The stigma of the minivan over the years has gone from being smart, capable people hauler to "I wouldn’t be caught dead in one." Why is that?
Why do we shun a segment of the auto industry that’s probably the only segment that consistently makes sense? For some reason we’re okay with putting four-cylinder engines in muscle cars, adding 20 inch wheels to family sedans, or with BMW->] sacrificing functionality in the name of style with the X6, but we just aren’t okay with minivans. We prefer less-practical, less-versatile and less-roomy SUVs. We’re okay with stuffing third-row seats back there that 85 percent of people can’t fit in just so we can say that we’re not driving a minivan.

As a result of our turned-up noses, minivans have been axed from major manufacturer’s lineups over the past 10 years. Ford’s Freestar admittedly wasn’t its best effort, but it still was more practical (and cheaper) than an Explorer. The GM threesome of of the Saturn Relay, Buick Terraza and Chevrolet Uplander were likely even worse, but they held their own on the cheaper end of the minivan market. And Hyundai’s first minivan, the Entourage, didn’t even make it to a second generation.
But there has been one minivan that has consistently been the lesser of all the supposed evils, though: the Toyota Sienna.

Continue reading to learn more about the Toyota Sienna Premium AWD.

  • 2015 Toyota Sienna Premium AWD: Driven
  • Year:
  • Make:
  • Model:
  • Engine:
  • Horsepower @ RPM:
  • Torque @ RPM:
  • Displacement:
    3.5 L
  • 0-60 time:
    7.6 sec. (Est.)
  • Top Speed:
    125 mph (Est.)
  • Price:
    29000 (Est.)
  • body style:


2015 Toyota Sienna Premium AWD: Driven High Resolution Exterior
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2015 Toyota Sienna Premium AWD: Driven High Resolution Exterior
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2015 Toyota Sienna Premium AWD: Driven High Resolution Exterior
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For 2015, the Sienna receives a mild facelift, which includes a re-worked grille, LED daytime running lights and HID headlights up front and reworked taillights in back, which are no longer LED. My top of the line Premium AWD tester had 18-inch wheels which, given the Sienna’s overall mass, looked a bit like shopping cart wheels, but I’m guessing most minivan buyers wouldn’t be concerned with such things.

The update keeps the Sienna looking fresh until the next complete redesign comes along, and as far as minivans go (or went), it’s a handsome vehicle, though I think the Honda Odyssey looks a little less blob-like.


2015 Toyota Sienna Premium AWD: Driven Interior
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2015 Toyota Sienna Premium AWD: Driven Interior
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2015 Toyota Sienna Premium AWD: Driven Interior
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Toyota has upgraded the interior as well, adding the new corporate steering wheel along with rearranged knobs and buttons on the center stack, making it much more intuitive; perhaps even to the point of being class-leading. The arrangement makes much more sense and you can control the climate for the front passengers and the rear passengers with ease. My only gripe is the controls are still a bit of a reach for the driver. Otherwise all the gauges are easy to read and everything is where you’d expect it to be.

Toyota has a knack of adding Lexus-like quality to its products and the Sienna, especially in Premium trim, is no exception. High-quality materials are used throughout the vehicle and they not only exude a pleasant feel to the touch, but you also get the sense that they will stand the test of time. At the Canadian International Auto Show this past February, I sat in the redesigned Kia Sedona and thought, while it was nice, the Sienna’s interior seemed as if it would fair better five years down the road, even with kids and cargo testing the theory.

And speaking of kids, they will be happy campers no matter which seats you designate for them. The third row remains adequately comfortable and features Driver Easy Speak, an intercom that allows the driver to communicate with third-row passengers. It’s a smart idea and works seamlessly. It doesn’t sound as if you’re communicating from a helicopter cockpit either, the reception is clear and it really does sound as if the driver is sitting right next to you. The third-row seats easily fold into the floor for added cargo room.

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the second-row seats. They can fold, but not into the floor. This seems like a conspicuous omission considering Chrysler invented the Stow & Go system years ago and it quickly became the accepted practice in the minivan segment. But the seats are relatively light and can be removed fairly easily. Passengers are treated to oodles of space. I’m willing to bet Yao Ming would even be able to find some level of comfort here.

Entry and egress from both the second and third rows is a breeze, especially with my tester’s automatic rear sliding doors. Be forewarned, however, if you live in a chilly climate, snow and ice seems to love to pile up in the slot where the door slides, rendering the automotive feature inoperable. And since they are powered, they are heavier, so opening them manually tests your biceps and triceps.


2015 Toyota Sienna Premium AWD: Driven High Resolution Exterior
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My tester came with Toyota’s 3.5-liter V-6 making 266 horsepower and 244 pound-feet of torque. The result is a decently punchy van that is happy to provide you with power when you need it, but would prefer if you didn’t need it all the time. When driving around city streets the six-speed automatic, while smooth, seems hesitant to let the engine open up. This is likely in the name of fuel efficiency, but you’ll find out why it failed at that mission in a little bit. The all-wheel-drive system provides more weight on top of that, so if you really want to get moving you have to put your foot down at least two seconds ahead of time.

That all-wheel drive does have its advantages, though. It gives the Sienna tank-like abilities, especially in the snow. We received a snow, ice and rainstorm, which caused treacherous conditions and flooding I’ve never seen before. It didn’t phase the Sienna one bit as I passed stuck Chevy Tahoes and Ford Explorers. Minivans 1, SUVs/CUVs, 0. The system is by no means at the same level as Audi’s or Subaru’s all-wheel-drive systems, but it does the job well when it’s needed. Does it make sense to add all-wheel drive to a minivan? If you live in snow country, then yes it does.

2015 Toyota Sienna Premium AWD: Driven High Resolution Exterior
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Moms making the daily school run will appreciate the Sienna’s extremely light steering, however I found it to be too disconnected from the road and not as direct as I’d like. That’s a shame because the Sienna doesn’t handle like you’d expect it to. Body roll is minimal and it feels stable around corners. Of course, if you push it too hard, it will get out of sorts, but considering its mass, it’s not bad.

The same cannot be said for its fuel consumption. With all-wheel drive, the Sienna in Premium trim is rated at 16 mpg city and 24 highway. I observed 15 mpg in real-world driving. You may think to yourself, “well that’s only one mpg off its official city rating” and indeed it is, however the ratings themselves are fairly low to begin with. In this day and age, you can find three-row SUVs – in the same price range — that do much better on gas on paper. Minivans, 1 SUVs/CUVs, 1.


2015 Toyota Sienna Premium AWD: Driven High Resolution Exterior
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In the end, all you need to do to break the 1-1 tie between SUVs and minivans is drive both. While the SUV may seem more appealing in terms of style, the minivan will appeal to the more logical buyer. And as far as minivans go, the Sienna is easily in the top two with the Honda Odyssey. One thing is for sure, if Toyota continues to improve upon the already impressive Sienna, the minivan will be around for years to come.

What do you think?
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