"Sienna's uninspiring redesign is all show, no go."2.5 starson by dolomitibettega
Pros: For an XLE AWD costing $38,000, there is little to like. At first the Sienna superficially charms with its features and styling. However, the lousy fit/finish, poor ergonomics, and lackluster chassis wear on you fast.
Cons: Engine/transmission combination, lack of passenger room, seats awkward for tall passengers for a car of this price range, poor ergonomics, slap/dash engineering, uninspiring handling, multiple blind spots, trunk difficult to load, plenty more...
Summary: After the disappointment of having an overpriced 2011 Toyota Sienna XLE AWD for 9 months, I thought it would be worthwhile to mention that this car is vastly overhyped without the proper design or engineering.
It's not an awful vehicle, but I find that most of the redesign elements have been geared towards styling, presentation and giving an impression of luxury, refinement or room without actually delivering these qualities at all. Whenyou scratch the surface, it feels and drives like a bigger yet mediocre 25,000 dollar car. I find this relevant because I recently also test drove an outgoing 2010 version of lower trim level (I believe LE FWD) which was more bland and less superficially attractive, yet found the 2011 to actually be inferior in both driving experience and practicality.
My biggest gripe is that the Sienna seems built for obese women that are 5'6" or less. Wide, but squat accomodations are the norm . I am 6'5"; it is my expectation that when you pay 38,000 dollars for a vehicle of much above average size to the point where its handling and drivability suffer greatly, you would at least have some room. You have room to your sides, because Toyota removed extra seats and allowed only two in the front, and two in the middle rows instead of bench seats. The dashboard was also designed to "look big" and angled so it appears exclusive to both driver an passenger. This gives the perception of space, but does nothing to keep my feet from being flat against the firewall. I don't mind this that much because I usually favor small cars, but this extra bit of comfort, practicality and people moving that a larger car could offer simply is not there. Interestingly, this Sienna only scored 2 stars for the frontal offset crash: I am not surprised. Simple physics will dictate the occupant in this position will sustain injuries to the lower body. The middle row seats offer enough leg room to completely extend my 36 length pant legs forward. Unfortunately, when I do so, I isolate myself socially from those in the front, and render the rear seat unusable except for all but the smallest of children. Furthermore, no matter how I try to adjust the middle row seats, I feel like they are tilted backwards. This does improve access and carrying of child seats, which is in the role of the vehicle, but for adults over 5'6" the legroom is a tragic irony because sitting like you have your knees between your chin renders long trips tiring, uncomfortable, and onerous.
Loading the rear is OK. It holds plenty of stuff, boxes, suitcases or trays of muffins. The problem occurs when you put the rear sets down. Because the AWD driveshaft takes away significant floor room, the top of the rear seat when completely folded is NOT even with the rest of the floor. This not only makes it a chore to load and unload large cargos (take note those thinking of buying for commercial useage!), but it rendrs it difficult to stack items one on top of the other because the higher items will tend to fall off more easily no matter how carefully you load.
The driving experience is probably the greatest chore. While the backup camera is a SMALL consolation, the fact of the matter is that basically anything not in front or immediately to your side is for all intents and purposes invisible due to being blocked by some part of the car. Seats, swagger wagon styling curves and DVD screen all conspire to create a 180 degree blind spot behind you. Not knowing what's around you mixes poorly with its ponderous handling where you never know where you quite are. Despite being an attentive, alert driver, this is the first time I find myself weaving lanes in the road; it is terrifying to drive in any kind of traffic. Only off the line is power aplenty, once going the sluggish transmission hunts so indecisively to the point of being unusable. The motor is not bad at maintaining speed, you have to floor it all the time to get any real pep out of it, much more so than the outgoing 5 speed. Unfortunately, doing so results in the motor screaming in protest and vibrating as if overwhelmed, not what you'd expect out of a large V-6 in a 38,000 dollar car. What's more, the overall demeanor leaves you feeling so out of control that you have the impression you are going much faster, and are less safe than you are. For short trips it's not a big deal, but on long highway trips it becomes a chore. Once nice thing is that you can let go of the steering wheel and the car does track straight for what seems like eons. This is nice for reaching back to pacify screaming kids, but sadly necessary because the TERRIBLE ergonomics of the HVAC system means you will be hitting buttons whose meaning and location is as random as it is illogical, whilst having to look in a tiny, busy, hard to read screen in yet another location to check what your command actually was.
For all its glitz, the 1st Gen Honda Pilot actually drove and felt much better put together. Enough said.
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