your point of view, spending a week in the Toyota Sienna XLE is a blessing or a curse.
Despite having two kids, I have never owned a minivan. I am admitting up front that I made a $10 bet with a friend over whether I’d ever own one. He still owes me 10 bucks but, the Sienna, I have to admit, definitely has its charms.
The obvious one is that the thing is huge. Depending on how it’s configured, you can fit either 7 or 8 passengers and a ridiculous amount of cargo. There’s 39.1 cubic feet behind the second row or 87.1 cubic feet behind the first row. Whether it’s a weekend project or a family trip, there’s plenty of room for everything. This also means a longer wheelbase, so parking in a tight spot requires maneuvering.
The Toyota Sienna XLE sits fairly high in the model line-up so it comes with lots of standard features. There are leather seats that are heated up front and 8-way power adjustable for the driver and 4-way power adjustable for the passenger. They’re supportive and comfy with minimal bolstering. You won’t be racing in the Sienna so the seats aren’t trying to make you think you’re in a Ferrari. It’s a minivan so it should be comfortable and it is.
Second row captain’s chairs are removable for those times it’s all about cargo, or for when you’re sick of the kids and don’t want them in the car. The seats easily slide forward to get to the third row. Once back there, even taller adults will find ample room. There is also 3-zone air conditioning so no one will complain about being too hot or too cold.
The 7-inch high-resolution touch-screen infotainment system has AM/FM/CD and USB and AUX jacks along with Bluetooth. Safety features include a rearview camera and the Star Safety System with enhanced vehicle stability control, traction control, anti-lock brakes, electronic brake force distribution and smart stop technology. Safety matters more when you’ve got kids in tow and the Sienna has plenty to offer.
The optional XLE Navigation Package ($775) adds rear park assist sonar, an improved audio system, and navigation. Given how often you head out to new places when the kids are little, it’s a worthy investment for the navigation alone. My one quibble with the system is its Volume and Tune Scroll knobs. They’re too small and too smooth so they’re difficult to use, especially with gloved hands.
Power comes from a 3.5-liter V6 with a 6-speed automatic transmission. It delivers 266 horsepower and 245 lb-ft of torque and is available in front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive versions. No one is ever going to call a minivan sporty, but this engine moves the Sienna right along. It accelerates smoothly giving you all the power you need to make sure no one cuts you off in the carpool line.
The ride is smooth with acceptable body roll given the vehicle’s size. It handles well on the highway, even during abrupt, high-speed lane changes. Bumps in the road are evened out to make a more pleasant ride.
Pricing is family-friendly with the base Sienna L starting at $28,850. Our XLE came in at $36,270. That’s a good bit more, but shows how much flexibility there is with price for families on a budget. You don’t have to spend over $40K to get a very well-equipped Sienna.
Fuel economy is also good with 18/25/21 city/highway/combined. Gas prices are low now so people aren’t paying as much attention to fuel economy, but getting a vehicle like the Sienna means you won’t be crying when gas prices go back up.
The 2015 Toyota Sienna XLE does exactly what you want a minivan to do and it does it well. It’s comfortable, flexible enough to handle myriad combinations of people and cargo, and affordable enough for families on a budget to give it serious consideration.
2015 Toyota Sienna XLE
Base Price: $35,100
Price As Tested: $36,270 (not including destination charge)
- Competitive Pricing
- Fuel Economy
- Flexible Interior Configurations
- Long Wheelbase Means Tough to Park
- Small Volume and Tune Scroll Knobs