When you think of minivans, the sportiest one available might seem like a dumb question. I mean, what is the point of having huge power on demand when you are likely to have a car full of kids?
After a week rocking the 2014 Sienna SE to Ponte Vedra, Florida and back for the Camry rollout, we became seriously attached to the Sienna’s easy highway manners and friendly city maneuverability. Without a variety of kids and 1000-pounds of toys in the eight-passenger Sienna SE, we can tell you that this is the sportiest van of them all.
Standard format of Exterior, Interior, Performance and Summary — plus a first drive review of the revised 2015 Sienna next week some time.
The Sienna SE is the swagger wagon exemplar from Toyota’s hip commercials when the van launched in 2011. Sure, it might not seem cool to have a van — it means you have kids, after all — but what is cooler than confirming that you are a sex machine? The Sienna is rolling proof that your ‘junk’ works perfectly — which is pretty cool, if you think about it.
The SE trim adds a new and menacing grille effect in pinched honeycomb mesh, dark-tinted and dark-reflector headlamps, a full body kit all around, and clear LED taillamps with extra spoilers on the roof and the lower sills and diffuser.
It is a full makeover.
In fact, if it weren;t for the Sienna SE’s tall proportions — you might call this a trendy and hip style.
Alas, it is a common sight on the roads and is too huge to miss, or mistake for a sports car. The limo-black tint at least creates a smooth and blacked-out glasshouse from tip to tail.
The 2015 Sienna SE, by the way, is only slightly modified — with continuity in the looks of this SE trim more than the others. The major change for the new 2015 Sienna are the LED-accented headlamps.
Here is a look at the 2006 F3R Concept that inspired the new Sienna SE’s style.
2006 Toyota F3R
The other major place where the Sienna SE packs a slight refresh for 2015?
That would be the center stack and the infotainment unit. The new system is a much larger Entune screen, a classier interface with larger unique knobs and buttons, and climate controls that are closer to the driver and easier to operate.
We are pleased that Toyota added these things for 2015. Is there anything wrong with the 2014 model’s infotainment, navigation and backup camera system? Not really. But it is tricky to learn how to control the stereo system. This one is from the era of almost no buttons or knobs, and it makes entering a destination via buttons or voice-command very cumbersome indeed.
2014 Toyota Sienna SE
The Sienna SE is rapid. There is something seriously hilarious about flooring a minivan and doing a full peel-out of screeching front rubber. But unlike the Chrysler vans that do this around every corner, losing traction in the Sienna SE is pretty rare. The van has lots of grip and a relatively planted stance around on- and 0ff-ramps. It goads you to push harder, with only the spongy steering and flat seats reminding you to cool it down a bit.
Where the Sienna SE really becomes an all-star is at a steady-state cruise on the expressway. This thing cruises like a missile — arrow straight, silent, smooth and chill. This applies the same at 55-mph, 65-mph, 75-mph and 85-mph. We are fairly confident the Sienna SE would cruise rock-solid at 105-mph and 115-mph, too. It is that good on the highway.
The Sienna is the only minivan that offers AWD these days, making it a viable SUV and crossover replacement.
Despite being a stellar drive for its segment, the 2015 Sienna SE has retuned suspension, steering, brakes and a new acoustic windshield glass (on some trims.) These are all welcome changes. The 268-horsepower, 3.5-liter V6 and six-speed automatic continue for 2015 unchanged, and deliver an easy 32-mpg with the cruise control set.
So which van should you get if you have a bangin’ bedroom lifestyle at night, but a Kidz-Bop regimen during the day?
The Swagger Wagon is a do-it-all workhorse that is not half bad in the corners, and genuinely entertaining on full throttle. The giant cabin, integrated dual video monitors and super-strong dual HVAC are just icing on the cake. They make getting to grandma’s house as easy as possible.
And once you have dropped off your darling children for a visit with G-ma and G-pa?
Try to refrain from burning rubber right out front on the way to your shag-fest hotel room.
But if you do, the Sienna SE is game. Fly there at warp speed — you are very unlikely to be pulled over by the fuzz.
Who knew. The ultimate high-speed Q-car is actually… a 2014 Toyota Sienna SE!
Tom Burkart is the founder and managing editor of Car-Revs-Daily.com, an innovative and rapidly-expanding automotive news magazine.
He holds a Journalism JBA degree from the University of Wisconsin – Madison. Tom currently resides in Charleston, South Carolina with his two amazing dogs, Drake and Tank.
Mr. Burkart is available for all questions and concerns by email Tom(at)car-revs-daily.com.