Toyota shows track-ready and off-road Siennas at SEMA

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Among all the various vehicles that Toyota is showcasing at SEMA this year are two versions of the Sienna minivan. One we've seen already, but is now being detailed for the first time. The other is an altogether new concoction.

That fresh show van is dubbed the Sienna R-Tuned concept. It's the result of a collaboration with aftermarket modifier DG-Spec, which fitted new wheels, tires, brakes, shocks, springs, and differential. It also has a completely stripped out interior, fitted with a roll cage and racing buckets. It maintains the stock 3.5-liter V6 engine and six-speed automatic transmission, but with better traction, Toyota says it can clock a 1:27 at the Streets of Willow Springs circuit in Southern California – a full second faster than a Chevy Camaro SS. That's pretty impressive considering it has no power upgrades.

Alongside the Sienna R-Tuned concept, Toyota is also displaying its Ultimate Utility Vehicle that's been part of the company's Ever-Better Expedition. We first caught a glimpse of the UUV back in June, but now the automaker is providing a more comprehensive look at the beast. It's based on the frame of a Tacoma 4x4 pickup, but wears the modified bodywork of a Sienna, riding on 22-inch wheels with 15.75 inches of suspension travel. The interior appears just the same as a stock Sienna, but has been modified under the skin to operate the Tacoma's running gear. It's also been fitted with a mobile satellite TV receiver, 60-inch LED screen, 17-inch dashboard display, 2,500-watt JBL audio system, onboard wifi, a whole mess of USB ports, and a high-definition night-vision camera system.

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Sienna with Stock Engine and Transmission Outpaces Camaro SS

TORRANCE, Calif., Nov. 3, 2015—Why turn a Sienna minivan—the least likely product in the Toyota lineup—into a performance vehicle? It's one thing to make an LFA supercar go fast around a racetrack. People expect that. But no one sees a Sienna coming.

People's perception of just how much fun you can have driving a family hauler will change dramatically when they see the Toyota Sienna R-Tuned concept, which made its debut today at Toyota's 2015 Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) Show display.

Toyota Technical Center collaborated with championship-winning performance shop DG-Spec to modify a stock Sienna SE "Swagger Wagon" with performance tires, wheels, brakes, double-adjustable shocks with racing springs, and a clutch-type limited-slip differential to deliver radically enhanced performance.

The result? Even though the concept uses the Sienna's stock 3.5-liter V6 engine and six-speed automatic transmission, it has outpaced even a 6.2-liter V8 Camaro SS on the test track. At the Streets of Willow Springs, just north of Los Angeles, the Sienna R-Tuned turned a blistering 1:27 lap time, sailing past the 6.2-liter V8 Camaro by a full second around the 1.7-mile sports car course.

"When we produced the Sienna SE, we started moving in the direction of more sportiness beyond what you would find in a family hauler," said Andrew Lund, chief engineer for the Sienna at Toyota Technical Center in Ann Arbor, Michigan. "With the Sienna R-Tuned, we wanted to see if we could create a vehicle that would push the limits even farther. We definitely proved that it's possible."

When asked how the Sienna R-Tuned could go faster than a 426-horsepower sports car, Lund said, "We looked at the overall dynamics of the vehicle, and made adjustments to make the vehicle handle and brake better. The Sienna R-Tuned simply carries more speed through the corners."

Yet the Sienna R-Tuned isn't a vehicle that can only be handled by a professional driver. When tested by a select group of everyday drivers, they were truly surprised at how easy it is to drive. People felt more confident, more in control and more secure behind the wheel.

The Sienna R-Tuned can be seen November 3-6, 2015, in the Toyota display booth (#24700) located in the Central Hall of the Las Vegas Convention Center at the 2015 SEMA Show.


Sienna Body on Tacoma Frame Has Wi-Fi, Internet, Satellite TV, Skype Capability, Night Vision Camera to Serve as Command Center for Ever-Better Expedition

TORRANCE, Calif., Nov. 3, 2015—The Toyota Ultimate Utility Vehicle—teased to the press in June when it began its journey on the Ever-Better Expedition—has made its long-awaited debut at Toyota's 2015 Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) Show booth.

The one-of-a-kind concept vehicle, which takes the spacious body of a Toyota Sienna minivan and mates it to a rugged Toyota Tacoma 4×4 frame, will serve as the command center for the North American leg of the expedition, a convoy of nine Toyota vehicles that are being driven over 16,500 miles through the continent's most extreme driving conditions.

Because it is the operational hub of this grueling endurance test, the UUV is the most technologically sophisticated of connected cars. Among the fully functional equipment inside the UUV: a TracVision mobile satellite television receiver; Wi-Fi; Internet access; multiple USB ports; 17-inch monitor; 60-inch Sony LED TV; 2,500-watt JBL audio system; and a Flir M-324xp night vision camera system with high-definition recording capability.

From captain's chairs equipped with laptop tray tables in the back of the Ultimate Utility Vehicle, Toyota engineers can monitor driving data from every vehicle in real time; record video of vehicle handling and braking, day or night; and report back to Toyota headquarters on the cars' performance via Skype.

The UUV uses a Sienna minivan body because it offers the most interior space for the array of electronic equipment housed inside the vehicle. But even the durable Sienna is not designed for the challenging off-road adventures the Ever-Better Expedition vehicles face. So its unibody structure was hollowed out, reinforced, and mated to a similarly reinforced Tacoma four-wheel-drive frame.

For outstanding ground clearance and approach and departure angles, the UUV has been equipped with an Engaged four-link long-travel suspension that gives a four-inch lift in ride height. 33×22 Nitto Mud Grappler tires mounted on 22×12-inch Monster Energy 539B off-road wheels get power to the ground on and off road. The UUV boasts an amazing 15.75 inches of wheel travel to conquer virtually any type of terrain it may encounter.

The size of the tires hampered operation of the stock Sienna's sliding rear doors and front-hinged front doors. So the rear doors were reengineered and motorized to slide out, rather than back, to offer access to the cavernous passenger compartment. And the front doors were redesigned to open from the front, "suicide"-style, for ease of entry and exit without compromising the UUV's off-road prowess.

From behind the wheel, operating the Ultimate Utility Vehicle seems identical to driving a stock Sienna. But, while the levers and buttons appear to be the same OEM equipment you'd find in a production Sienna, they are actually carefully crafted replicas which control the functions of the Tacoma pickup on which the UUV is based.

The Ever-Better Expedition has already completed the hot-weather portion of its North American leg. After the SEMA Show, when the weather turns rigid and icy in Canada and Alaska, the rigorous journey will continue—and the Ultimate Utility Vehicle will be at the center of it all.

The Ultimate Utility Vehicle—along with numerous other Toyota specialty vehicles—will be found in the Toyota display booth (#24700) in Central Hall and on the Patio Annex of the Las Vegas Convention Center, November 3-6, 2015.

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