Behind the Wheel

2021 Toyota Sienna Review: Powertrain and people-moving efficiency

The Toyota Sienna has been redesigned for the 2021 model year.

Photo courtesy of Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc.

Nothing about the 2021 Toyota Sienna is revolutionary. For that matter, it doesn't have to be. The redesigned minivan is, however, a big leap forward for its automaker in terms of fuel efficiency, innovation, design, and functionality. That being said, it's still not the best minivan on the market today.

When it launched late last year, Toyota conveyed the hope that some customers would choose the 2021 Sienna over the 2021 Toyota Highlander. The Highlander, which is a well-priced, practical, well-appointed people mover, is a formidable foe. It drives smaller than it is, comfortably seats six adults, and has a quiet cabin. It's also available with a hybrid powertrain.

2021 Toyota Sienna XSE The 2021 Sienna has a tighter appearance than its predecessor.Photo courtesy of Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc.

Then the 2021 Chrysler Pacifica went on sale, bringing a better-appointed cabin, available all-wheel drive, and a new infotainment system into the equation. Honda refreshed the Odyssey, and Kia introduced the newest version of its people mover, the intriguing Carnival, which is designed to look like an SUV. Suddenly the minivan segment got very interesting.

So, the Sienna has to stand out.

In the looks department, the Sienna doesn't move the needle. Its designers took inspiration from the Shinkansen Japanese Bullet Train and that's easy to see, especially from the front and side. The Sienna still looks like a minivan, though.

The real innovation in the Sienna comes down to the engine and it's something Toyota has been doing for years. The Sienna now only has one powertrain - a 2.5-liter four-cylinder hybrid unit. That's right, every Sienna is now a hybrid. You don't have to plug it in and you still get the benefit of desirable fuel economy (an EPA-estimated 35-36 mpg combined depending on if you opt for a front- or all-wheel drive model).

All Sienna models now wear "Hybrid" badging at the rear.Photo courtesy of Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc.

On paper, the minivan's 245 horsepower is a decrease from the old van for the 2020 model year. On the road, the decrease doesn't show. The Sienna remains confidence-inspiring, using its electric power off the line to boost quickness. It doesn't matter if you're driving on city or rural roads, or on the highway, the Sienna will get you there in an un-irritating fashion.

Where you will be irritated is with the interior of the Sienna. Toyota has, for some unknown reason, created what shall henceforth be known as the "Great Divide" between driver and front seat passenger. This Great Divide sees to it that those occupants stay in their assigned zone at all times, like a chaperone at a high school dance in the 1960s.

It makes the driver's seat of the Sienna feel more like a true captain's chair, with the airship's dashboard laid out in front and adorned with hard plastic covering in an... um... unique design as tested in the Sienna XSE. Is there a checklist to go through before you take off from your driveway? That's up to you to decide.

The front row of the Sienna is broken up by an extra large center console.Photo courtesy of Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc.

There's a good deal of comfort and convenience for the second- and third-row passengers of the Sienna. Seats move forward and aft a surprisingly great distance and the storage capacity of the Sienna is one of the highest in the class. USB ports are available in all three rows and quad-zone climate control is standard on every trim level except the base. As tested, the Sienna's upholstery and finishings in the rear of the vehicle looked like the type that would stand up against the wear and tear of family life.

And for all its engineering and hardiness, the Sienna just didn't come off as particularly nice. Sure, it's capable in more ways than just how it drives, but the Sienna felt more utilitarian than a Honda Element. It just didn't feel special or serene, merely passable.

The second-row seats in the Sienna offer great flexibility.Photo courtesy of Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc.

Passable shouldn't be good enough as competition stiffens. The Carnival and Pacifica have interiors and infotainment systems that put Toyota's to shame, despite its large 11.6-inch infotainment touch screen. The all-wheel drive in the Pacifica opens up the model to more marketability and the Pacifica Pinnacle, a new luxury-level option that comes as a plug-in hybrid is a compelling choice for buyers.

With the Sienna, Toyota gets away with what they've gotten away with in the RAV4 for years - a vehicle so gosh darn practical and traditionally reliable with a Toyota emblem at the front that buyers are (likely) willing to overlook its interior failings and buy it without cross-shopping the far better competition.

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The Jeep Wrangler Dual-Door Group offers factory-backed half-door comfort, style, and safety.
Photo courtesy of Stellantis

Jeep Wrangler owners who want an open-air experience but don't want the complete doors-off look have a new from-the-factory option. Jeep Performance Parts and Mopar have worked together to create new half-doors for the iconic SUV.

The new Jeep Wrangler Dual-Door Group features two factory engineered, tested, and backed half-door options that offer owners the option to have production-level styling, security, and occupancy protection in addition to improved visibility.

Available for both two- and four-door Jeep Wrangler models through the Mopar Custom Shop, as part of an original new-vehicle purchase in the U.S. and Canada, the new Jeep Wrangler Dual-Door Group includes both full and half doors. Full-steel production doors are installed on the vehicle while matching body-color half doors are packaged within the vehicle.

    Jeep Wrangler Dual-Door Group

    Photo courtesy of Stellantis

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    With production-level materials and build quality, new half doors are designed to work when equipped with any of the following features: power mirrors, blind-spot detection, passive and non-passive entry handles, and power locks. A quick and easy swap from full doors to half doors can be accomplished within minutes using the existing hinge locations and the exact same wiring connections.

    The newly developed upper-window assemblies are designed to have a weather-tight sealant feature zippered plastic windows. Two materials are offered for the assemblies: base-model vinyl that matches the production soft-top roof or premium acrylic that matches the premium soft-top roof.

    Each upper-door frame section uses an easy, tool-free, dual-guide post feature for easy installation and removal.

    The Dual-Door Group is now available on two- and four-door Jeep Wrangler Sport, Rubicon; Sahara, Rubicon 392, and 4xe models. Factory-option pricing for the U.S.s tarts at $2,350 for the two-door's Dual-Door Group with base-model upper-window assembles while the four-door costs $3,995. Checking the box for the more premium version of the upper-window assemblies moves the price tag up to $2,550 for the two-door and $4,395 for the four-door.

    Warranty coverage for each Dual-Door Group option is included as part of the new-vehicle warranty of three years/36,000 miles.

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    Toyota is mobilizing, putting its money where its mouth is to help Texas affected by severe winter weather.

    Photo courtesy of Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc.

    Winter Storm Uri impacted nearly every single one of Texas's 254 counties. North Texas-based Toyota Motor North America (TMNA) has pledged $1 million in relief for those affected by the storm. The aid is slated to serve both Toyota and Lexus customers and a variety of Texas-based non-profit organizations.

    Over 60 Texas counties were part of the Federal Emergency Management Agency's (FEMA) recent Texas Severe Winter Storms (DR-4586-TX). It is currently categorized as an active disaster.

    "We take our role as community leaders seriously, so when winter storms affected millions right in our back yard, our top priority became helping Texas get back on its feet after this ordeal," said Sean Suggs, group vice president of Social Innovation, TMNA. "Texans have supported our company in myriad ways, and we want to help our neighbors emerge from this storm stronger than ever."

    The $1 million relief effort includes:

    North Texas/DFW Metroplex

    • United Way of Metropolitan Dallas, in support of North Texas Cares and West Dallas nonprofits to quickly distribute funds to grassroots organizations: $450,000
    • North Texas Food Bank: $100,000
    • The Family Place and Genesis Women's Shelter to fund hotel rooms, food, and transportation for their clients: $30,000
    • Toyota employees will be able to support the needs of four North Texas community partners significantly impacted by the storms by purchasing items from their Amazon Wish Lists.

    San Antonio

    • SAWS Community Pipe Repair Fund, through the San Antonio Area Foundation to assist individuals and families stay in their homes safely with funds for plumbing repairs: $100,000
    • Let's Help SA Fund to provide food, water and shelter: $200,000

    Houston

    • United Way of Greater Houston to support the Greater Houston 2021 Winter Storm Relief Fund that supports local home repairs: $50,000
    • Houston Food Bank: $50,000
    • CrowdSource Rescue to provide food, water and fuel: $20,000

    Additionally, Toyota will match up to $10,000 in individual employee contributions to nonprofit organizations recovering from the storm.

    Toyota and Lexus Financial Services customers who are looking for loan and lease payment relief, and were impacted by the storm, may be able to receive assistance under a new Toyota program that has a variety of options for clients.

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