The 2011 Toyota Sienna launched at the 2009 LA Auto Show in December and we were in the audience to see (and hear) quite a surprising reaction: oohs and ahhs. Okay, so we admit it's non traditional to get excited at the launch of a new minivan, but the reality of the segment is that there are so few of them anymore (GM and Ford exited the minivan market years ago) that a new one is usually a bit of an ordeal. Especially when it's the new Sienna, a perennial favorite.
The new Sienna is set to attract different audiences than the traditional one-box minivan segment. How does Toyota plan on doing this? By going big and going better. The company feels it can grow from its current sales (around 7000 per month) by creating an experience that more closely mimics that of crossovers and SUVs, but without losing the inherent goodness of the minivan platform. Check out the way Toyota styled the vehicle -- including large wheel openings and a front end that looks like a cross between the company's Scion xB and some sort of mechwarrior assault unit. The high beltline is indicative of a more aggressive character, too.
Here's a pretty neat innovation: a wide-screen LCD drop-down entertainment system. Many minivans have had a drop-down entertainment system, but this is the first we've seen with the ability to split programming (and, importantly, inputs) between two passengers. Or the entire thing can be used as one large display, at a full 16 inches wide.
The interior can be configured in seven- and eight-passenger trims. We'd opt for the seven passenger (which allows for two captain's chairs in the second row) and thus have the option of these recliners to snooze in while someone else does the driving (they also move about two feet, so if you're a taller passenger you can fully stretch out). With the seats folded down, Toyota claims the cargo area is eight feet long and four feet wide.
How will the new Sienna drive? Toyota is offering two different engines: a 2.7-liter four-cylinder and a 3.5-liter V-6 (right now the Sienna only offers a 3.5-liter V-6, so this should provide for a more fuel-efficient and cheaper option for buyers). We'll reserve judgement until we can drive the car in early 2010.