It’s a great brood mover
Photos and Story By David Colman
Special Corresponent to THE AUTO CHANNEL
Back in 2021, Toyota re-engineered the XSE Sienna van, replacing its 296hp V6 and 8 speed automatic gearbox with a hybrid 245hp inline-4 coupled to 3 AC motors driving all four wheels through a CVT transmission.
The good news is that despite the loss of 51hp and 8 gear sets, the 2022 Sienna is still quick enough to cut an 88mph standing start quarter mile in 15.8 seconds. The even better news is that the hybrid Sienna’s
overall fuel economy rating of 36MPG boosts gas mileage by more than 50 percent compared to its V6-powered predecessor’s 21MPG. Thanks to a generous 18 gallon fuel tank, the hybrid Sienna is good for a stunning
travel range of 650 miles. We spent a solid week taking hundred plus mile trips around the Bay Area and marveled at the fuel gauge’s reluctance to dip beneath the 3/4 mark. If you need a family hauler perfectly
suited to shuttling 7 passengers in spacious comfort, the XSE Sienna should head your search list.
In addition to the power train overhaul, the new Sienna received a stellar styling revision. Gone are the all too familiar slab sided, pursed-lip looks of the milquetoast plain family van. In their place sits a
racy-looking piece of equipment, crouched on rakish haunches. Deftly sculpted side panels impart a sense of forward motion to the new shape, even when it’s standing still. By adding a set of roof rails, 20-inch alloy
rims, more aggressive looking front and rear bumpers, and sportier front seats to the XSE, Toyota has successfully managed to blur the visuals differentiating van from SUV. In other words, this is the first van no owner
will be loathe to admit they bought. In fact, you have to look twice at this shape to realize it’s got a pair of those sliding rear doors that still make it a van.
The interior scheme maximizes the spatial bounty. This Sienna is 4 inches longer and two inches lower than its predecessor. Although the second row captain’s chairs are not removable, they do slide far enough
forward on elongated tracks to provide ample third row leg room or 48 cubic feet of interior cargo space. Toyota took significant pains to dress the cockpit in sharp looking clothes. The two front sport seats feature
black vinyl surfaces highlighted by red seam stitching also used to detail the dashboard and door panel surfaces. Even the pouch containing the owner’s manual has red stitched seams to match the interior motif.
The large and deep storage cubby between the front seats is covered with a striated silver/black material that matches the incised lines of the floor mat between the front seats. The Sienna benefits from a unity of
design that makes life on the road a pleasurable experience.
Even though this delivery-van sized people mover weighs 4,821 pounds, it handles well enough to justify its sporty appearance. That’s because Toyota upgraded the XSE’s suspension with “Sport Tuned”
sway bars, spring rates, and shock absorber valving. While it might have seemed ludicrous a few years ago to equip a family van with sport underpinnings and even a “Sport” drive mode selector, this Sienna not
only has both, but uses them to devour secondary road switchbacks with effortless ease. The 235/50R20 Michelin Primacy A/S radials, mounted on 20 x 7.5J black alloys, digest twisty roads with practiced insolence.
There is very little you can do to provoke this Sienna into losing traction when you most need grip at the contact patches. With its low slung 1.9 -kWh nickel-metal-hydride battery pack riding low in the chassis, this
hybrid’s reduced center of gravity helps it change directions with unexpected ease.
About the only item blotting the copybook here was an un-Toyota-like mess of seam sealer blighting one corner of the engine compartment. As they used to say, this one must have been a Friday or Monday van on the
production line at Princeton, Indiana. But with a product that’s got so much going in its favor, we’ll grant them a little latitude on the seam sealer snafu. Even with its spectacular $425 “Ruby Flare
Pearl” paint and its $1,415 optional Rear Seat Entertainment System (1080P, 11.6 inch display, HDMI input, 2 wireless headphones), the XSE carried an all-in price of $47,049. I can’t think of a better way to
move your brood than this eco-friendly Sienna.
2022 TOYOTA SIENNA XSE 7 PASSENGER
ENGINE: 2.5 liter DOHC 16-valve inline-4 plus 3 permanent magnet synchronous AC motors
FUEL CONSUMPTION: 36MPG City & Highway
PRICE AS TESTED: $47,049
HYPES: Great Mileage, Range
GRIPES: Occluded Rear Vision
STAR RATING: 9 Stars out of 10