Toyota Revives the Minivan with the 2011 Sienna

While some in the automotive industry have begun writing the minivan’s epitaph, Toyota unveiled its revamped 2011 Sienna at the Los Angeles auto show.

Toyota designer, Ian Cartabiano said the redesign was driven by three keywords: “convenience, comfort and cool.” Among the automaker’s priorities in creating a vehicle that embodied the three “C”s, were exterior styling, interior roominess and comfort, and bumper-to-bumper safety.

The new Sienna is available in five stylish trims including a sport version. Under the hood, buyers will have a choice of either the new 2.7-liter, four-cylinder 187 hp, or the 266-hp, 3.5-liter V-6 engine that was available in previous incarnations. A new six-speed automatic transmission has replaced the five-speed version currently available in the 2010 model.

With an estimated 19 mpg city / 26 mpg highway rating, the new four-cylinder engine delivers improved fuel efficiency over the currently available engine. The V-6 also out-performs the current engine with an 18 mpg city / 24 mpg highway rating. The current engine delivers an EPA rating of 17 mpg city / 23 mpg highway.

The new Sienna retains its 119.3-inch wheelbase but the vehicle is wider and slightly shorter than its predecessor.

“Buy American” advocates will be pleased to know that the new Sienna is built in the U.S. The vehicle’s interior components are manufactured in Michigan, and the exterior is produced at Toyota’s California facilities.

The new design is a departure from the boxy styling that has pervaded the minivan sector. The 2011 Sienna sports a more aggressive and rounded silhouette featuring a wide shoulder and D-pillar construction.

Toyota’s new sport trim package sits lower to the asphalt on a sport-tuned suspension and features 19-inch wheels – a first in the minivan sector.

Designer, Cartabiano said, “We wanted to get the new bold design like the Venza. With the new sport model and 19-inch wheels, we hope to capture dads, Gen X and Gen Y families.”

Another option available with the 2011 model is an eight-seat configuration. Sienna’s interior designer, Benjamin Jimenez, said that driver and passenger comfort dictated his decisions at every step of the process.

Although the 2011 Sienna is slightly shorter than the 2010 version, the interior space is over two inches longer providing a greater range of travel for the vehicles sliding seats. The wider stance is echoed in the minivan’s interior, providing more personal space for the driver and passengers. Jimenez says, “More room and interior space will be our competitive edge.”

Depending on the trim model chosen, the 2011 Siena minivan offers a wide range of features including removable / stowable seating, second-row foot and leg rests, a sliding center console that can be shared between front-seat drive and passenger and passengers in the second-row seats, captain’s chair seating and dual second-row-viewable 16-inch entertainment screens. Another all-new feature is Toyota’s Panorama Camera rear monitor that provides up to a 180-degree view.

All trim versions come with stability control and eight airbags, including a driver’s side knee airbag, standard.

The 2011 Sienna minivan will be in dealer showrooms starting in February of 2010.

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