MPV BETA TO FV VHS: Drawing parallels to the Sony Betamax and VHS battle for videotape players dominance the Multi Purpose Vehicle was a European / Japanese carmaker’s counter the brinkmanship of a trio of 1980s birthed Pentastar front transverse engine, front wheel drive mini family van. Toyota’s MPV, the Previa, evolved from an mid 1970’s R10 cab-over, rear drive LiteAce truck based micro city van.
While MPVs such Previa displayed a premium cabin and eventually boasted all-wheel drive, their higher cost to produce for the American market followed the Betamax path to demise. But just as Sony jumped on the bandwagon to make some excellent ES grade VHS VCRs, Toyota eventually developed a competitive front drive, car based family van design. With a the third generation of Family Minivan about to be unfurled, the world’s largest automaker took a step beyond the competition. For the all new 2021 Toyota Sienna arrives exclusively gas battery hybrid electric propelled.
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WHAT: 2021 Toyota Sienna Hybrid Platinum AWD three row, full-sized hybrid family van, coded XL40. Mark 4 of the Toyota Sienna is exclusively gas electric Hybrid, nominally front-wheel drive, optionally all-wheel drive, replacing the 3rd generation XL30 Sienna.
Standard Power: 2487 cc Atkinson cycle, dual VVT-i DOHC 24V start-stop idle I-4 cylinder gasoline engine: 189 hp/ 176 lb-ft; 183 kW (245 hp) net hybrid , arranged parallel to:
- 1 x 650V synchronous AC traction / regenerative charging motor, front wheels: 134 kW, 199 lb-ft, coaxially mounted with
- 1 x 650V synchronous AC Hybrid Starter Generator: 11 kW
- 1 x 650V synchronous AC traction / regenerative charging motor, rear wheels : 40 kW, 89 lb-ft (All-wheel drive models only)
- Battery electric supply: Ni-MH, 288V, 45 kW, 1.9 kWh capacity
- Continuously Variable Transaxle, parallel shaft gearset coupled,
- Optional: rear electromagnetic differential; 100:0 – 20:80 torque split
vs. 2020 Toyota Sienna V-6 AWD:
- 51 net hp < 2020 Sienna V-6 AWD
- 110 lbs. > 2020 Sienna V-6 AWD
- 19.2 vs. 15.6 2020 Sienna V-6 AWD pounds / horsepower
WHAT (A) STYLING DIFFERENCE: The 2021 Sienna rests on the same branch of modular TNGA-K spine as does the XU70 Toyota Highlander 3-Row SUV. As a ground-up hybrid model it loses any upper grille, whence the round nose clamshell hood rests on a solid piano black panel featuring blue trimmed hollow “T” emblem, flanked by chrome risers and thin boomerang wrap around lights. The boomerang jutting center mid bumper tops a darkened five horizontal bar lower trapezoid grille followed by a dark lattice, then body colored and dark grey sandwiched lower lip. A concave crease in the upper fender stands out. New hockey stick wing mirrors now mount at the front door beltline rather than at the sail panel. A lower outward fold run the lower body, though a crease runs from front door lower cheatline up to the rear door lower beltline, then pinching the upper rear quarter panel.
VENZA LIKE: As ground-up designed hybrid the new Sienna cribs some Toyota Venza HEV SAV styling elements, notably a full length trapezoid tri-to-bi horizontal bar grille: It’s less polarizing than Lexus’ spindle rage; Mid-fascia develops high cheek-bone T-corners; Wrap-around headlamp housings thin out;
It’s a dramatic steep belt-line rise from the hood front to the liftgate mid-section; An oversized rear roof spoiler could be a circus tent; Similarly rising lower door cheat-line creasing creates a Coke bottle fuselage effect.
WHY: Redesigned family room of a ride now only arrives electrified.
WHEN: On-Sale (in the U.S.) since late Autumn 2020
WHERE: Toyota new vehicle dealers
WHERE MADE: Princeton, Indiana, U.S.A.
WHERE TO: OPTIONAL dual traction electric motor all-wheel drive, e-varying front/ rear traction from nominal 100/0% to maximum 20/80% slippery surface start, ABS torque vectoring; 6.3″-inches clearance = Inclement weather coping.
HOW ROADWORTHY: Downsizing from V-6 to inline-4 gas engine loses considerable peak horsepower and hums muffled sewing machine sounds. However, a 2021 Toyota Sienna Hybrid has shed nearly 400 pounds from what its predecessor packed, on account of the new modular architecture and a slimmer Nickel Metal Hydride battey pack. Despite a more powerful generator reduction gear motor enable the new four banger Sienna hybrid huffs and puffs to accomplish what the old V-6 HEV managed with less commotion. Asking a continually variable transaxle to whip up the power in the way a conventional planetary automatic does is a bit much. Thus, brisk highway overtaking demands a “pedal to the metal” strategy. Where this new Highlander Hybrid undeniably has it all over its predecessor is at the petroleum pump.
Structural rigidity of TNGA-K modular platform endow this large family mover with impressive motion control. Tautly absorbent 2021 Sienna Hybrid damping suffocates road surface irregularity in a very “likable Lexus way.” Steering comes more alive than before, though bereft of road feel. Improvements to regenerative slowing integration has shored up brake pedal response. And the cabin is oh so quiet.
HOW FAR: 33 combined miles per gallon rated; 600 miles range
- +1 Observed combined = 31 MPG
- -1 EV Mode ≈ < 2 miles, @ < 25 mph, @ very light throttle
- +20% observed combined fuel economy, excluding PHEV dedicated BEV mode
HOW BIG/ LITTLE: √ 6 Occupant seating = 2+2+2 owing to 2nd Row Captains’ chairs option; +2.36 wheelbase = bump in 1st & 2nd Row legroom; √ LE & XL trims carry 7 with 2nd Row 60/40% split bench configuration;
- +1 Abundant Row 3 legroom headliner ventilation & available entertainment connectivity
- Wheelbase 120.5″ = 1.1″ < Chrysler Pacifica PHEV Hybrid; 1.2″ < 2021 Kia Carnival
- Row 2, Row 3 legroom = +0.9″, +2.2″ vs. Chrysler Pacifica PHEV Hybrid, -0.6″, +3.1″ vs. 2021 Kia Carnival
HOW USEFUL: √ +1 Middle dash storage shelf w/ cable management; √ Floating center console w/ center armest storage + connectivity; √ 2nd Row heated tilt & slide captain’s chairs; √ Flat folding 2nd Row seatbacks; √ Floor stowing 50/50% split 3rd Row tilting seatbacks w/ twin release straps; √ 2nd Row captain’s chairs inboard pockets and cupholders; √ remote Power sliding Row 2 doors w/sunshades; √ Power liftgate w/ available proximity activation.
- +1 Sub floating center stack lady’s handbag storage; Overhead driver’s aft cabin view convex mirror
- -1 Rear backlight & over shoulder blindspots; Distant reach to glove box; No power remote cargo bay 2nd or 3rd row seatback fold releases
- Cargo Volume (nom., max.) = +4%, -28% vs. Chrysler Pacifica PHEV Hybrid; -17%, -30% vs. 2021 Kia Carnival
- Tow rating: 3500 lbs. = N.R. Chrysler Pacifica PHEV Hybrid, = 2021 Kia Carnival
HOW SAFE: √ 12 airbags; √ IIHS Top Safety Pick; √ Rear camera; √ STANDARD Toyota SafetySense P = Pedestrian detection braking; Forward collision avoidance braking; Lane Departure Warning, Keep Assist; Partial adaptive cruise control, Automatic High Beams;
PLATINUM trim adds: ♦ Blind spot & Rear Cross-traffic warning, ♦ Sonar front & rear park assist w/ automatic braking; ♦ 360° Bird’s Eye View camera w/ Pre-drive perimeter scan; ♦ 10.0″ Heads Up Display; ♦ Rain sensing windshield wipers
- +1 Safety Extra: Digital video rear view mirror for times when cargo blocks backlight
HOW PEOPLE FRIENDLY: Occupant quarters in the 2021 Toyota Sienna Platinum are a drawing room with rich contrast stitched soft materials abound. Little is left wanting for the first two row occupants in terms of fit and finish and even third row visitor senses should be satisfied. there is little to want for. Depending on one’s perspective, however, the saddle and simulated turned metallic accoutrements in the test vehicle are either a welcoming cheery or display of over-the-top excess.
√ “Nobel Brown” perforated Leather seating – heated Rows 1 + 2, cooled Row 1; √ Wide seat cushions √ Power 8-way driver’s seat, w/ 2 position memory, 4-way front pax √ Heated Leather steering wheel with spoke integrated redundant controls; √ Separate Row 2 digital automatic climate control; √ Keyless entry, ignition; √ Full express power windows x 4; √ 2nd & 3rd Row window sunshades; √ Large twin ELD analog gauges; √ Rear seat minder in gauge cluster; √ Power moonroof
- +1 Generous steering wheel reach adjustment;
- -1 Minimal seat torso support, flat cushions; Tall liftgate lift-height
Cool Gizmo(s): √ Bird’s Eye Camera Perimeter Scan; √ Digital video rear view mirror; √ Driver’s cabin voice command
Details Done Right: √ Simulated turned aluminum dashboard and console appliques; √ Seat-matching stitched simulated leather dash & door panel inserts; √ Contrasting 3rd Row/ cargo pillar/ upper plastic trim; √ Rigid ABS load floor panel; √ Soothing blue foot well & door panel ambient lighting;
Nearly Non-Descript: -1 7.0″ color TFT multifunction gauge cluster display = gimmicky graphics; Unadorned window switches center console buttons; Over glossy simulated dark ash wood grain center console and door panels; Stark ochre colored hard plastics.
HOW “APP” -LICABLE: √ 12.3″ tri-pane capacitive touch LCD 3-pane infotainment screen flanked by large soft-touch button switches; √ Adaptive voice command hands-free communications; √ GPS cloud-based HDD Navigation; √ Siri Eyes, Android Auto / Apple Car Play smart phone app projection; √ Entune wireless device apps: Doppler weather, Traffic Updates, Amazon Alexa; √ Boomy 11 speaker, 1200 Watt JBL streaming audio, HD-Radio; √ USB x 4 (rows 1 & 2), 12V x 2 (row 1 + cargo), 115V AC x 2 (row 2 + cargo)
By Subscription: ♦ Sirius XM (90 day trial); ♦ Safety & remote connect (1 year trial); ♦ AT&T 4G LTE Wi-Fi (2GB trial)
Available Supplemental Entertainment Suite: 2nd Row headliner fold down 11.6″ inch HD video, wireless, HDMI connectivity, 4 x wireless headphones
HOW MUCH: $54,582 = 2021 Toyota Sienna Hybrid Platinum AWD
WHAT’S MISSING: A place to stow 2nd Row seats (those heavy beasts have to be removed).
ANY COMPETITION: Chrysler Pacifica PHEV Hybrid: +1 seat comfort, 23 miles dedicated EV driving, available built-in vacuum, AWD only on non-PHEV; INDIRECTLY (following lack electrification) Honda Odyssey: +1 conventional automatic transmission, laterally sliding 2nd Row captain chairs; Kia Carnival: +1 Square jawed rugged looks; lots of luxury content
Contributing Editor: P. Stamatis