This is a review of the Toyota Sienna minivan (I still have problem saying the M word..), FWD XLE 2005 with XLE package #8. The major content of package #8 are leather seats, heated seats, NAV and Rear entertainment system (RES), backup camera, 115V outlets, second and third row window sunshades, moonroof, JBL sound system with CD player(not changer!), and side curtain airbags. Test Drives and Making Deals
I shopped for the Honda Odyssey EX-L and the Toyota Sienna LE with options. Both cars are very nice and competent family vehicle. Being near model year end I was hoping to get a good deal from either brand's dealer. I test drove the Odyssey -- it definitely has a slight edge on handling and driving. It is puncher (more responsive) and ride harder (more sport like). The EX-L has everything that I wanted except a powered rear door. It would be nice to have a powered rear door to load groceries and strollers. For some reason the Honda only have powered rear door on the Touring model (top of the line). I almost bought the Odyssey.
A big different between the Honda and the Toyota is the way they package the car. For Honda, there are very few, if any, options. You pick the model (LE, EX, Touring) and they give you what you think you need as far as gadgets and trims and options. That makes shopping easier. For Toyota, on paper, each model comes with many different and overlapping option packages. It makes shopping very confusing. However in reality Toyota mostly ship each model with just one of the most popular package. For the XLE FWD, it's package #8. For the LE FWD, it's package #6.
If you want all wheel drive, you can only get it from the Sienna. But that's not the reason I ended up with the Sienna. I bought the Sienna because the Honda dealer are, well, too pushing and unwilling to make a good deal even at year end. I owned Hondas before, and they are always like that. I think my days with Hondas are over. It's Toyotas and Lexuses from now on.
I ended up paying close to invoice price, including the current $1000 cash back. They also gave me a very good deal on my 15 years old trade ins.
Once I got the car home, my first task is to move the car seats from the Lexus to the Sienna. The rear seats on the GS is slanted, and we had to stuff towels under the car seats to make them level. The LATCH hooks are kinda hidden and hard to get to. Not so on the Sienna. I put the two car seats on each of the second row captain seat. Following the Sienna instructions, I had the seatbacks set to (about) 5 clicks inclined. The LATCH hooks are clearly accessible in a large openning on the seat. The openings are covered by a velcro sealed flap running the entire width of the seat. Pull open the flap, and you can see and get to the LATCH hooks very easily. It took all of 10 seconds to install each seat. One big plus for the family friendly, eh, minivan.
The Sienna has privacy glass on all the back windows: two on each sides, one at the rear. They are basically darkened glass. They are a great improvement over normal glass, as Guppy today fell asleep comfortably in his seat without using the sunshades. In the GS he hated the Sun shining on him while he is trying to sleep. But with the Sunshades, it really makes a different. The Sienna has built-in sunshades in the second and the third row windows !! That's great. I hope they last.
Driving and Engine
The Sienna drives reasonable well, for a minivan. The only bad thing is that after driving it for a while, switching back to the GS it's always a surprise. I press the gas pedal and the GS jumps forward, whereas the Sienna would have just moved.
The XLE trim comes with a center console that can be mounted on the front row or the second row (or not at all) between the seats. It has two nice big bins. The top bins' lid, when flip open, has a clip for a pad of paper and a pen. Nice touch. The bin has two cup holders in the front, two in the back, and if you open the small drawer in the back, there are two more cup holders. So do I like this console? Well, yes and no. We test drove an LE which as a flip up console. It is a simple tray that is mounted on the edge of the passanger seat and can be folded down. Once fold down, you can walk from the first row back to the second row easily. This is important as we parents sometimes use the van as a mobile station. Park the car. Walk back to tend to the kids. With the center console, we have to step over it to walk back to the second row. Possible (we do it all the time) but not as convinient.
Instead of the center console, the XLE comes with fittings that we can put on the mounting points on the floor to give us two little cup holders and a little tray, at the floor level. We could do that but have not tried it yet. The only thing that's strange about that option is that the cup holder are then too low on the ground. I probably will give that a try sometime later.
Automatic Door locking and Unlocking
The Sienna, with the powered locks, have four options to automatically lock and unlock the doors. The doors will lock automatically when you shift from park to drive, and unlock when you shift from drive to park. We do not like the feature where it automatically unlocks when you shift from drive to park. Being in the city, seems a little safer to leave the doors locked until we specifically unlock them.
You can switch on and off these functions with a somewhat cryptic sequence. It goes something like:
- Turn the key to the on position.
- Within 10 seconds, leave the shifter in park, press and hold the driver door lock switch down in the unlocking position for 5 seconds.
- Release the switch.
- If the car took the sequence, all the doors will lock (!) to notify you that the sequence has been accepted.
I must have done this 20 times before figuring out how to get this to work -- The timing is critical. You have to hold down the lock switch for exactly 5 seconds. Too short or too long will not work. One trick is to use the "ding ding" sound of the seat belt warning to count off 5 seconds.
Cargo Capacity This is the official numbers: 148.9/94.5/43.6 cu. ft. for behind front/middle/rear seats. I need to go measure to see the actual length available for storing cargo.