I’ve lost count of how many vehicles I’ve owned in my years of driving, but there’s no question, the roomiest were the minivans. When you have kids and pets, it’s just glorious to have all the space, and modern vans offer features we just dreamt of back in the day, like a blu-ray player for videos and fold-down seat stowage. We started with a Chrysler Town & Country van which was great, but the upgrade to a Toyota Sienna was definitely like going from a truck to a luxury sedan. The chance to drive the sparkling new 2020 Toyota Sienna LTD was definitely a great opportunity, and the upgrade to AWD just made it feel even safer on the road.
Still, there’s something about guys and minivans… I have a good friend who loves the size and capacity of this class of vehicle, but refuses to get one because “it’s weird to have a van if you’re a single guy”. We disagree with him, but I do understand the sentiment. I still remember the sadness when I had to sell my muscle-car 1991 Toyota Supra with its wonderful targa top and replace it with that far more pedestrian Town & Country. Darn kids! 🙂
Okay. On to the 2020 Sienna:
No major exterior restyling but it’s a simple, sleek, reasonably sporty design (for a minivan, I know, I know). This model was in a beautiful “toasted walnut pearl” exterior and is fully decked out with the entire Toyota Safety Sense P system that gets you surprisingly close a self-driving car. Smarts include smart high beams, pedestrian detection, lane departure alert, radar-based adaptive cruise control road sign assist and more. No, it’s not self-driving. But we’re getting closer and closer when the car can ensure it stays in the lane, knows the speed limit at that point and can analyze all the vehicles nearby to ensure it’s driving at a safe speed.
But the story of the minivan is definitely one of space. Whether you have four kids and sports gear, need to pack in your artwork for a local festival tour or just want to spread out and relish the interior space with a roll-out mattress, the Sienna definitely has you covered:
You’ll notice that the rear seats are folded down and they really fold into the floor of the vehicle, leaving you full space and access. This is so much nicer than the early Sienna we owned where we’d have to physically remove the seat and then figure out where to store it if we wanted full access to the space. I remember we’d actually pull out the middle seats when we went on road trips with our little ones and the dogs: Spread a blanket and it was a nice big play area and dog sprawl zone. Now those seats would be ready to pop back up into service at a moment’s notice. So dang nice.
And speaking of which, if you did pop up the rear seat and needed power, Toyota’s got you covered with this power and light station on the right side, just by the rear bench:
Where was that when I was growing up and we would go on long drives?
Of course, as the driver, you wouldn’t be looking at amenities in the back seat. Nope, it’s all about the driver’s cockpit and dashboard layout and design:
The Sienna is a wide vehicle, so not only is there an extra wide center console area, but the entire dash design reflects spaciousness rather than the usual density of controls. This means that it’s easier to control your vehicle while driving, which is a good thing, and doubly so if you have screaming little ones in the back seat!
Surprisingly, Toyota opted for an old-school parking brake as you can see above. I’ve become accustomed to the smarter brake technology that automatically disengages when you put the vehicle in gear, but this is all manual, all the time, baby. Not a big deal, but it does seem a bit incongruous in a $50K vehicle with a full tech package.
The main gauge cluster is also rather old school:
What was most surprising was that I only averaged 21.1mpg while driving the Sienna around town. Yes it’s a big heavy vehicle with a towing-capable engine, but after having just spent a week in the 52mpg 2020 Corolla Hybrid AWD that costs half the price of the Sienna, poor fuel efficiency just felt out of step with our modern, green economy. Much of that is because the Sienna sports a pretty big engine, a 3.5L V6 that offers a responsive drive experience and 3,500 pounds towing capacity.
Still, it’s all about that space…
And so, finally, I really enjoyed spending a week driving the 2020 Toyota Sienna. It’s a premium minivan with tons of space, huge amounts of flexibility with seats that can vanish like a Vegas magic trick, a powerful and responsive drive and surprisingly lush and rich sound system. My kids have their own cars now so space isn’t quite as much of a premium as it was a decade ago, but whether you have a full load of little ones or just want to feel spacious inside your vehicle, there really is a lot going for the new Sienna. And AWD? A great choice too.
SPECS: 2020 Toyota Sienna LTD AWD, 3.5L V6 DOHC with 8 speed automatic, 18″ alloy wheels and active torque control AWD. MSRP: $49,190.00. OPTIONAL EQUIPMENT: alloy wheel locks, paint protection film, chrome lower door molding, preferred accessory package, roof rack, carpet floor mats, door sill protectors and cargo net. AS DRIVEN: $51,427.00
Disclosure: Toyota loaned me the Sienna for a week in return for this writeup. Thanks Toyota!
So we have a a $50,000 plus vehicle with no oil pressure gauge, nor ammeter. Just temperature and fuel level gauges. The frills are nice but without the basics it just doesn’t make sense. And no, the warning lights DO NOT COMPENSATE FOR ACTUAL GAUGES! Are you listening Toyota and other manufacturers?
Maybe, but I would contend that at least 90% of drivers never look at their oil pressure or ammeter (electrical current gauge) on their dashboard anyway, so while knowledgeable drivers might miss this information, most everyone else won’t even notice that they’re missing.