Since I already did a weeklong road test of a pre-production version of the 2011 Toyota Sienna SE earlier this year, I decided that as a single person I needed to put this “swagger wagon” (Toyota’s name for the Sienna SE) to the ultimate test. I either needed to rent a family or I needed to pay a visit to my friends Todd and Ann Allen. They have three children six and under whose names are Eddie, Jimmy and Joe.
The Allens fit the marketing directive for the 2011 Sienna SE just about perfectly-Ann currently drives a Pontiac minivan that has over 200,000 miles (yes, apparently that’s possible with a Pontiac) and loves the family flexibility that this layout provides. You try getting three young kids with car seats and booster seats into a traditional SUV and tell me how easy that is!
Todd, on the other hand, is a traditional “car guy” who needs a bit more macho swagger and driving enjoyment when he is behind the wheel of any vehicle. So will the 2011 Toyota Sienna SE’s “man van” credentials be enough to win over this family with such divergent automotive tastes? And will the interior survive two days with the boys? Read on to find out.
(Note: In addition to body spoilers, smoked headlight and tail lamp lenses, the 2011 Toyota Sienna SE also features sport tuned power steering and a more tightly calibrated suspension set-up that reduces body roll yet gives up nothing in ride comfort.)
Todd Allen (Dad)
Not only did I manage to get Todd to give me his opinions of the 2011 Sienna SE but I also got this photography enthusiast to take all of the pictures for me. You will notice that is why they don’t suck this week. When he was engaging in our photo shoot he commented, “The unique spoilers (that only feature on the SE) really help mask the size of the van. And it’s a big van (note: 16 and a half feet to be exact).”
Visually, Todd also liked the appearance of the gauges but wasn’t so sure about the grey/black contrast to the soft-touch plastic on the dashboard and doors (SE only). “I really like the gauges; they are easy on the eyes but not too bright. I am not sure if I love the grey trim though.”
From behind the wheel Todd had these perceptions of the 2011 Sienna SE, “I am not sure I like the way the climate controls feel angled away from the driver but who drives a minivan by themselves? It also wouldn’t stop me from buying one.” Hmmm. Todd might buy one? Does that mean this van’s fun to drive nature was finally getting under his skin?
He did have one last gripe. “The sunblinds on the second row windows (which fold into the doors) block your over the shoulder peripheral view. It can block out cars behind you.” These sunblinds came as part of our test vehicle’s $1,545 SE Preffered Package which also gives you essentials like tri-zone climate control, power sliding doors and rear hatch, aux/USB port, upgraded six speaker audio system with iPod integration, XM, steering wheel mounted audio controls and Bluetooth.
Our SE was also equipped with the $220 tow package (3,500 lb. capacity) bringing the $30,550 base price up to $33,780 including delivery. A power moonroof is also optional but oddly enough rear seat DVD entertainment and an in-dash navigation system is not available on the SE model. As consolation Toyota is offering a free maintenance package on 2011 Sienna models.
So what was Todd’s final assessment of the “swagger wagon?” After much cajoling, he begrudgingly admitted that, “If I have to drive a minivan this would be the one I’d buy.” Don’t worry Todd. We know you liked it but we won’t tell anyone.
Ann Allen (Mom)
Ann was immediately very enthusiastic about the 2011 Toyota Sienna SE. Her assessment? “I drive a big van now and this one doesn’t make me feel like I am driving a boat. It also has a really smooth ride.”
She also slightly contradicted one of Todd’s complaints when she was sitting in the third row seat with her son Jimmy, “I love the sunshades on the third row windows. I have never seen that before.”
Ann had this to say about the interior and some of the 2011 Toyota Sienna SE’s standard features, “It feels very spacious. Everyone has plenty of room and I like the big storage compartment between the driver and passenger with the four cupholders right in front of you.” Ann has a thing for large Diet Coke fountain drinks (no cans please!) so the Sienna’s front seat cupholder count was a big selling point.
On the safety front, Ann commented that “I like the standard back-up camera so I don’t have to worry about hitting the dog.” Their sweet natured Boxer mix Shelby would no doubt nod in agreement with Ann’s sentiment before lying down for her afternoon nap with a long, deep sigh.
So what did Ann think after a couple days of living with the 2011 Toyota Sienna SE? “I wish it was mine. Do you think Toyota would mind if we kept it?” While they are a very large company, I figured they would notice a Sienna SE missing from their press fleet. Sorry Ann.
Now it’s time to hear what the kids think of the 2011 Toyota Sienna SE. Eddie is the oldest child and really fell in love with riding in one of the second row captain’s chairs. Perhaps it had something to do with his current love of Pirates that made him really enjoy riding in something known as a “captain’s chair.”
Eddie was insistent that his father HAD to buy a 2011 Toyota Sienna SE once the Pontiac gave up the ghost. “I love this car! Dad, you have to get this car! I really like the (second row) windows that roll down. I REALLY wish I could roll them down now!”
Unfortunately for Eddie his father had locked out the second row windows because the air conditioning was on, we were on the freeway and it was a very hot day. He did, however, love that wind in his hair feeling when riding around at lower speeds on city streets. So a thumbs up from Eddie.
Known by the nickname “Baby-Bot,” Joe is the youngest member of the Allen clan and isn’t quite as verbal yet as his big brothers. However, he made his feelings about the 2011 Sienna SE very clear. Whenever the van accelerated past slower moving traffic he would let out a loud and very clear “Wheeeeee!” Okay Joe, we get it.
As the middle child, Jimmy decided he would not tow the family line and give the Sienna a good review. His complaint? “It has too many cupholders.” This said right as he put a water bottle in the cupholder attached to his booster seat. I guess the two cupholders right next to him in the third row weren’t as good. Well, at least Jimmy is vigilant about staying hydrated.
Well, despite Jimmy’s protestations it appears that Toyota hit the nail on the head with the 2011 Toyota Sienna SE. And it isn’t like Jimmy has enough credit yet to buy one. The Sienna SE, however, fills Todd’s desire to drive something that is fun to drive and looks cool. It also fills Ann’s desire to drive something that is family friendly, has a tremendous amount of utility and isn’t a Pontiac.