Pros: Great acceleration from V6 engine; attractive technology features; rare all-wheel-drive option; choice of 7- or 8-passenger capacity
Cons: Sparse standard features on base model; Entune isn't available on fancy Limited model
What's New: The 2013 Sienna is no longer offered with the quirky 4-cylinder engine, leaving the V6 alone in the engine room. New features include standard 3-zone climate control on the LE and available Entune mobile app integration on the LE, SE and XLE.
The 2013 Toyota Sienna is all about refining a winning formula.
For example, smart families know that the Sienna is a perennial all-star when it comes to moving people, hauling stuff and generally being useful. But the formerly standard 4-cylinder engine was a head-scratcher, delivering about the same fuel economy as the V6 despite making far less power. So Toyota got rid of the four, ensuring that every 2013 Sienna has one of the best motors in the business.
Another issue last year was the absence of Toyota's Entune mobile app integration. We pointed this out in our review because Entune seemed perfect for families on the go, adding apps such as Pandora (streaming music) and MovieTickets.com to the driving experience. Well, for 2013, it's widely available across the Sienna lineup, with the fringe benefit of introducing a touchscreen interface to lower trim levels.
So let's see where the Sienna stands. It has the best V6 in its class, available all-wheel drive and newly attractive technology options, along with all the nifty seating and storage features that made this van great from the get-go. And the weakest link, that 4-cylinder engine, isn't even around anymore for us to complain about.
Toyota may well have shaped the 2013 Sienna into the best minivan on the market.
Comfort & Utility
The 2013 Toyota Sienna comes in base, LE, XLE, Limited or SE trim.
The base Sienna includes 17-inch alloy wheels, 3-zone manual climate control, cruise control, power accessories, 7-passenger seating and a 4-speaker (yes, four) audio system with an auxiliary audio jack but no iPod/Bluetooth connectivity. Pretty stingy for a $25,000-plus vehicle, if you ask us.
The LE takes things up a notch with 8-passenger seating, easy-clean upholstery, dual power sliding doors, a power liftgate, 3-zone automatic climate control, an auto-dimming rearview mirror with Homelink, a 6-speaker audio system with iPod/USB and Bluetooth connectivity, a 3.5-in information display with a rearview camera and a power driver seat with adjustable lumbar support.
The XLE model tacks on leather upholstery, a sunroof and heated front seats, as well as options like 10-speaker premium JBL sound and a cool 16.4-in split-screen rear entertainment system.
The Limited reverts to 7-passenger seating, albeit with fancy lounge-like recliners as second row seats, but it offers what Toyota says is the first dual-pane sunroof in which both panes fully retract. Options on the Limited include xenon headlamps and adaptive cruise control.
Finally, the sporty SE trim sacrifices some of the XLE and the Limited models' luxuries, but it boasts an aggressive body kit, a lowered sport-tuned suspension and unique instrumentation and interior trim.
Note that Entune mobile app integration (see the Technology section below) is optional on the LE, XLE and SE, though oddly not on Limited.
From the driver's seat, the Sienna's dashboard definitely has some verve. Look at the diagonal line that splits the center stack, for example, or the stylized gauge faces. We're not used to seeing such flourishes in a minivan. Materials quality is just okay, but at least the textures are interesting -- and that diagonal line gives the optional wood trim a very distinctive shape.
The Sienna's front seats provide satisfactory support on long trips, though they do make us miss the superior chairs in the Honda Odyssey. In the base 7-passenger version, the second row consists of standard captain's chairs that slide fore and aft. Opt for an 8-passenger Sienna and you get a special center seat in the second row that slides forward independently in case you want to keep an extra close eye on a child sitting there. The top-of-the-line recliner-style captain's chairs feature footrests that flip up, but the front occupants will have to cooperate by sliding their seats up; otherwise, the footrests won't have room to extend.
Cargo space measures 39.1 cu ft behind the third row, 87.1 cu ft with the third row folded and an even 150 cu ft if you remove the second-row seats. You can't beat a minivan for hauling stuff.
The base Sienna remains thin on tech features, offering just a 4-speaker stereo and nary a whiff of Bluetooth or iPod connectivity. Your Toyota dealer can install a separate Bluetooth system as an accessory, but we'd like to see more standard technology goodies from the factory.
On the bright side, if you're willing to pay more, the Sienna delivers some of the coolest gadgets in the minivan class. First, there's Entune, Toyota's mobile app integration system that uses your smartphone to display apps such as Pandora and OpenTable on a 6.1-in touchscreen.
Then there's the Sienna's class-leading rear seat entertainment system, which boasts a 16.4-in flip-down display that splits into two screens so that two kids can do their own thing. We appreciate that Toyota makes this system available on numerous trim levels, with only the base and LE models frozen out.
There's also a Limited-only 7-in touchscreen with a wide-angle rearview Panorama Camera, which replaces the 6.1-in screen in lower trims. However, Toyota must have run out of time with the 2013 Limited model, because that 7-in screen is hooked to an old-style DVD-based navigation system and you can't add Entune to it. Other top-of-the-line Toyota models now offer hard-drive-based navigation with Entune and music storage. We expect the Sienna Limited to follow suit before long.
Performance & Fuel Economy
The Sienna starts with front-wheel drive (FWD), though all-wheel drive (AWD) can be specified on the LE, XLE and Limited. The sole engine for 2013 is a 3.5-liter V6 rated at 266 horsepower and 245 lb-ft of torque. Fortunately, this engine is one of the best in the business; in fact, we can't think of another minivan that can touch this Sienna when you give it the spurs. The transmission, a 6-speed automatic, is similarly responsive and rewarding.
The Sienna's decent fuel economy is icing on the cake. FWD models are rated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) at a respectable 18 miles per gallon city/25 mpg highway, though AWD Siennas drop a bit more than expected to 16 mpg city/23 mpg hwy.
The Sienna comes standard with stability control, seven airbags (including full-length side curtain airbags), active front headrests and 4-wheel anti-lock disc brakes.
In government crash tests, the Sienna received an overall score of four stars out of five, including four stars for frontal impacts and five stars for side impacts. The independent Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) awarded the Sienna its highest score of Good in all crash test categories.
The standard Sienna's suspension is soft and accommodating, successfully filtering out impact harshness even for rear occupants. This is a large minivan, of course, so it's not exactly nimble, but the light steering and good visibility make it more pleasant to drive than most vehicles its size.
The SE model deserves special mention for its sport-tuned suspension, which actually changes the character of the van for the better, in our opinion. It makes the Sienna feel more hunkered-down and in control without compromising the ride quality much -- if at all. We think Toyota could simply make this the standard suspension without ruffling any feathers.
Other Cars to Consider
Honda Odyssey: The Sienna's perennial nemesis has some distinctive design elements these days, including a unique zigzag belt line. You should drive them both, though we like the Sienna's chances better than ever.
Dodge Grand Caravan: An also-ran just a few years ago, the DGC received a thorough makeover not long ago, including a refreshed interior and a new 3.6-liter V6. We're now comfortable recommending it as a budget-priced alternative to the Japanese vans.
Nissan Quest: Based on a funky Japanese van, the Quest is quirky, and we like that. You give up a little space and utility, but you get a luxury-grade interior and ride in return.
The SE model is our pick. It's certainly not the cheapest Sienna you can buy, but we think it's the best-driving minivan on the market. That's big news given the Odyssey's former dominance in this regard.