- The Washington Times - Friday, March 2, 2001

MODEL: Toyota Sienna XLE
VEHICLE TYPE: Five-door minivan
PRICE-AS-TESTED: $34,816
MILEAGE: 19 city, 24 highway

As Toyota's Sienna minivan enters its fourth year, it proves some vehicles age a bit more gracefully than others. Sure, its rear seats may not be as easy to remove as some of the redesigned competition, and the interior may not be quite as roomy, but overall, there is an unmistakable impression of quality, durability and safety.
All 2001 models arrive with a driver's-side sliding door. Dual power sliding doors is a new option. Cosmetic enhancements include a new front fascia, redesigned grille, freshened bumper and new taillamps. Massaging the engine has resulted in more horsepower and torque this year. Another noteworthy new option is the entertainment center, with its fold-down monitor, videocassette player with game input, handheld remote and two wireless headphones. Although Sienna is aging, it isn't getting old.
Built alongside the Camry in Kentucky, the Sienna shares its platform and powertrain with the wildly popular sedan. In fact, in many ways Sienna is like a Camry with seating for seven. Also like the Camry, Sienna's exterior styling won't turn many heads, but its lines are clean and pleasing to the eye. Toyota has tried to make it more aerodynamic in appearance by bringing the front end to a subtle V shape.
Sienna's plain-wrapper looks, however, aren't really a factor. Minivan owners seem much more concerned with issues of the interior than exterior styling. And Sienna's cabin stands up remarkably well to comparisons with even its freshest competitors.
Available in three trim levels (CE, LE and XLE), Sienna can be tailored to a family's needs and pocketbook. The entry-level CE sells for $21,514, while the top-of-the-heap XLE has a suggested base price of $28,436. Among other features, that extra $7,000 adds such amenities as cruise control, power locks with remote keyless entry, dual power outboard mirrors, upgraded audio system with eight speakers and CD player, and anti-theft security system.
Utility is increased by both the standard driver's-side slider and especially by the dual power doors option ($1,675 bundled with power moon roof). Opening or closing these doors with arms full of grocery bags can be accomplished with just a push of a button on the keyless remote fob.
Sienna's low step-in makes for ease of entry and exit. The seats are firm, if a bit narrow. Opting for the XLE package replaces the second-row bench seat with removable captain's bucket seats. The split, folding third-row seat is then somewhat easier to reach. With all the seats in place, there is still some cargo room behind the third-row seat. In addition to the third-row seatback folding down, the seat itself will tumble forward or can be removed entirely.
Toyota has tinkered with the location of the audio and ventilation system controls for more user-friendly placement. There are cup holders and storage cubby holes galore.
Although, Camry's version doesn't benefit from the same boost in power as Sienna's V-6 received this year, Sienna's power plant and four-speed automatic transmission are lifted directly from Camry. Sienna's three-liter V-6 now has 210 horsepower and 220 foot-pounds of peak torque, as opposed to 194 horsepower and 209 foot-pounds of torque last year. The extra boost is particularly welcome when toting a full compliment of passengers.
Coaxing more performance from the engine hasn't bruised fuel economy at all. In fact, the Environmental Protection Agency rates Sienna's around-town miles per gallon a mile better this year at 19, while the highway mpg rating remains unchanged at 24. The engine is quiet, and the transmission shifts with smooth precision. Getting the needle from zero to 60 mph takes about 10 ticks of the clock. It is a minivan, but it holds its own when the light turns green.
In addition to features already mentioned, Sienna XLE's base price of $28,436 also includes anti-lock brakes, dual front air bags, 15-inch alloy wheels, low tire-pressure warning light, rear wiper and washer, power windows, rear air conditioner and roof rack.
The test XLE had $5,885 worth of options, such as side air bags ($250), interior upgrade package ($1,610) with leather seating, power driver's seat and JBL audio upgrade, and the Vehicle Entertainment System ($1,495). Adding the $495 delivery charge brought the price as tested to $34,816.



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