Toyota Sienna Performance
The 2008 Sienna's standard V6 is more powerful than that of last year's model. Kelley Blue Book says, "The Sienna's new 3.5-liter V6 engine delivers where it counts, and it performs beautifully in both city and highway driving. The Sienna pulls quickly from a dead stop and power is masterfully managed by an electronically controlled five-speed automatic."
Many reviewers attribute the Sienna's somewhat heavy handling to its substantial size, and agree with Road and Track that the minivan is, in fact, "more agile than its considerable footprint might suggest." Forbes explains this by noting that the Sienna "shares a platform, albeit modified, with the Camry, which goes a long way toward explaining its sedan-like driving performance." In general, reviewers find the Sienna is a good choice for families seeking a solid, stable ride. In fact, U.S. News reviewer Rick Newman says that the Sienna "provides as much power as anybody would need in a family vehicle," and concludes, "Overall it's a very comfortable ride."
Acceleration and Power
The Sienna's power is impressive for its class. Forbes dares, "Just punch it and see how well a bus like this can merge into traffic." The 3.5-liter V6 creates 266 horsepower and 245 lb-ft of torque. The engine is mated to a five-speed automatic transmission. A reviewer for The Auto Channel voices a sentiment echoed by many reviewers, saying, "I found the engine to be more than adequate even with lots of guests aboard."
The engine is powerful and responsive enough, writes MSN, to allow "age-arrested or unwary drivers to cause the front tires of the front-wheel-drive Sienna to squeal like a hot rod's when taking off quickly." Building up speed, the "transmission provides prompt, smooth shifts in any situation," reports Consumer Guide. Automobile Magazine agrees, noting, "[u]pshifts are quick and downshifts are unnoticeable to all but the most sensitive of drivers." Fuel economy is about average for its class, with the front-wheel drive model getting an EPA estimated 17 mpg in the city and 23 on the highway, and the all-wheel drive model getting 16 mpg in the city and 21 on the highway.
Handling and Braking
Exceptional handling, reviewers point out, is a necessary casualty of the Sienna's size -- and, by extension, its practicality. Even U.S. News auto reviewer Rick Newman, who claims "the Sienna's handling is heavy-handed," concedes, "The Sienna is a large hauler that seats seven in copious comfort, and its road manners are better than others of like size." The Auto Channel, like many reviewers, attributes this to the fact that the Sienna "is loosely based on the front-wheel-drive Camry." Around corners, "the Sienna managed curves well and without being sloppy," reports MSN -- though "Drivers can notice some weight shift." Overall, writes Kelley Blue Book, "The Sienna's wide stance and long wheelbase make for an extremely smooth ride."
The steering, asserts Automobile Magazine, "is light and buttery smooth." Some reviewers find it too much so. MSN, for instance, writes, "The quick steering takes getting used to because it's too light." Consumer Guide adds, "The turning radius is tight, but parking ease is hampered by Sienna's overall length." As for the brakes, Road and Track reports, "Brake feel is firmer than your typical people-mover." In all trim levels but the entry-level CE, the Sienna is available with all-wheel drive. Edmunds explains how the system works: "The all-wheel-drive system uses a center differential to divide engine power 50/50 to the front and rear wheels, so if one set of wheels begins to slip, power is automatically transferred to the wheels that have more grip."
One option that many reviewers like is dynamic cruise control, which is available only on the Limited trim as part of the Limited and Limited AWD package #4. Motor Trend calls it an "interesting option" that "permits the driver to set the speed and maintain a consistent distance from the vehicle ahead," meaning "the Sienna can brake and accelerate with no input from the driver." Edmunds says, "The system is downright amazing but it is not perfect -- there's really no substitute for human interaction. Because the 'eye' or laser system can only see in a straight line, your vehicle may slow unnecessarily when the road ahead curves."