On Monday, Toyota gave the world its first look at a shockingly interesting new vehicle that seems every bit what we’d expect the personal transportation of tomorrow to be. It boasts wild, angular styling, a standard hybrid powertrain that combines a gas-powered engine with as many as three electric motors, a 10-inch color head-up display — even an on-board refrigerator. It comes ready to tow or be outfitted with a roof rack and offers all-wheel-drive traction, yet gives families seven USB ports and 18 cupholders to keep the conveniences of home available even when out on adventures.
Here’s the twist, though. It’s not an SUV — it’s a minivan.
The 2021 Toyota Sienna may still bear the same name as the stalwart sliding-door conveyance we reviewed last year, but it’s an entirely different machine. The new model is based on the same exceptional TNGA-K platform used as the skeleton for the Camry, Avalon, RAV4 and Lexus ES, and trades in the naturally-aspirated V6 of old for a standard hybrid powertrain.
Opt for all-wheel-drive, and the inline-four is paired with three electric motors: two at the front, one at the rear, the latter negating the need for a mechanical driveshaft below the cabin. (Front-wheel-drive models make do with two electric motors.) Total power output is 243 horsepower, but more importantly, combined fuel economy is 33 miles per gallon.
No one’s likely to mistake the new Sienna for the old one — or for anything else on the road, especially in the sporty-looking XSE trim. That one brings blacked-out 20-inch wheels and more aggressive front and rear ends to the party, including a grille that looks big enough to scarf up North Dakota. All the trims pick up sleek, sharp-eyed headlamps, squinty taillamps and surprisingly alluring hips, however.
In order to tempt would-be SUV buyers into making the wiser choice to go with a minivan, Toyota also equipped the 2021 Sienna to tow up to 3,500 pounds — not quite enough for an Airstream Nest, perhaps, but certainly enough for a Happier Camper Traveler. Plus, the carmaker has teamed up with Yakima to ensure there’ll be plenty of roof racks and cargo carries to help shuttle bikes, kayaks and other outdoor gear about on top of the new van.
Inside, like many new Toyotas on the TNGA-K platform, the 2021 Sienna features an elegant dashboard with a tablet-style touchscreen display mounted high and a good old-fashioned shifter with a baseball-sized knob on top right where the driver’s right hand falls. But unlike, say, the Avalon, this interior has room for up to eight people.
Unless you really need eight seats, though, you’ll probably want the seven-seat version that offers second-row captains chairs that can slide more than two feet forwards and backwards. And on FWD versions of the higher-level Limited and Platinum trims, those seats even come with ottomans.
In fact, the top-shelf Platinum offers all sorts of accoutrements that you might not associate with minivan life. A 12-speaker, 1,200-watt stereo, heated and ventilated leather seats, and an on-board vacuum? Sure, you might have expected them. But what about a 360-degree bird’s eye camera view, an on-board refrigerator, or that aforementioned 10-inch color head-up display?
You don’t have to shell out the big bucks for the safety features, though. Every 2021 Sienna comes with pedestrian- and vehicle-detecting automatic emergency braking, radar cruise control, lane departure warning and prevention, automatic high beams and no fewer than 10 airbags.
Speaking of those bucks: Toyota hasn’t announced pricing for the new Sienna, but don’t plan on it costing that much more than the current model (which ranges from $31,640 to $44,535 to start) when it goes on sale later this year. That means a fully-loaded Platinum will likely run close to $50,000…but considering the breadth of versatility that comes with it, well, that practically seems like a bargain.
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