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Sienna keeps minivans relevant, chic, ideal for family road trips

The 2020 Toyota Sienna is still the only family minivan offering available all-wheel drive. Metro News Service photo
The 2020 Toyota Sienna is still the only family minivan offering available all-wheel drive. Metro News Service photo

Is this Toyota the ultimate road-trip vehicle?

Do you have fond memories of family road trips with the car packed to the brim, your siblings far too close to you and mom’s and dad’s music annoying you? Well, today’s road trips can be much, much better than that. But they require something that is kind of old-school and a little bit passé – the minivan.

Yes, it’s true, I love minivans. I’m not even ashamed to admit it. I don’t understand why minivans became pariahs to some people. Most of today’s minivans offer way more room and amenities than today’s SUVs. And today’s SUVs generally cost more, too.

So, I want to thank Toyota for lending me the 2020 Sienna for a family road trip. Quick backstory: My daughter, who just graduated high school, is going away to college in North Carolina. So we took a trip down to Wilmington, N.C., in the Toyota Sienna and even brought along our 35-pound Aussiedoodle. It was a real family road trip.

My tester was the fully loaded XLE Premium trim and even had all-wheel drive. A minivan with all the goodies plus AWD can it get any better? While it’s true the Sienna is a little long in the tooth when it comes to styling, it still holds up. The elongated look certainly keeps it separate-looking from any SUV on the road. My tester even came in a sexy color named Salsa Red.

The Sienna is powered by a 3.5-liter V6 engine that makes 296 horsepower. This was the perfect amount of oomph for making our way through country roads, mountains and eventually ending up at the beaches of North Carolina. The Sienna drove controlled, with no oversteer. Sometimes minivans can feel like they’re rolling through turns, but the Sienna was confident at all times. The 8-speed transmission held its own and never once lacked confidence in all RPMs and all conditions.

The interior is where the Sienna really made this a great road trip. Even Murphy the Aussiedoodle loved the space it afforded him as he stood/laid between the second-row captain’s-style seats. This kept him close enough to us in the front row, but gave him enough room to be comfortable, too.

Legroom for the back seat is tremendous as the seats slide forward and back. The only real issue is that accessing the nice-sized third row can be awkward. But honestly, that’s the case for most SUVs, too.

America’s love affair with third-row vehicles slips past me, unless you have a lot of passengers. Otherwise, fold the third-row seats to gain extra cargo room. With the third row folded flat (which is super easy to do) there’s 87.1 cubic feet of cargo room. That’s enough for any family road trip. Load up the suitcases, coolers, blankets and pillows and you’ll still have enough room.

My tester even had a dual-view rear entertainment system for playing DVDs to keep younger kids placated. I loaded up dad’s playlist on my iPhone, and through Apple CarPlay, had hours of amazing tunes. While Toyota’s infotainment system feels a little dated and lacks a wow factor, it is still easy to use and does a good job.

There are five trims and plenty of various configurations for the Sienna. You can practically customize it with trims and packages that fit your lifestyle. My tester was the XLE Premium with a base price of $43,685. With a couple of options, my tester had a final price of $45,495. That is cheaper than most seven-passenger SUVs, yet the Sienna offers way more interior space.

Fuel economy is where the Sienna excels over other big SUVs. The Sienna, even with AWD, had an EPA rating of 18 mpg/city and 24. We averaged almost 21 mpg during our 4-state trip.

So, there you have it. Minivans are still cool to me, but I’m also the guy who tells dad jokes and is in bed by 11 p.m., so take that for what it’s worth. And when it comes to minivans, the Toyota Sienna is one of the best ones on the market.

2020 TOYOTA SIENNA XLE PREMIUM

  • Price/As-tested price………………………………………… $43,685/$45,495
  • Mileage…………………………………… 18 mpg/city; 24 mpg/hwy
  • Engine……………………………………… 3.5-liter V6
  • Horsepower…………………………… 296 hp/285 lbs.-ft.
  • Transmission…………………………… 8-speed automatic
  • Drive wheels……………. All-wheel drive
  • Final assembly point……………. Princeton, Indiana