Finally took delivery this past Thursday. The van was built one week earlier at Toyota's Princeton, Indiana plant. We have raised our family in two Chrysler minivans over the last 22 years and even though the kids are grown and gone, my wife, who will be the daily driver, felt most comfortable sticking with this type vehicle. My primary interest is as an interstate hauler as this vehicle will be our long distance traveler for the next several years.

We zeroed in on the Toyota model pretty quickly. We both felt it is the best looking of the various minivan offerings. We did not seriously consider its primary competitor, the Honda Odyssey because I don't have much faith in their VCM V6 and I've read about a lot of transmission woes plus the wife's initial reaction to it's styling was, "it looks like a hearse". So, that was that. We did test drive the Chrysler out of respect for their service over the prior two decades but just didn't take to the interior as quickly, didn't really care for the styling and didn't feel it drove as well as the FWD Toy.

Within the Sienna line, we focused on the XLE trim level which is pretty complete: leather, sunroof, power doors all around, and up-to-date audio, XM and Bluetooth handsfree phone and music capability. We did test drive AWD vs FWD and found them to be dramatically different. For $2300, AWD brings you a FWD biased system that apportions torque to the rear as it senses slippage. It adds 230 pounds and subtracts 2 mpg as well as your spare tire due to the drive shaft bisecting the rear floor space. The consequence of this design choice is Run Flat Tires. The OE Bridgestones list for $280 on Tire Rack before freight, tax and road hazard and worse, they weigh 7 pounds (25%) more than the FWD tires. This is a lot of additional unsprung weight and it has a noticeable impact on ride and handling. We found the AWD van to ride very soft, handle sluggishly and at least the one we drove gave me a noticeable shimmy traversing some pavement ripples accelerating up an interstate ramp. OTOH, in comparison, the FWD model felt 'light on it's feet'. The suspension has a firm but compliant feel-just what I'm looking for in a vehicle of this type. The steering is super light and takes some getting used to at parking lot speeds but is very communicative and accurate at driving speeds. The a Toyota V6 is very responsive and powerful and is well matched to a smooth six speed transmission. Our silver example has perfect paint and all body panel gaps are well aligned and consistently spaced. The interior is rattle-free, so kudos to the men and women on the assembly line. The seats are simply fantastic. In fact, we noticed this at the auto show last winter and remembered the Sienna's seats as the most comfortable of any vehicle at the show. The van drives beautifully and although I've only driven in the dry, the OE Firestone FR710 tires ($115 at TR) seem to ride just fine with adequate traction for this class of vehicle. It was an easy decision to forego AWD knowing that we can always upgrade winter traction for half the cost (and none of the design compromises) with a second set of wheels with Blizzaks.

In summary, both the wife and I are thrilled with the Sienna XLE FWD. The local dealers are willing to sell these vans at or a few hundred below invoice and we got a fair deal on our mostly used up 12 yo trade. All-in-all, Toyota has a couple of new and very satisfied customers. We highly recommend the FWD Sienna to those who may be shopping for a minivan.

Edited by Indydriver (04/29/12 09:03 AM)
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