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First Drive: 2011 Toyota Sienna tries to make the minivan cool

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Filed under: Budget, Minivan/Van, Performance, Toyota, First Drive, Luxury

2011 Toyota Sienna - Click above for high-res image gallery

The Plymouth Voyager and Dodge Caravan minivans revolutionized family transportation when they were introduced back in 1983. Nevermind that Volkswagon had been selling people-friendly vans for decades, it was Chrysler's "magic wagons" that came to define the minivan for Americans. With decent car-based road manners, easy-access sliding doors and clever packaging, minivans quickly replaced the station wagon as our favored Wally World-bound chariots. Minivan sales peaked at more than 1 million sales in 2002, but the following year customers discovered something else: The SUV.

The minivan has a chance at a comeback... cool or not.
Overnight, minivans and their drivers turned into punchlines - an emblem for those who'd given up on driving excitement. Despite the traditional minivan's utility, drivability and fuel efficiency, the masses flocked to Hummers and Denalis, but the SUV's reign was short-lived. Skyrocketing fuel prices made family-friendly crossovers the new hot commodity, but Toyota - even with its line of competent CUVs - hadn't given up on the minivan just yet. In fact, Toyota predicts that the minivan market will grow by 30 percent over the next few years (to about 600,000), as young families and empty-nesters once again discover the inherent merits of a car-based box with sliders. But while minivans are no doubt practical, they're far from cool.

The 2011 Toyota Sienna was designed to challenge that assumption.

Patterned after the F3R concept, the new Sienna apes the Honda Odyssey's square shoulders, but grafts on a Venza-like nose and tail. There's something for everyone with five different trim levels, two different engines, front- or all-wheel drive, and even a sport-tuned SE edition. Yep, Toyota thinks the world is ready for a sporty minivan. They recently invited us down to sample their new range of people movers, and we spent a day driving them up and down the coast, along freeways and around neighborhoods, and even down one of Southern California's famed canyon roads, all in an effort to prove that the minivan is ready to be thrust back to the top.

Photos by Frank Filipponio / Copyright ©2009 Weblogs, Inc.

Continue reading First Drive: 2011 Toyota Sienna tries to make the minivan cool

First Drive: 2011 Toyota Sienna tries to make the minivan cool originally appeared on Autoblog on Fri, 18 Dec 2009 11:57:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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I really hate how both Toyota and the media seem to be trying to hype this thing up as cool and somehow stylish. The side profile is the same as every other minivan, the back looks like a last gen RX got rear ended, and the front, like all new Toyotas, looks like melted plastic. Then they try and brag about things like the concealed door slider track. Brilliant idea, except Chrysler's been doing that since 1996.

The seats look comfy and I'm sure as a minivan its fine, but it is not the second coming.

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