2005 Toyota Sienna
    MSRP
    $29,225
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    2005 Toyota Sienna Expert Review:New Car Test Drive

    This one does everything right.

    Introduction

    The Toyota Sienna is comfortable and easy and does everything well. It's big and roomy and packed with features that make life easier and more convenient. Its power sliding doors and power rear liftgate work superbly well and a rear-view camera is available to help spot trouble behind. There's more cargo space here than in the Sequoia full-size sport-utility, yet the Sienna costs $10,000 less. 

    Its smooth ride, responsive handling, and brisk acceleration performance make the Sienna a pleasant companion on the road. Its 230-horsepower V6 engine and five-speed automatic transmission deliver responsive throttle response while turning in good fuel economy. All-wheel drive is available for more secure travel in foul weather. And the Sienna is rated to tow up to 3500 pounds. 

    This is one of the best minivans you can buy, against which other minivans should be measured. Its smoothness and convenience causes the Sienna to fade into the background while you go about your life. Completely redesigned as a 2004 model, the Sienna eases into 2005 with minor upgrades in standard equipment. This latest-generation Sienna is larger and more powerful than pre-2004 versions. 

    Lineup

    The 2005 Toyota Sienna comes in four trim levels: CE, LE, XLE, and XLE Limited. All come with the 3.3-liter V6 and five-speed automatic. All are equipped with anti-lock brakes (ABS), electronic brake-force distribution (EBD) and brake assist, which together help the driver stop more quickly and better maintain control. There's a choice of front-wheel drive and all-wheel drive. Seven- and eight-passenger configurations are available. 

    All models, starting with the CE ($23,225), come standard with a 60/40 Split & Stow third-row bench seat, power windows, door locks and mirrors, sliding doors on both sides with power windows, keyless entry, AM/FM/cassette/CD with six speakers, dual-zone (front and rear) air conditioning with rotary dial controls, 16-inch steel wheels with 215/65R16 all-season tires, captain's chairs for the first and second rows (for seven-passenger capability), a folding tray table between the front seats, tilt/telescopic steering column, black lacquered interior trim, tire pressure warning system, variable intermittent front and rear windshield wipers, 10 cup holders, four bottle holders, three 12-volt power outlets, and a heavy-duty rear window defogger with timer. New High Solar Energy-Absorbing (HSEA) glass on the windshield and front side windows helps reduce cabin temperature. An eight-passenger CE is also available ($23,375). 

    The most popular model is the Sienna LE ($24,730), which comes with nicer cloth fabric, upgraded trim and a host of convenience features: engine immobilizer, audio controls on the steering wheel, heated power mirrors, a roof rack, privacy glass, cruise control, driver's seat manual-adjustable lumbar support, illuminated vanity mirrors, color-keyed license plate garnish, and a fold-flat front passenger seat. An eight-passenger LE is available ($24,880). Also available: a seven-passenger LE with all-wheel drive ($28,345). 

    Sienna XLE ($29,025) is more luxurious, with yet another level of upgraded fabric; dual power sliding side doors and a power open/close liftgate; tri-zone (driver, front passenger and rear) climate control with air filter; 16-inch alloy wheels; eight-way power adjustable driver's seat; six-way power adjustable passenger seat; JBL Synthesis 360-watt AM/FM/cassette/CD stereo with 10 speakers, rear seat audio controls and wireless headphone capability; overhead console with trip computer, outside temperature display, and HomeLink universal transceiver garage door opener; leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls; wood-grain trim; chrome door handles; color-keyed heated power mirrors; auto on/off headlights; fog lamps; an anti-theft alarm; removable center console; and 16-inch aluminum wheels. XLE is available only in the seven-passenger configuration. XLE is available with all-wheel drive ($32,230). 

    The top-of-the-line XLE Limited ($35,295) adds leather-trimmed seats and other luxury features. XLE also comes standard with dynamic Laser Cruise Control, wood grain/leather steering wheel with audio controls, six-disc CD changer, high intensity discharge (HID) headlamps, driver and front passenger heated seats, chrome accents on bodyside molding, grille and rear license plate garnish, daytime running lights, windshield wiper de-icer grid and an auto-dimming electrochromic driver's side mirror and inside rear view mirror, and second- and third- row sunshades. The XLE is available with all-wheel drive ($37,495). Safety equipment is upgraded considerably, with driver and front-passenger side-impact airbags, curtain airbags designed to provide head protection for passengers in all three rows, electronic stability control (VSC) with traction control and Brake Assist, rear disc brakes, front and rear parking sonar, 17-inch alloy wheels with 225/60R17 all-season tires. 

    All Sienna AWD (all-wheel drive) models come with four-wheel disc brakes, electronic stability control and traction control, windshield-wiper de-icer, and P255/60R17 all-sea. 

    Walkaround

    Toyota Sienna was designed in California, engineered in Michigan, and is built in Indiana. It's substantially larger, wider, and taller than the previous-generation (pre-2004) model. Its wheelbase is 5 inches longer and its track is 4 inches wider. Stretching 200 inches overall on a 119-inch wheelbase, the new Sienna is as big as the biggest minivans on the market. 

    Everything on the Sienna is big and bold: Big headlamps and big taillamps light up the night and give the Sienna presence in the dark. Black window pillars visually stretch the side-window opening and make the new Sienna look even larger than its considerable dimensions. A big windshield, big wipers, and wiper-mounted washer nozzles were designed to improve driver visibility in the worst conditions the Snow Belt can dish up. 

    Yet for all its considerable size, Sienna presents a sleek appearance by minivan standards, enhanced by its steeply raked windshield and black door posts. The slot for the sliding doors is cleverly hidden, offering a cleaner look. It may not be the star of the car wash queue, but the new Sienna is an attractive vehicle. 

    Interior

    Sienna's large dimensions make for a roomy interior, with lots of space for passengers and/or cargo. Fold the second- and third-row seats flat and it can carry 4x8 sheets of plywood. 

    Getting in and out is easy. Step-in height is about six inches lower than that of the Sequoia SUV, a benefit when dressed up or dealing with toddlers, or just about every time you get in or out. The power sliding doors are smooth and quiet and move more quickly than in the past, better for impatient passengers. Manual sliding doors and the manual rear hatch on the LE and CE models have a quality feel as well. 

    The rear side windows lower partly, though not below the center of gravity of a toddler, and feature anti-pinch protection designed to reduce chance of injuries to small hands and fingers. A nice feature is the availability of sunshades for the second- and third-row seats, as they filter strong sunlight even better than privacy glass. 

    The driver sits before a smooth, organic dash. Toyota says it splurged on the seats, which are designed to offer comfort for a variety of body shapes over long periods of time. The steering wheel tilts and telescopes. Big mirrors and lots of glass give the driver a good view. The shifter feels spindly, though, and the vehicle sounds an annoying tone every time it's started. The heating/air conditioning system works well and features his and hers controls that are easy to sync by pressing a button. Switches for the power sliding doors and power rear liftgate are overhead. 

    Trim materials improve as you go up the line, but are of good quality even on the base CE model. The CE comes with a nice cloth interior, though the door inserts are plain. LE features nicer cloth, nicer door inserts, and other trim. XLE offers even better cloth. The Limited is upholstered in leather. 

    There are lots of cubbies for storage. Two glove boxes are provided and a big center console holds 12 CDs. Armrest compartments can each hold six CDs, and there's a spot for a small cell phone just to the right of the shifter. The dry cleaning hooks look big enough to accomodate a goodly percentage of the family wardrobe. Hooks in back are provided for plastic grocery bags. A standard 115-volt outlet, like the kind in your house, is provided, allowing you to power computers or whatever else you want to run from your car. 

    The second row of seats is roomy. There's good space for legs, and an airy feel with welcome room next to the passenger's head. That's impressive, particularly when the Sienna is fitted with curtain-style airbags; they do not intrude into rear headroom as much as other designs. When not needed, the second-row seat backs flip down and the seat bottoms tumble forward, presenting a friendly seat bottom to cargo or pets. The second-row seats are easy to remove and reinstall, though the captain's chairs weigh 49 pounds each. 

    Seven- and eight-passenger models differ in the configuation of the second row. Seven-passenger models feature second-row captains chairs. The right-hand seat can be repositioned laterally (side to side), offering either a small bench seat or a pair of bucket seats with space between them. The seat has to be removed and reinstalled in one of two locations, however, it does not slide on tracks like the seats in the Mazda MPV, which is a more costly design. Toyota says it found that people normally don't move the second-row seats once they've put them in the favored position. Moving them close together makes getting into the back row easier. Moving them apart makes them more comforable for adults. The downside is that the exposed attachment points between the two seats are ugly. Another neat feature is the center console that can be removed from between the front seats and relocated between the second-row seats. (Removing it leaves room for a bag between the front seats. Owners who want a center console in both locations can order a second unit from the dealer.). 

    Driving Impression

    The Toyota Sienna boasts a smooth ride and responsive handling. While the previous-generation Sienna was soft, maybe too soft, this latest version strikes a good balance between ride and handling. Smooth and responsive describes the powertrain as well. It all adds up to a vehicle that's enjoyable to drive, whether on long trips or for quick errands, loaded with people or by yourself. 

    On the mountain roads above Palm Springs, we found the Sienna could be driven quickly, like a car. Its steering is responsive and there's little body roll, or lean, when cornering. The Sienna offers very good transient response, quickly changing directions on winding roads without losing composure. It feels stable at high speeds. Honda Odyssey is known for sharp handling, while Chrysler Town & Country is known for a smooth ride. Toyota says it designed the Sienna to beat both of them at both of their games. 

    The Sienna felt like it was able to turn tighter and seemed more maneuverable in tight parking lots, and in fact that is the case. The Sienna can complete a circle in less than 37 feet, compared with more than 39 feet for a Grand Caravan and 40 feet for a Nissan Quest. The steering is nice and light in parking lots, lighter than the Nissan's. 

    The Sienna can get to speed fairly quickly. Toyota says it can accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in 8.3 seconds, making it one of the quickest minivans available. Toyota's 3.3-liter V6 features a two-stage variable-valve setup (VVT-i or Variable Valve Timing with intelligence) for good torque at both low rpm and high rpm, while improving fuel economy by 3 mpg over the previous design. In other words it's quicker and more fuel-efficient than pre-2004 models. 

    A smooth-shifting five-speed automatic transmission adds to the Sienna's responsiveness around town and on the highway. The five-speed automatic also offers good fuel efficiency, achieving an EPA-estimated 27 mpg Highway. Sienna runs clean, too, clean enough for Ultra Low Emissions (ULEV II) certification. Toyota recommends premium fuel. 

    Shifting into reverse turns on an outside warning beeper, which improves safety in a crowded shopping center parking lot, but may not be popular with neighbors late at night. Models with the navigation system also feature a camera that switches on whenever the Sienna is shifted into reverse, displaying a moving picture of what's behind. The top-of-the-line XLE Limited features a park-assist system that sounds a tone inside the vehicle when backing up or pulling forward toward close objects; it works well and is very useful when parallel parking or for detecting unexpected objects around this big vehicle. There are different tones for front and rear and the tone beeps faster as objects get closer. 

    Braking is smooth and powerful. Making big 16-inch wheels standard equipment allowed Toyota to design bigger brakes. Four-wheel anti-lock brakes (ABS) with Electronic Brake-force Distribution (EBD) and Brake Assist come standard. ABS helps to prevent the brakes from locking during severe braking conditions. EBD distributes the braking force to the tires with the most weight on them for quicker, more stable stops. Brake Assist adds brake pressure during emergency stopping situations when the driver mistakenly reduces pedal pressure. 

    Vehicle Stability Control (VSC) with Traction Control (TRAC) is optional. Vehicle Stability Control utilizes the braking system to help the driver maintain control in adverse driving conditions. Traction control helps reduce tire slippage during acceleration. 

    All-wheel drive models come with 17-inch run-flat tires. Run-flat tires are equipped with reinforced sidewalls with a special bead shape to permit driving for up to 100 miles at speeds up to 55 MPH even when all the air pressure is lost. So you don't have to stop and change a tire in a threatening area of town or on a dark and stormy night. We associate run-flat tires with a rougher ride qua. 

    Summary

    The Toyota Sienna is among the best of the minivans available today. It's powerful yet clean and frugal. It handles well yet rides smoothly. This is a big van with a roomy, comfortable interior that offers versatile seating configurations and a generous cargo bay. It's equipped with the latest safety features, including curtain-style airbags. And it's backed by Toyota's reputation for quality, durability and reliability. 

    New Car Test Drive editor Mitch McCullough is based in Los Angeles. 

    Model Lineup

    Toyota Sienna CE ($23,225); CE 8-passenger ($23,375); LE FWD 7-passenger ($24,730); LE FWD 8-pass. ($24,880); LE AWD ($28,345); XLE FWD ($29,025); XLE AWD ($32,230); XLE Limited FWD ($35,295): XLE Limited AWD ($37,495). 

    Assembled In

    Princeton, Indiana. 

    Options As Tested

    DVD rear entertainment system with two 115-volt outlets ($1,700). 

    Model Tested

    Toyota Sienna XLE Limited ($35,295). 

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    Read 2005 Toyota Sienna XLE 4dr FWD Passenger Van reviews from auto industry experts to gain insight on the Toyota Sienna's drivability, comfort, power and performance.
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