2020 Toyota Sienna XLE AWD 3.5L Review

The sun is finally setting on this family hauler


Amos Kwon, Editor-In-Chief



Positives: Huge amounts of space, potent V6 engine, room for everyone to stretch out, updated look is better but not by much.
Negatives: Dated design inside and out, not efficient at all, unrewarding to drive.
Bottom Line: The Sienna is really, really overdue for a redesign, and it shows in just about every way. Sure, it's still practical for families, but there are better choices out there.
Toyota has tried hard to keep the again Sienna modern, but alas it's time to retire the old horse. Although the Sienna has been mildly tweaked with minor additions brought to the interior and tech, there's no question it's heyday ended a long time ago. It still sells in respectable numbers thanks to Toyota's reputation, but the Odyssey and the Pacifica are still far better in terms of features, styling, and technology. Toyota will replace the Sienna for the 2021 model year (at least that's what we hear), but for those folks looking for a no-nonsense minivan option, the Sienna is still on sale. We drove the top trim XLE 7-passenger version with 2nd-row captain's chairs. Read on for the full review.
 

Driving Experience

6.8

 

If you want a minivan to provide driving fun, you're barking up the wrong tree in altogether the wrong forest. Minivans are generally heavy, ponderous, and boring. At least it has a willing V6 engine. Sadly, there's not much else.

Ride Quality: It's a plush ride that families will love. The sacrifice is any communication from the road surface.

Acceleration: The powerful V6 makes itself known about a half a second after you mash the gas. Acceleration is strong for a minivan. The transmission, however, isn't quick to downshift.

Braking: The pedal is a little mushy, and stopping distances area bout average for the segment.

Steering: There's pretty much no feedback or accuracy to the steering. It's overly light, vague, and totally unrewarding.

Handling: The AWD adds heft to an already chunky ride. There's palpable understeer and body roll, too.

Technology

8.2

 

The tech in the Sienna has been improved. Apple CarPlay is now standard. The touchscreen size hasn't changed, but it's more vivid, and the controls are much better.

Infotainment System: While the 7" screen isn't very big, the graphics are crisp and easier to read in sunlight. The system comes over from the new Corolla, Camry, and Avalon, which means it's a step up from the old Entune system.

Controls: We love that Toyota improved the audio knobs and also ditched the touch controls for the infotainment system. The new buttons are the greatest, but at last they're physical buttons now. The shifter is charming and easy to reach. We just really hate the steering wheel controls, which are not intuitive.

Styling

6.9

 

Minivan styling is always relative, which basically means most minivans are unattractive compared to other segments. There's just not much you can do with a breadbox. While it's not as attractive as the Pacifica, it is certainly nowhere near the ugliness of the now gone Nissan Quest.

Front: Toyota tweaked the fascia of the Sienna in 2018 to make it look a bit more masculine. The result is an improved and more aggressive look with a three-bar grille and a big lower grille.

Rear: Nothing has been changed in the back, and it's neither handsome nor ungainly.

Profile: From the side, we like the absence of chrome door handles, and the front end looks less bulbous from this angle compared to our 2017 test vehicle.

Cabin: The interior shows it's age with overall dull design. There's just a lot of grey and black, as well as tons of hard-touch plastics.

Comfort

8.5

 

Kids love the damn thing, and it's even spacious for tall adults in all rows. That said, the seats are a bit on the mushy side for long trips, but most people will find it comfy for daily driving.

Front Seats: The large leather seats are deep and cushy. Leather quality seems a bit wanting, but at least it's soft.

Rear Seats: The captain's chairs feel similar to the front seats. Ample headroom and legroom make them ideal for passengers. Access to the third row is easy via the middle passageway.

NVH (noise/vibration/harshness): The Sienna is quiet, even at highway speeds. There were no errant noises in the cabin.

Visibility: Big windows and manageable pillar thickness means easy views all around. The short nose helps you negotiate tight spots and place the Sienna where you want it.

Climate: The climate system was quick to respond, and the three-zone climate control keeps the troops happy.

Safety

5

 

The Sienna does not do well in crucial safety areas, namely the front passenger crash tests. While it does get great standard safety features, its dearth of good scores is hard to ignore.

IIHS Rating: The "acceptable" front occupant small offset crash and the "marginal" score for the front passenger are red flags.

NHTSA Rating: It's kind of hard to believe the feds gave the Sienna five stars in crash tests when the IIHS dinged it pretty badly.

Standard Tech: The Toyota Safety Sense P assembly of features is strong and includes such tech as Adaptive Cruise Control and Pre-Collision System with Pedestrian Detection.

Optional Tech: Our tester was outfitted with Rear Parking Assist sonar as part of the XLE Nav package..

Storage/Cargo

9.2

 

While the Sienna still has very antiquated removable second-row seats (unlike the brilliant Stow 'n' Go versions in the Chrysler Pacifica that fold into the floor), it's still pretty capacious in terms of gear. The easy folding third row reveals a cavernous cargo area that's Marianas Trench deep.

Storage Space: The big floor tray just beneath the center stack can hold a small bag. The armrest is deep and is great for keeping gear out of sight. The second-row passengers pretty much have to use door pockets and seatback pockets because the passthrough between the captain's chairs don't allow for storage.

Cargo Room: The Sienna has a usable 39.1 cubic feet with the seats in place and a whopping 150 cubic feet with the seats folded flat. The third row uses the easy One-Motion system to send the seats forward to open the huge and very deep compartment in back.

Fuel Economy

6

 

Minivans are not misers when it comes to fuel consumption. 20 mpg combined isn't great for an EPA rating, and we didn't even hit it under mildly conservative driving habits. Our test vehicle had the all-wheel drive system, which contributes to thirst along with the V6 that has to pull about 5,000 pounds.

Observed: 17.3 mpg.

Distance Driven: 114 miles.

Audio

7.8

 

Our test vehicle had the upgraded premium stereo as part of an option package, but it looks like it's not the JBL offering. That said, it's still a pretty good system that provides ample sound inside the large cabin.



Final Thoughts

The Sienna has held on for so long because no one really begged for a truly great minivan. That almost sounds like an oxymoron. But minivans still sell, and it's clear that manufacturers like Honda and Chrylser still care about them. Toyota almost has to make a new one, and they should in order to stay competitive. If you need a solid minivan with power, space, and (most importantly) all-wheel drive, this is the one to get. But wait for the 2021 Pacifica with AWD if you can.
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