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2018 Toyota Sienna Review

2018 Toyota Sienna Review
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The 2018 Toyota Sienna separates itself further from the pack with standard active safety features (great), available all-wheel drive (good), and a new face (uh).

The 2018 Toyota Sienna has a familiar minivan shape and mission, but its new shape and unique features separate the van from the clan—maybe that's the plan?

Last year, the Sienna's upgrades were largely confined to spaces you couldn't see: a new engine and transmission. This year's upgrades are all about what we can see: a new front bumper, side panels, an updated infotainment system, more USB ports, a new rear-seat entertainment system, and standard safety gear.

For family buyers, the Toyota Sienna now includes a comprehensive suite of advanced safety features, which it calls Toyota Safety Sense-P, as standard equipment on every trim level. The package bundles adaptive cruise control, active lane control, forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking, and automatic high beams. Other automakers offer the same features on their minivans, but many charge extra for the bundle—Toyota's is standard on every trim.

Up front, it's had not to notice the Sienna's expanding maw. Designers dropped the front bumper lower and made it wider to give the van a more aggressive look. Side panels that were reserved for sportier SE models last year are now standard equipment on all grades this year, and bigger fog light housings and a furrowed hood will help the Sienna achieve a class-leading "give me your lunch money and beat it, wimp" look.

Under its hood, Toyota offers a 3.5-liter V-6 borrowed from the new Camry sedan and Tacoma pickup that was revised last year. It makes 296 horsepower and is shifted through an 8-speed automatic that helps the Sienna wring out the most from its gas tank—but there's no hybrid on the horizon here. Instead, the Sienna owns another title in the powertrain department: the only van with available all-wheel drive. Whether that's useful to buyers is debatable, but the Sienna manages respectable fuel economy in both setups—around the low-20s combined in both configurations.

Available as a 7- or 8-seater, the Sienna is among the biggest in its class with more than 164 cubic feet of room for passengers. With all the seats removed, the Sienna holds 4-by-8 sheets of building material that can lay flat on the floor. With all the seats in place, it holds plenty of adults who make more noise than building material.

New for 2018, Toyota has upgraded its infotainment system, dubbed Entune. The last system was a little menu-heavy and lacking Apple CarPlay and Android Auto support. The new system doesn't address the former, but it may improve the latter; we'll report back once we've had some time behind the wheel. A 6.1-inch touchscreen is standard on all models, and a premium JBL audio system is available on top trims.

Toyota also offers a handful of family-friendly features such as a loudspeaker that better projects the driver's voice into the third row, and a rear-seat Blu-ray player so you don't have to yell at the kids in the first place.

Styling
This year's nips and tucks don't make the Sienna any prettier, but it's better inside.

You've got to hand it to Toyota for at least trying something new with the 2018 Sienna, even if the execution is...well, eye-catching.

We're not sure it works, which is why we've deducted a couple of points for its genuinely awkward exterior appearance, which looks both surprised and sad at the same time.

In profile, its shape is unchanged from 2011 when the latest generation went on sale. But the detailing is new for 2018: the front fascia, with its big grille and headlights that slope downward and its gently revised tail end. Together, they give it a look that's new and distinct, but not necessarily pleasing.

The Sienna SE model works the best with its overdone side skirts and unique front and rear bumpers. They add a hint of sportiness that's not necessarily backed up in the way the Sienna will actually be used, but buff looks at least help it stand out from the crowd in a good way. 

Then again, van design is dictated by cargo and human-carrying capability; there's only so much an automaker can do to make one look truly magical. Wood paneling would help, right? Maybe not.

Things are better inside, but only a few trim bits are new this year. The driver and passenger up front are divided by a wide and sweeping dashboard design that bundles commonly used controls in a logical manner. Newly standard is a 6.1-inch touchscreen infotainment system. Higher-spec models also have a 4.2-inch LCD integrated into the instrument cluster. 

Performance
More power last year made the Sienna a little zippier all around.

Minivans like the 2018 Toyota Sienna aren't designed to make their way around race tracks, but good handling improves driver confidence and makes a vehicle safer in an emergency situation.

Last year, Toyota swapped in a new 3.5-liter V-6 that delivers an impressive 296 horsepower shuttled to either the front or, on certain models, all four wheels via a high-tech 8-speed automatic. 
The V-6 delivers solid power and its 8-speed automatic fires of smooth and barely perceptible gear changes, although we've found it a little reluctant to slip down a cog or two for highway passing. A thick four-spoke steering wheel implies a degree of sportiness that the Sienna generally lacks, but its steering is accurate and it tracks straight on the highway.

It's not quite as quiet inside to our ears as the Chrysler Pacifica, but the Sienna hushes out most rough pavement roar with aplomb. Its ride is firm, especially with the larger 19-inch wheels included on Sienna SE models. That specification also has a touring suspension that's a bit stiffer; it doesn't upset the van's roomy cabin over rough terrain, but it also doesn't really provide a major benefit on a curvy road. 

The Sienna is the only minivan on the market to offer available all-wheel drive. It's offered on Sienna LE, XLE, and Limited models. The system is a boon for those who regularly find themselves in slushy terrain, but a front-wheel drive model with winter tires will be reasonably capable on its own. There's not much ground clearance on even the all-wheel drive version of the 2018 Toyota Sienna, so don't look for more than a modicum of off-road ability here.

Comfort & Quality
For people and/or their gear, the Sienna is an exceptionally comfortable and versatile van.

It's not quite finished to the standards of some fresher rivals, but the 2018 Toyota Sienna's interior is a comfortable and highly configurable cabin.

The 2018 Sienna stretches 119.3 inches between its wheels; overall, it is over 200 inches long, which means that total interior volume checks in at 164.4 cubic feet. That's hefty by any standards.

And it's capable of hauling eight in comfort with captain's chairs up front and two rows of benches behind. Realistically, many models found on dealer lots will be fitted with optional and extra-cost captain's chairs in the second row rather than the bench that's standard. Unfortunately, none of those seats stow away like those in the Chrysler Pacifica, which is a real shame. Instead, you have to manually pull the seats out and store them elsewhere for maximum cargo-hauling capability.

The Sienna Limited pampers the best with its lounge-like second row seats that recline like first-class airplane thrones. They even feature leg cushion extenders and foot rests, although hot towel service and a bowl of mixed nuts are not included. 

The 2018 Sienna's front seats deliver a terrific view out with controls that are close to the driver with big, easy-to-read buttons and knobs. Ultimately, the Sienna's interior materials fall short of some rivals, but they're assembled with care and feel sturdy for years of passenger abuse. There's also great small item storage thanks to twin glove boxes, a deep center console, and various additional cargo organizers.  

All the way back, the third row is decent for adults and it's easy enough to access. Push the second row all the way forward and you'll have nearly 118 cubic feet of cargo room with four or five passengers. Pull all the seats out and you're up to 150 cubes of cargo-carrying capacity. With a full complement of seats (and possibly passengers) aboard, there's 39.1 cubic feet of suitcase space behind the third row. 

Safety
More safety tech is standard for the 2018 Toyota Sienna.

The 2018 Toyota Sienna adds lots of safety tech as standard for 2018—that's a boon since these vans are the ultimate "family trucksters."

That said, we can't yet rate the Sienna since it hasn't been subjected to complete crash testing this year. There are enough changes to the Sienna for the 2018 model year that it may perform a little differently than last year. 

The IIHS says this year's van rates "Good" on all crash tests except the small overlap frontal test, where it earns an "Acceptable" score.

The federal government, meanwhile, rated the Sienna at four stars for front and rollover crash protection.

This year, all Siennas come standard with a suite of collision-avoiding tech: automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, lane departure warnings, and automatic high beams. Last year, these features were optional (but highly recommended). 

The Sienna continues to come standard with a full complement of airbags, anti-lock brakes, and stability control. 

Features
A wide range of Siennas are on offer and they're all well thought-out for families.

The 2018 Toyota Sienna is offered in wide range of trim levels: L, LE, XLE, SE, and Limited.

An upgraded infotainment system makes them more appealing for 2018, but all are well-equipped and the huge selection means that there's a Sienna for just about every taste and budget. We've scored them an 8 out of 10 as a result.

The Sienna L is rather basic with its clear windows and blacked-out grille, but it still features as standard conveniences like power windows and locks, a full complement of safety gear, and the automaker's Entune 3.0 infotainment system. Although Toyota's infotainment systems don't (yet) have Apple CarPlay or Android Auto functionality, Entune 3.0 includes as standard a navigation app that uses a Bluetooth-connected smartphone's data plan to provide in-vehicle maps. It's a trick, inexpensive way to get a map on the high-resolution touchscreen.

Even the base Sienna has five USB ports scattered about the cabin, too. 

From there, the Sienna LE is the volume model. It's fitted with dual power sliding doors, a power driver's seat, and special cloth upholstery that's intended to be easy to clean off when spills happen.

The Sienna XLE builds from there with leather upholstery, a moonroof, and a power passenger's seat, while the full-boat Sienna Limited has a power-folding third-row bench and the trick Driver Easy Speak loudspeaker that projects the driver's voice to the rear of the vehicle. 

The sporty Sienna SE is more about the look than any actual difference in performance. It has its own interior and exterior styling and a firmer suspension with upsized 19-inch alloy wheels. 

A Premium designation is available for SE, XLE, and Limited models, which adds a few more goodies on top of standard equipment. The optional rear seat entertainment system features new screens for 2018 with wireless streaming for Android devices.

Fuel Economy
The Sienna remains competitive, but isn't class-leading in terms of fuel efficiency.

The 2018 Toyota Sienna is older than most of its competitors, but still manages respectable fuel economy.

We're basing our 6 out of 10 score on front-wheel-drive models, which the EPA rates at 19 mpg city, 27 highway, 22 combined.

Opt for all-wheel drive and those numbers dive to 18/24/20 mpg. That highway figure in particular is a steep drop for a feature many buyers may not get much use out of. 

We're a little surprised that Toyota hasn't installed a hybrid system in its 2018 Sienna van; the Chrysler Pacifica Plug-In Hybrid is for now the only such minivan on the market. 

Both the Chrysler Pacifica and Honda Odyssey manage 22 mpg combined in their most popular versions.

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