When it comes to minivans, it's certainly hard to beat the 2012 Toyota Sienna thanks to its high-quality construction, excellent V6 engine, long feature list, comfortable interior and choice of seven- or eight-passenger seating. It's also the only minivan with available all-wheel drive.
And with last year's comprehensive redesign, the Sienna only got better. Its huge cabin, abundance of available comfort and convenience features, impressive cargo capacity and smooth transmission make for particularly pleasing accommodations and an enjoyable ride quality that's second to none in the segment.
There's also a wide range of choices to meet specific needs and preferences. For those looking to maximize fuel economy, there are four-cylinder engine versions, while those favoring more capable road manners can opt for the SE model with its sport-tuned suspension. And for those living in locales prone to rain and snow, the Sienna also has this covered with all-wheel drive versions.
As much as the Toyota Sienna may have going for it, however, it's always a good idea to check out other top minivans before making a final buying decision ... and there are some good ones. Definitely worthy of serious consideration would be the Dodge Grand Caravan and the Nissan Quest. The Sienna's biggest competition, however, comes from the other top choice, the Honda Odyssey. While the Sienna may have an edge when it comes to its quiet ride and exclusive all-wheel drive availability, the Odyssey may have the edge when it comes to overall handling and a more versatile backseat. Another strong choice is the Kia Sedona. While it may lack some of the interior refinement of the Sienna and Odyssey, it compensates with lots of features and solid performance at a value-packed price.
Trims, Standard Features And Options:
The 2012 Toyota Sienna minivan is available in five trims: base, LE, SE, XLE and Limited. The base and Limited are seven-passenger only; the SE is eight-passenger only; and the LE and XLE can be had in either seven- or eight-passenger configurations. All models come standard with front-wheel drive while the LE, XLE and Limited are also available with all-wheel drive.
Standard features on the base Sienna include power door locks, power mirrors, power windows, cruise control, keyless entry, sliding rear doors with power windows, a 6-way manual driver seat, a 4-way manual front passenger seat, triple-zone air-conditioning, a telescoping steering wheel, a tire pressure monitor, 17-inch alloy wheels, a color-keyed rear spoiler, automatic halogen headlights, a full array of safety features (see below) and a 4-speaker audio system with a CD player, an MP3 player and an auxiliary audio jack.
Opting for the four-cylinder LE adds an 8-way manual driver seat, steering-wheel-mounted audio controls, a 3.5-inch display with a back-up monitor, heated mirrors, overhead and floor consoles and privacy glass, while the V6 LE adds power-sliding rear doors, Bluetooth, a roof rack, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, front seat power lumbar supports, sunshades for the second- and third-rows and a 6-speaker audio system with satellite radio and an iPod/USB interface.
The sport-oriented Sienna SE comes like the V6 LE but adds a sport-tuned suspension, a recalibrated power steering setup, 19-inch alloy wheels, a power liftgate, tinted headlights and taillights, leatherette/cloth upholstery, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, unique instruments, lower body skirting and a special front fascia with foglights, mesh inserts and a larger air intake.
The Sienna XLE is equipped like an LE but adds leather upholstery, a sunroof, power and heated front seats, wood-grain interior trim accents, auto-up/down power windows, a unique metallic-gray grille insert and a tow prep package. The XLE AWD model also gets second-row lounge seats with pop-up footrests.
Moving up to the top-of-the-line Limited adds dual sunroofs, two-tone leather upholstery, driver memory functions, front and rear parking sensors, keyless ignition/entry, a leather-and-wood steering wheel, an upgraded 10-speaker JBL surround-sound audio system, second-row lounge seats, a power-folding/split third-row seat, 18-inch alloy wheels, a satin chrome grille and power-folding side mirrors with auto-dimming, signal repeaters and puddle lamps.
Optional features for the 2012 Sienna come in various packages depending on the model and geographic area. Highlights include a navigation system with a back-up camera, a rear DVD entertainment system, adaptive cruise control, rain-sensing wipers and xenon headlights.
Engines, Powertrain And Gas Mileage:
Powering the base and LE models is a 2.7-liter inline-4 that produces 187 horsepower and 186 pound-feet of torque. Optional on the base and LE and standard on the other models is a 3.5-liter V6 good for 266 horsepower and 245 pound-feet of torque. Both of these engines are paired with a 6-speed automatic transmission. All-wheel drive (AWD) versions are also available on LE, XLE and Limited V6 trims.
In performance tests, a front-drive V6 Sienna was timed from a standstill to 60 mph in a very respectable 7.9 seconds. And in terms of fuel economy, gas mileage for the four-cylinder Sienna has been EPA-estimated at 19 mpg city and 24 mpg on the highway, while the V6 impressively gets similar mileage at 18 mpg city and 25 mpg highway. Choosing an all-wheel drive model lowers these numbers slightly to 17 and 23, respectively.
Standard safety features across all 2012 Siennas include traction control, stability control, antilock disc brakes (ABS), front-seat side airbags, a driver knee airbag, active front head restraints and full-length side curtain airbags. In addition, hill start assist and a pre-collision warning system are available options on the Limited.
In government crash tests, the Sienna earned an overall rating of four out of five stars. Within this score, it received three stars for overall frontal-impact occupant protection and five stars for overall side-impact occupant protection.
The Sienna's cabin is spacious, attractive, user-friendly and solidly-constructed. The seating is comfortable and supportive both front and rear, while storage space is abundant. Of particular note, those opting for the rear entertainment system will find a split-screen monitor that allows two different media sources to be played at the same time, such as a video game on one side and a movie on the other.
The seven-passenger model comes with second-row captain's chairs that also slide to maximize legroom. They also can be completely removed, however, this is really a job for two people. Eight-passenger versions are equipped with a 40/20/40-split second-row bench which has a convenient center section that slides up close to the front seat, making for easier access to younger children.
Opting for the lounge seats allows for maximum comfort as long as they can be slid far enough back and the front seats are up far enough so that the footrests can be fully raised ... a real family pleaser on those long trips. And when moving cargo as opposed to people, the Sienna has a caro capacity of a massive 150 cubic feet with the third row stowed and the second row seats removed.
In terms of power, while the 2.7-liter four-cylinder engine is smooth and quiet and adequately handles around-town and highway driving demands when lightly loaded, it's a bit hard-pressed with heavier cargo loads, when full of passengers or dealing with steep inclines. Nor is it really much better when it comes to gas mileage performance as compared to the much more competent and lively V6.
While handling is quite competent with either engine, the overall ride quality is downright plush and refined with the V6. For those who value more agile handling, most will likely be pleased with the SE thanks to its recalibrated suspension and steering. And for those in rainy and snowy locations, the Sienna offers a big advantage with its all-wheel drive versions.
How To Get The Lowest Price:
Best Negotiating Tactic: Well, there's definitely a 'best way' when it comes to new car buying. If you want to get the best bottomline, out-the-door price you need to know exactly who to talk to at the dealership, how to make the contact and how to make this person eager to quickly drop prices as low as possible to get your sale.