The minivan segment has been the theater for a fierce, ongoing battle between the two top-regarded vans, the Toyota Sienna and Honda Odyssey. The 2011 Toyota Sienna is all-new, featuring updated styling, an interior that's outfitted better than some homes and available, class-exclusive, all-wheel drive.
Sienna has an immediate edge with its $24,460 MSRP, which is significantly below the $27,800 Honda asks for an Odyssey LX. Efficiency is an important factor in this segment, and the Sienna offers the only four-cylinder engine available. The 2.7-liter engine is sophisticated, using dual Variable Valve Timing with intelligence (VVT-i) to optimize the performance from its double overhead cam architecture. Roller rocker arms reduce internal friction, and an Acoustically Controlled Induction System optimizes torque production. The result is 187 hp and EPA fuel economy ratings of up to 26 mpg highway.
Both vans offer 3.5-liter V6 engines, though the 2011 Sienna's V6 is brawnier with 266 hp versus the Odyssey's 248 hp. All versions of the Sienna carry a six-speed automatic transmission. Odyssey LX, EX and EX-L models must make do with a five-speed automatic transmission with a six-speed unit only available in the Touring and Touring Elite with MSRPs of $40,755 and $43,250 respectively. A top-of-the-line Sienna Limited V6 carries an MSRP of $38,700 with two-wheel drive, and $39,970 with AWD.
The Sienna Limited is as close as you'll come to a Lexus minivan. There’s leather upholstery, a second-row filled with a reclining lounge seating, and an airy atmosphere lent by the power tilt/sliding dual moonroof. You can choose premium audio systems, a DVD system for rear-seat passengers (with an LCD screen that can display two sources, in fact) and voice-activated navigation.
The 2011 Toyota Sienna eclipses everyone by offering all-wheel drive, an option unavailable on any other minivan. Sienna’s on-demand all-wheel drive system with Active Torque Control is a significant boost in peace of mind when the van is loaded with kids and the conditions are poor. Buyers need not select the Limited trim to get all-wheel drive in the Sienna either. The system is available on the Sienna LE, XLE and Limited. The Sienna also considers the many uses people find for vans and has tried to fill each niche with a Sienna model. Seven- and/or eight-passenger seating is available, depending on trim.
The 2011 Sienna’s Auto Access Seat, a North American first, eases the lives of people with mobility impairment. Available in LE and XLE trims, the power-operated Auto Access extends the second-row seats outside the vehicle. The seat rotates 90 degrees and lowers to within 19 inches off the ground to ease entry and exit, and Toyota is offering this functionality right off the showroom floor where it was once the domain of custom-refitted vans.
All 2011 Siennas drive sharply with improved control, bringing the handling fight directly to Honda. Not only does the regular Sienna carry a suspension tuned for responsiveness and a smooth ride, but the Sienna SE also cranks up the sport a little more. The Sienna SE has a sportier appearance with side skirts and distinctive smoked lenses for the taillights. SEs have a lower ride height and standard 19-inch alloy wheels. The ride height, exclusive suspension tuning and more performance-oriented tires give the Sienna SE an edge that will please even the most ardent sportscar fans. SE models are also set off by unique instruments in the dashboard, and interior colors and trim that are exclusive to the SE trim level.
While both the 2011 Toyota Sienna and 2011 Honda Odyssey are filled with flexible interiors, the Sienna offers more at every turn. From a wider range of powertrains to available all-wheel drive to the sharpened fangs of the Sienna SE, the 2011 Toyota Sienna is the lead dog in this hotly competitive pack.