Special Coverage

Greater L.A. Auto Show

Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc. is kicking things up a notch with its third-generation Sienna minivan, offering such amenities as footrests, a dual-view entertainment system and a 4-cyl. engine to woo a continually shrinking buyer base.

Ward’s data shows sales of the family carriers fell 30.6% through November, but, thanks to a strong November, Sienna deliveries are down just 6.9% in the period.

Toyota unveils the ’11 Sienna today at the Los Angeles auto show. The vehicle goes on sale in the U.S. in February. It will be built at the auto maker’s Princeton, IN, plant.

“The all-new Sienna is an example of Toyota’s commitment to lead the marketplace as it anticipates consumers’ needs and changes in lifestyle,” Bob Carter, group vice president and general manager-Toyota Div., says in a statement.

To help set it apart from rivals, Toyota is touting the new Sienna, engineered at its technical center in Ann Arbor, MI, and designed by its Calty in-house studio of Southern California, as a sedan substitute that looks and drives more like a car than a minivan.

Each of the new Sienna’s five grades will boast their own design elements. However, common to all Siennas is a stronger profile with a wider, high shoulder. The latter helps to hide a door slider “within the window graphic,” Toyota says.

Toyota calls the face of the Sienna “bold,” with headlamps that are angled higher than the grille. In the rear, a “sculptural” corner differentiates the new Sienna from other minivans. The interior features an instrument panel with a sweeping design, creating the illusion of greater front-passenger space.

Overall cabin space, with room for up to seven or eight passengers depending on the trim level, is increased by 2 ins. (5 cm) in length. Seats with longer ranges of travel can better accommodate passengers of taller heights, Toyota says.

The field of view for passengers is wider, with those in rear seats able to see forward more easily. The center console in XLE all-wheel-drive trims, as well as the Limited grade, slides back into the second row of seats.

Second-row seats are either captain’s chairs or a bench. The center section of the latter is removable and can be stowed. All second-row seats have a 1-touch easy access feature, Toyota says, making it more comfortable to climb in and out of the third row.

Toyota engineers moved the Sienna’s third row back almost 2 ins., but when upright there still is enough cargo space for four large suitcases, the auto maker says. Removing second-row seats and stowing the third row leaves a space 8-ft. (2.4-m) long and 4-ft. (1.2-m) wide for cargo.

The dual-view, rear-seat entertainment system, optional on the XLE grade, has a single display that can project dual videos or a single video on a 16.4-in. (42-cm) widescreen.

Interior amenities differ depending on grade, but three 12V outlets are standard on the base Sienna and LE grades, as is a 6- or 8-way adjustable captain’s chair for the driver, 4-speaker AM/FM/CD player with XM Satellite Radio compatibility, tri-zone air conditioning and power windows and door locks.

Stepping up to the LE model, with Toyota’s 266-hp 3.5L V-6 engine, nets buyers dual power sliding doors and power rear door, Bluetooth, steering wheel audio controls, backup camera and rear-window sunshade.

Toyota says the aforementioned features are part of a package available on the LE model with a 187-hp 2.7L 4-cyl. engine.

The XLE grade has leather-trimmed seats, a moonroof and heated front seats. Optional for the trim is a 10-speaker JBL stereo with voice-activated DVD navigation and a 180-degree view panorama rear camera with integrated backup guides.

More luxurious than the XLE, the ’11 Sienna’s Limited grade has standard second-row lounge seating, with footrests that extend out from underneath both captain’s chairs. Also standard is a 60/40 power “Split and Stow” third-row seat, dual moonroof, and front and rear parking sonar.

Options for the Limited Sienna include some of those available on the XLE, as well as HID auto high-beam headlamps and Toyota’s pre-collision system with dynamic radar cruise control.

While Toyota promises all Sienna models will “ride well and track cleanly through corners,” it says the new SE sport grade will handle even better, with standard 19-in. wheels and a sport-tuned suspension.

SE styling features include side skirting for a lower appearance, smoked taillamps and unique interior instrumentation. The SE’s grille is a diagonal-grate design, compared with the 4-bar horizontal look that is standard with the other trims.

The ’11 Sienna retains the wheelbase dimensions of the ’10 model at 119 ins. (303 cm) but is wider and shorter than the outgoing model.

The minivan’s two engines have dual variable valve timing with intelligence and an acoustically controlled induction system, which produces torque on demand by varying the length of the air-intake pipe. Both engines are mated to electronically controlled 6-speed automatic transmissions with sequential shift.

Fuel economy ranges from 22 mpg (10.7 L/100 km) highway with all-wheel-drive V-6 models to 26 mpg (9 L/100 km) highway in 4-cyl. Siennas.

AWD is available on LE, XLE and Limited grades. A range of safety features are standard across all trims, including electronic stability control and seven airbags. Toyota’s Safety Connect telematics service is standard on Limited grades and optional on Sienna XLEs.

cschweinsberg@wardsauto.com