2011 Toyota Sienna LE, SE and Limited

All too often, advertising is better than the product.

The advertising is great. I love the whole "Swagger Wagon", "Mommy Like" and "Daddy Like" thing.

The product is better.

Front 3/4 view of 2011 Toyota Sienna

You see, to me, minivan haters have it wrong. At least from a standpoint of timing. 15 years ago, minivans were dreadful. The original Chrysler, Dodge and Plymouth vans were expanding...and not gracefully. GM and Ford didn't have a clue and the Japanese were trying to be unique...and succeeding all too well. That would have been the time to rebel against them.

But now? There are some very, very good minivans out there. And the new Sienna is at the top of the list.

I had three different trim levels of Sienna over the summer. There are five. But the Swagger Wagons on loan to TireKicker were the one-step-up-from-base LE, the next-step SE and the top-of-the-line Limited.

The Limited? Well, let's just say that exposure to it caused one die-hard minivan-hater I know to go into a spasm of "Oh my God"s...and in a good way. Reclining captains chairs with footrests in the second row with which to enjoy the split screen entertainment system will do that to you. And the Limited is decked out very nicely. It's the Lexus of minivans. And ours had the $4,025 LTD Premium package. 

Base price? $39,770. As tested? $45,890.

Yeah...that's a lot for a minivan. But it's good enough that if I was looking at family vehicles (SUVs, wagons, minivans) with a max budget of $50,000 (have you priced vehicles that seat seven lately), I'd pop for the Sienna Limited in a heartbeat.

But if you listen to your inner CPA, stepping down to the SE is by no means trading riches for rags. It's a wonderfully solid piece, with the same engine and transmission as the Limited, but less weight, resulting in a boost from 16 miles per gallon city, 22 highway to 18/24. And it's hard to argue with the savings...base price drops to $30,550 and our tester topped out at $33,518.

However, my favorite (no surprise to regular TireKicker readers) was the second-from-base LE. The 3.5 liter V6 is replaced by a 2.7 liter 4-cylinder which is more than adequate and bumps the EPA numbers up to 19/24. Base price drops down to $25,345 (ours had the LE Preferred Package, adding power sliding doors and driver's seat, backup camera, sunshades, upgraded audio system and Bluetooth) and the as-tested was $29,703.

Well-equipped minivans under $30K are not everyday things. But then, neither is the Sienna. I'd happily make the LE my daily driver.

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