Our chariot of 2014 Sienna SE offered a great basis point to evaluate the 2015 model’s improvements.
Let’s dive in with the usual format of Exterior, Interior, Performance and Summary.
We have split each segment into Sienna XLE and Sienna SE portions, in hopes of offering a good idea of what both offer families – highlighting relevant differences between the two.
There are subtle style changes outside around front and back. The SE and Limited Sienna’s benefit from some classy LED accents in the lower headlamps — and that is by far the easiest way to tell the new models from the old. For our 2015 XLE without these LEDs, the new horizontal slatted grille is the quickest way to know this is the new Sienna.
In back, the XLE adds the latest brake light design in a solid red. The Sienna SE keeps the chrome/clear lighting theme.
We found the new XLE to be very classy and refined – with a smooth flow to its surfaces that do not appear to be trying too hard. That might be a critique of the SE for those not into its lower body cladding, aero kit and anthracite grey wheels.
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’s style.
2006 Toyota F3R
If the exterior changes seem a bit subtle for even the sharpest eyes to spot, it is in the cabin where the 2015 Sienna really makes its mark.
All-new materials, enhanced noise insulation and a stiffer body structure combine to create an even more comfortable and relaxing cruise pace in the XLE V6 than the 2014 SE.
New tech controls are the biggest upgrade for all 2015 models. The climate controls are easier to use and closer to the driver’s hands, while the seven-inch Entune is now the latest Toyota touchscreen with additional knobs for quick inputs, and glass-shrouded main buttons. The screen also can be split to show nav and media at the same time; a feature that the older system lacks. Button responsiveness and touch responsiveness on the new screen feel twice as quick-reacting. The built-in app suite is also a great way to future-proof the content options inside.
Overall, the latest Entune new screen + buttons is much easier to fathom and operate within the first minutes driving the Sienna XLE. The button-less six-inch screen in the 2014 Sienna SE becomes the standard unit for base 2015 models — where using the controls and navigation/media/climate inputs are a little bit trickier. Still easy after a few days, but less friendly than the new Entune.
Backup camera’s are standard and the Sienna XLE introduces a new in-car communication system. The Driver Easy Speak comes with the upgraded Entune Nav/App suite opton, and uses the front-mounted microphones to pipe the driver’s commands to the back seats. This will lessen any family shouting, and make it easier to calm rowdy kids even when they have headsets or earbuds in.
As tested with the $800 Nav upgrade, the 2015 Sienna XLE comes in with a sticker price of just above $37,000.
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 XLE rides a bit softer than the SE over bumps, and has a bit less grip in corners along with lighter steering.
Overall, though, it is a very subtle change between the sporty and luxury models. The steering heft is the biggest difference.
All Sienna suspensions are retuned for 2015 – but the comparisons above are still apt.
It feels quieter inside the 2015 XLE without the performance wheel/tires of the SE, but the XLE will still move confidently on hard throttle. It is quick and smoother on full throttle than the Honda Odyssey. While the Toyota V6 is only up about 18 horsepower over the Honda, it feels much gutsier and torquey. The six-speed standard automatic is now matched by Honda for 2015, which previously kept the six-speed for the Touring trim only.
Top-spec Sienna Limited trims gain an acoustic windshield, which is a welcome feature on long trips. The glass area is huge, and at speeds above 80-mph you start to get a bit of wind noise originating from the nose. Again, not a make-or-break thing, but another cubtle Sienna enhancement for 2015.
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 luxury beach shuttle? The 2015 Toyota Sienna!
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.