The Auto Channel
The Largest Independent Automotive Research Resource
The Largest Independent Automotive Research Resource
Official Website of the New Car Buyer

2020 Toyota Sienna SS Premium FWD - Official Review by David Colman


PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)
2020 Toyota Sienna SS Premium

Sleek, easily accessible, and safety conscious

By David Colman
Special Correspondent to THE AUTO CHANNEL


PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)
2020 Toyota Sienna SS Premium
So conventional wisdom has brow beaten you into thinking that Toyota's Sienna van - or any van, for that matter - just has to be the most boring form of transportation available today. If you're looking for 3 row seating, you're probably inclined to chose a boxy SUV. But you might want to reconsider that SUV choice, because Sienna offers some major advantages over those SUVs. The most obvious is ride height. By definition, SUVs stand tall in the saddle. The Sienna, on the other hand, squats blissfully close to the curb. Instead of hauling yourself aboard with the help of a D-Ring and a gymnastic maneuver, you can just step right into the Sienna with no more effort than it takes you to walk through your front door. When you're loading up 8 passengers, easy curbside access becomes very significant.
PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)
2020 Toyota Sienna SS Premium

Equally important is the ease with which you can tilt and slide second row seats to provide pass -through access to the third row bench. This process often proves annoying inside the tighter confines of an SUV. And when it comes to cargo hauling, the Sienna has it all over the typical SUV. For example, if you want to load a bicycle, the low threshold of the Sienna's tailgate makes the job a cinch, because you don't have to lift and place the bike just so. Simply slide your load through the tailgate and push the auto-close button as you walk away. With both rear seat rows flat, the Sienna will accept 70.5 cubic feet of cargo.

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)
2020 Toyota Sienna SS Premium
But even if you agree that such sensible convenience is welcome, you might still object to the nanny/granny ubiquity of the van configuration. Well, Toyota now has an answer for that gripe as well. They call it the Nightshade Edition ($700) which replaces virtually all chrome with the following muted trim items: black sport mesh front grill, black door handles, wheels and spoiler, black outside mirror caps, black Toyota emblem and grade (i.e. "SE") badging. A set of black wheel locks ($65) completes the visual makeover.

While there's nothing revolutionary about such cosmetic improvements, their net effect turns the Sienna into an unexpectedly cool looker. In fact, even the custom car set has zeroed in on the Sienna for a custom van project. At this year's San Francisco International Auto Show, the latest Sienna was prominently displayed in the exclusive Auto Salon section. Slammed to the pavement on 22 inch rims fitted with tiny sidewall tires, the striking show Sienna sported the same blacked out trim as our Nightshade Edition.

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)
2020 Toyota Sienna SS Premium
Although our test Sienna was a front-wheel-drive model, all-wheel-drive is also available on SE level trim vans. Both configurations use the same 3.5 liter V6 for motivation. This 296hp engine delivers its ample power to an 8-speed automatic gearbox which drives the front wheels. With 263lb.-ft. of torque, the Sienna will tow a 3,500 lb. trailer. The transmission is a Direct Shift unit equipped with paddles for manual gear selection. The control lever for the gearbox protrudes from the face of the dashboard, and offers both fully automatic or manual shift gates. The 4,550 lb. Sienna hooks up surprisingly well on mountain switchbacks, with Dunlop SP Sport 7000 all season rubber (235/50R19) providing decent adhesion as well as a comfy ride. While steering is quick to respond to input, maneuvering from lock to lock requires enough turns to keep your hands quite busy at the helm.

Toyota has provided this quick and agile people mover with their full suite of Safety Sense P goodies. This list provides a Pre-Collision System with Pedestrian Detection, Lane Departure Alert with Steering Assist and Dynamic Radar Cruise Control. The only item in the portfolio we disliked was the Automatic High Beams, which waged a constant battle with me about beam selection. So I disabled the system and control my own light selection manually.

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)

Another item we found disconcerting was the placement of the automatic door controls on the overhead console. In the dark, it is way too easy to accidentally open the side or rear doors while hunting for the adjacent button controlling the interior overhead light. Aside from that issue, the Sienna proved a trusty companion, providing especially dependable and secure performance during our first major rainstorm of the season. The V6 had more than enough punch to keep up with any traffic situation. Inside the refined quiet of the cabin, the SE's standard JBL audio unit, with 10 speakers, grandly amplifies music from SiriusXM (3 month free trial). Or choose your own tunes via the USB Media Port, or included Apple CarPlay.

2020 TOYOTA SIENNA SE PREMIUM FWD

    ENGINE: 3.5 liter V6, DOHC, 24 Valves, D-4S Injection, Dual VVT-i
    HORSEPOWER: 296hp
    TORQUE: 263lb.-ft.
    FUEL CONSUMPTION: 19 MPG City/26 MPG Highway
    PRICE AS TESTED: $46,388

HYPES: Ease of Entry, Storage Champ

GRIPES: Switch Placement Confusion, Annoying Auto High Beams

STAR RATING: 8 Stars out of 10