There comes a time in everyone’s life when the dreams of rock stardom or pro sports acclaim give way to the harsh realities of day-to-day living, which for many of us means a partner and kiddos. And, by rote, a minivan.
Don’t take it so hard, boss. If you get the right one in the right color and you’ve got good car-karma, I promise you you will learn to love it. Especially this one.
It was love at first sight for me and the dorky Sienna, whose fiery red exterior, sharp angles and gargantuan interior make it an ideal ride for as many as eight full-size humans and their debris, depending on the trim you choose. Its polished look comes from its “bold new face design” which include new skinny headlights and a fat grille augmenting its Brontosaurusian flavor.
The 2022 Sienna is available in six trim levels: LE, XLE, XSE, Woodland Edition, Limited and Platinum. Every trim comes with hybrid powertrain mated to a four-cylinder engine and with a combined horsepower of 245 horsepower.
The best news, in these days of skyrocketing gas prices, is that my tester was listed as getting a healthy 36 or so miles per city/highway driving – but I got something like 44 MPG, exceeding expectations. Front wheel drive comes standard, but AWD is available also.
Its cabin features goodies galore such as an available refrigerator, a vacuum and and 10-inch head-up display. In 2022, the Woodland Edition is offerred exclusively with AWD, added ground clearance, and so much more.
Front-wheel drive comes standard with all-wheel drive is optional save for the Woodland Edition, where it comes as standard. Depending on the trim, the Sienna is available with either an eight-passenger or a seven-passenger arrangement.
The Sienna gets a big thumbs-up for its basic comfy-ness over long journeys, its (optional) four-zone climate control and the many positions you can adjust the seats to, a boon especially if you’re a larger-sized human. When you’re simply tooling around, it’s nice and quiet but at speed, it’s a bit loud.
You have an optional in-car voice projection, sending front passenger voices through the rear speakers and headsets, enabling you to tell the kids to knock it off without screaming. Visibility is great, and an optional surround-view camera and digital rearview mirror lets you see around youe headrests or whatever you’ve got in the rear. Your sliding side doors and rear hatch open and shut with the swipe of a foot underneath, a great concept in theory but one I never mastered over a week’s test.
Its beauty is in the feel of its wheel and the buttery turning experience. You’re driving a big lug but it actually feels more like a well-balanced car. I found the brakes inconsistent, but not so much that it felt unsafe or unsure.
The engine groans, especially when you ask it to go uphill. Blame it on the hybrid-only powertrain which is slick enough moving through the gears but less powerful than the previous V6, which has been discontinued. You’ll get where you’re going. But don’t expect your engine to be happy about it.
Your infotainment system connects well and is easy to use, and, happily, offers a couple of knobs rather than the all-digital layout of some modern cars. The command system heard what I said without mangling it or requiring I say the words 40 times, and Apple CarPlay or Android Auto smartphone integration come with.
16, count ‘em, 16 cupholders are available along with a big shelf between the driver and passenger and generous seat pockets. A gaping cargo storage well appears behind the third row, which can also be folded down by hand to stow flat on the floor. I’m one of those people who can’t be bothered with bike racks, so I just tossed my bike into the back and took it up to the mountains to get my exercise and had a good time. The one storage flaw is that the second row seats aren’t removable, odd because other popular minivans allow it.
The main selling point for me was that the Sienna has plenty of exterior personality along with so much more. I never drove it wishing it was something else, and if I had to buy a minivan, I’d buy this one, this year. Finally, it’s Chili Palmer’s ride of choice.