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NOT YOUR MOMMY’S MINIVAN
2017 Toyota Sienna XLE Premium

This article is from our archives and has not been updated and integrated with our "new" site yet... Even so, it's still awesome - so keep reading!

Published on Sat, Dec 17, 2016

By: The LACar Editorial Staff

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A Toyota Sienna XLE Premium at Irwindale Speedway (Doug Stokes)

Story by Doug Stokes Photos by the author and Toyota Every LA Car review vehicle always comes into staff’s hands with two essential items: the car keys (in this case a virtual one) and the “Monroney” (I know that you know that’s the car’s window price sticker). The “key” was fine, one of those new-normal “e-key” push button job, but the window sticker, the car’s price tag, was left half blank (!) well, at least it looked that way. There was a final, all-in price in the lower right hand corner (below about 20 square inches of pure white space). It read $40,775.00. We will now attempt to back into that price. As this Sienna’s XLE’s designation indicates, this is the Premium all-in version of Toyota’s very popular and very capable full size “minivan”, and there’s only one item of optional equipment that helps to blasts the sticker from $39,905.00 to the $40K above, and that’s $330.00 for “Carpet Floor Mats / Door Sill Protector” and $940.00 worth of those inevitable “Delivery Process and Handling Fees” (which, alas, are not optional).

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Right at home at Irwindale Speedway (Doug Stokes)

I know this is a minivan, the ubiquitous family hauler, utilitarian, not necessarily swift nor sexy (although I do remember when windowless vans, usually with giant peace signs painted on their flanks, were a-rockin’ we were warned off of a knockin’). Yeah, it’s a box, but that’s what a van does. Most of us don’t buy a van (even a top-ticket one like this one) to make the BIG impression drawing up in the valet lane at the club (for that you spring for a Tesla … one of those new X models with the cool “gull wing” rear doors to decant the kids for their swimming lessons.) On the other hand, this one is a swift box. That’s Two hundred and ninety-six horsepower swift. Up front is one of the sweetest and powerful motors in the business, the Sienna’s twin cam 24-valve, direct injection, 3.5-liter V-6 featuring variable valve timing and backed up by an absolutely-never-in-the-wrong-gear Direct Shift 8-speed automatic transmission. A little secret here … I choose NOT to bone up on a car that I’m going to review. Mostly it’s laziness. I know what the machine will be, I have a certain amount of background and some pretty general expectations, but I really was not ready for the sort of command that this Sienna showed me.

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No, those aren\'t tire marks from the Sienna; this one has all-wheel drive (Doug Stokes)

I said above that this one always seemed to be in exactly the right gear for whatever it was doing at the time, dawdling along looking for a parking space, or making that big move on the freeway that takes you swiftly around a driver who has decided that they are going for that off-ramp when they are already long past a safe place to do that. If eight speeds might seem a bit excessive, just stop by your local Toyota purveyor and ask to drive one. I think that you’ll find that eight is (just) enough. Take it easy and this one is smart- smooth people transporter, boot it, and it moves fast. Automotive-style passive-aggressiveness. Oh yeah, you’ll also notice that the Sienna is well equipped with a set of four-wheel disc brakes that match the strong engine and responsive handling. One part of the package that I did not sample is the “Smart Stop” technology. This is one the new “OK stupid… we’ll take it from here” gizmos that (apparently, at least from what I’ve seen of TV adverts on the subject) will apply the brakes for you (if you are too darn ____* to do it yourself). I feinted at driving head-on into a couple of walls in a parking lot and my garage door at home; but could not provoke the Sienna to refute/correct my dumb move before I chickened out and hit the binders myself. And, right, this is a full-size, three-row, seven-passenger (Toyota calls it “seating for up to eight” however we did not fact-check that one) van, not a sports coupe—but that doesn’t portend sloppy handling. “Agile”, is a word not found in very many road tests of full-size vans, but I will apply it here.

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(Doug Stokes)

Like a number of the new, smartly-designed minivans, the Sienna’s third row of seats magically evaporates into the floor: click! fold, click! = nice, flat useful, floor. There’s an actual reason for a van, a big, long, square space on wheels … something that those “trendy” slope back SUVs just don’t get I’m afraid. While we’re talking styling, let’s take a moment to look at this one’s lines and stance. It’s a van, of course, but that doesn’t mean that it has to look like a tradesman’s cart, this one is almost sleek, has good character lines, and just plain fits the mission. Inside the appointments are all first rate, great multi-adjustable (heated) front seats, a smart-looking dash, a multi-tasking “NAV” system, three-zone climate system, a ceiling-mounted drop-down Blu-Ray screen to keep the back two rows occupied, logical controls, (obviously) room for a lot of people and/or goods and that stalwart power plant that I can’t get out of my mind. Vans are really not really supposed to push you back in your seat. Buckle up.

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The view from within (photo courtesy of Toyota)

Just for the record, Washington says that you’ll get 19 miles per gallon in the city and 27 on the open road in this all-in transporter. Even in our heavy-footed mode, we actually did a little better than the Feds said we would during our week with this one. And so my friends … I don’t always drive a full size minivan. But, if I did, the Sienna XLE Premium will be very high on my list. -DS LOCAL ANGLE: Our publisher is constantly reminding us to shoot our LA Car review photos in “local” surroundings. So imagine my surprise when I pick up this Sienna at Toyota HQ in Torrance, grab a brochure (which I do every once in a while just to see if the machine lives up to the car builder’s advert hype), and find that its cover photo was taken where I work: Irwindale Event Center (NASCAR and NHRA race tracks, stock car racing and street driving schools, movie/TV shoots, car shows, events). I tried to sort of replicate the shot here. Enough of a local angle, Boss? I sure hope so.

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Irwindale Speedway looms large in the 2017 Toyota Sienna brochure (Nakano)

*We’ll have a nice little gift for the reader that supplies the best adjective here. Got something to say? Add your Facebook comment regarding this article here. For more information about Toyota products, go to toyota.com. THE ESSENTIALS Name of vehicle: 2017 Toyota Sienna XLE Premium Price: $39,505 (XLE Premium model) $40,775 (as tested) EPA fuel economy rating: 19 city/27 highway/22 combined miles per gallon EPA vehicle size classification (based on actual passenger space): Minivan 4WD

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(Doug Stokes)

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