Mountain Wheels: All-wheel-drive Toyota Sienna offers interior hugeness (review) | SummitDaily.com

Mountain Wheels: All-wheel-drive Toyota Sienna offers interior hugeness (review)

Andy Stonehouse
Mountain Wheels

A few quick words on a workhorse of the minivan world, one whose all-wheel-drive option makes it a more attractive option for mountain dwellers — especially since a massively redesigned model is on the way.

Since its last re-do in 2015, the Toyota Sienna has worked to differentiate itself from the flock of minivans and minivan-esque crossovers on the market through its own mix of unique seating and storage features.

And while it seems that just the very high-end European automakers have strived to make their vans fall less into that somewhat notorious "parental duty/lifestyle concession" category — Mercedes-Benz makes a very cool van, just not in North America, or you could be one of those aggro types with an apocalypse-ready 4WD VW Vanagon Syncro — Sienna has certainly tried to de-van its van experience.

That's going to be more obvious on the super-swept 2018 model, set to arrive this fall, although the existing Sienna is still pretty sharp with a sharply wedged nose with a louver-styled grille, large headlamps and fog lamps, and a broad tail with a pronounced air dam atop the rear glass.

You just can't do much about the giant and boxy wall of … well, boxiness, as this is a high-capacity machine that offers gigantic cargo room and, in the second row, seating that cannot be matched in any other vehicle out there, in terms of foot room and comfort.

My model included those two very comfortable and leathery captains chairs in the second row, which run on sliding tracks and can be literally moved almost 3 feet from the front row seats.

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Behind them, there's a very cushy 60/40 split seat that reclines way, way back; Toyota's one-motion stow seat system means you can crank a handle and hoist either section (or both) into under-the floor storage bins, for a virtually flat floor space. Alternately, optional cargo organizer bins with lids also drop into those spots, creating ample covered storage space.

Those second row seats can also be popped out of their tracks and, with a modicum of effort, removed and stored in a garage. That leaves an amazing 150 cubic feet of storage, good for a full-sized couch, as I discovered.

Rear cabin comfort is definitely the name of the game in van-land and the Limited Premium edition I drove featured a stowaway ceiling-mounted widescreen TV, wireless headphones, ceiling ventilation ducts and a full rear AC-control system, as well as various video inputs and full electrical outlets in the far rear.

The side doors both electrically deploy — you can use your remote, tug lightly on the handles or press door-opening switches on the inside — as does the tailgate. The side doors also feature massive opening windows and manual sunshades; there are also sunshades in the third row windows. Sienna offers double sunroofs, one for the back passengers as well.

Driving the Sienna may not exactly be a sporty experience, especially considering the vehicle's broad shape (a little over 200 inches long and 78 inches wide) and setup, but it's not the worst thing, either. Power is supplied by a 3.5-liter V-6 that offers a respectable 296 horsepower, good for getting you rolling on the freeway or providing ample energy for the passes, even with 4,750 pounds of unladen van.

An eight-speed automatic transmission also seemed pretty intuitive, and the results are said to get you about 24 highway mpg — while other data points are easy to find on the instrument video panel, mpg was not. Still better than a Suburban, I might add, and only 60 HP less, as well.

Parking and maneuvering does require a little extra vigilance but it's not like driving an RV; chances are your biggest issue will be dealing with rear-seat distractions, and I wish you all the best in that.

Front-cabin design is pleasant in Toyota's odd new range of asymmetrical style choices, including a deep, flat dash, a console-mounted shifter and slightly ungainly front and rear AC controls. A broad touchscreen monitor and JBL audio badging indicates a few more premium touches, while a stitched leather panel on the dash and a flourish of glossy faux wood suggests an attempt to go upscale.

As mentioned, a much more Japanese tuner-styled 2018 Sienna debuts soon, I hear.

2017 Toyota Sienna LTD Premium AWD

MSRP: $47,310; As tested: $50,769

Powertrain: 296-HP 3.5-liter V-6 with eight-speed automatic transmission

EPA figures: 20 MPG combined (18 city/24 highway)

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