April 17, 2024
Wheels

Toyota Sienna elevates the minivan experience

High-tech features, hybrid powertrain prove minivan can be practical, stylish

The Sienna XSE features a hybrid powertrain blending performance and efficiency.

It has always been easy to make the minivan the butt of jokes, calling out the obvious exterior design challenges faced while offering such vast interior caverns. You may not have ever considered driving a minivan – unless you loaded up your family into one for a road trip and experienced the core purpose of the vehicle – then, you loved it.

While the minivan may have seen better sales days, the innovation and versatility that have defined its purpose are still evident in today’s best models. I recently tested the 2024 Toyota Sienna in the XSE trim level. As a top-tier trim in the Sienna lineup, the XSE combines stylish design, advanced technology, and efficient performance to redefine the driving experience for families.

Exterior

I would be hard-pressed to say that any minivan ever created was gorgeous, or even distinct. However, if you look back at the hideous concoction that was the 1984 Voyager or Caravan minivans, and then look at today’s sleek, streamlined people movers, things really have gotten much better.

Toyota has given the Sienna XSE a sleek and modern exterior design that attempts to fly in the face of the traditional minivan stereotype. Featuring a bold front grille, sharp LED headlights, and dynamic character lines running its length, the Sienna has a sportier and more aggressive appearance than others in the segment.

My favorite part of Sienna’s design was its sharp-looking 18-inch alloy wheels that enhance its profile and overall aesthetic appeal, ensuring that the Sienna XSE turns heads on the road, albeit mostly crossing guards and drivers utilizing the left passing lane.

Interior

Inside the cabin of the Sienna XSE, you encounter the expected well-crafted interior featuring soft-touch materials and better-than-average fit and finish. Front seating is vast and spacious for any size passenger. Power seat adjustments create a perfect position for both driver and passenger. The controls are canted toward the driver for ease of use, while the high center console delivers an SUV feel.

Below the center console are more open spaces for storage. This is easily accessed from the driver or front passenger seat. The 9-inch touchscreen was easy to operate, though the outdated software and interface is quite noticeable. Making a big impact with the kids was the rear seat entertainment system and 11.6-inch screen. While it only offers the single roof-mounted screen, versus the dual seatback screens of competitors, it (and the wireless headphones) were appreciated on a couple long trips.

The Sienna offers both 7- and 8-passenger seating configurations. The captain’s chairs in the second row of my tester not only provide excellent comfort but also facilitate easy access to the third row. The versatile seating configuration and ample cargo space make the Sienna XSE a practical choice for families on the go.

The Sienna XSE boasts a comprehensive suite of safety features, including Toyota Safety Sense 2.5, which includes adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning, and pre-collision system. It also includes standard blind spot monitoring and lane tracing assist, lane departure alert, and road sign assist.

The 2024 Sienna XSE is equipped with a plethora of advanced technology features, including a user-friendly 12.3-inch touchscreen infotainment system. The inclusion of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto ensures seamless smartphone integration, while the premium JBL audio system delivers a wonderful, rich in-car entertainment experience.

Performance

Under the hood, the Sienna XSE features a hybrid powertrain that blends performance and efficiency. The combination of a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine with two electric motors, plus a third for the all-wheel-drive system, results in smooth acceleration and impressive fuel economy at 35 city/36 highway/35 mph combined.

The all-wheel-drive system enhances traction and stability, a huge selling point here in the Midwest where winter gets pretty testy. The Sienna XSE strikes a balance between power and eco-friendliness, aligning with the growing demand for environmentally conscious vehicles.

If the Sienna has an Achilles’ heel, it is performance compared to the segment competition. With a max output of 245 horsepower, it is less than its V6-powered competitors, which is noticeable when quick acceleration is necessary.

Despite its minivan classification, the Sienna XSE surprises with its nimble handling and responsive steering. The suspension is tuned to deliver a comfortable ride, ensuring a smooth journey for both driver and passengers. The XSE trim takes it a step further with sport-tuned suspension, providing a more engaging driving experience without compromising on comfort.

Final thoughts

The 2024 Toyota Sienna XSE is a compelling option for families seeking a minivan that transcends the ordinary. With its efficient hybrid powertrain, the Sienna XSE can save you plenty of trips to the gas station. With a starting price of $39,080 and a ceiling of $54,540 depending on the trim and options, there’s a Sienna variation for any budget. My XSE tester started at $45,635 and landed with some add-ons at $50,899.

John Stein is a freelance journalist based in Chicago. He has more than 25 years of experience driving, testing and writing about the automotive industry, its latest innovations and new vehicles.