2018 Toyota Sienna AWD
The latest all-wheel-drive variant of Toyota’s long-running Sienna minivan. Despite the relentless assault of crossovers, the minivan segment remains surprisingly vital for one overarching reason: When it comes to sheer interior passenger volume, few vehicles can match the basic cubic-foot-per-dollar value of a rectangular box on wheels. Although only a few manufacturers currently play in this field, the rivalry is fierce. The Chrysler Pacifica and the Honda Odyssey lead the offensive with their fresh sheetmetal and nine- and ten-speed transmissions, while the Kia Sedona packs a lot of content for its price. To keep the Sienna in the hunt, for 2017 Toyota replaced the powertrain with a newer, more robust 296-hp V-6 and an eight-speed automatic, both lifted from the Highlander SUV. A mild facelift followed for the 2018 model featured here. The Sienna’s eight-speed transmission gives up two gears to the Honda and one to the Chrysler, but the engine provides 16 more horsepower than the Odyssey and 9 ponies more than the Pacifica.
Minivan aficionados—yes, they do exist, and at least a few Car and Driver staffers proudly count themselves among their ranks—will likely remember that the Sienna placed third in a 2017 three-way comparison with the Odyssey and the Pacifica. That was due largely to the dated look and feel of the interior materials and a semi-schizophrenic control layout. What we did like was the smooth power put down by the 3.5-liter V-6 and quick-shifting eight-speed. So, what sets the 2018 Sienna tested here apart from the 2017 model in the comparo? In short, all-wheel drive. Sure, it also has a refreshed front fascia and now standard side sills, plus a bevy of new standard safety and tech features including Toyota’s latest Entune 3.0 infotainment system, automated emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, lane-departure warning, and more (get the full new-for-2018 rundown here). Mostly, though, we just wanted to take the temperature of the current AWD version because the Sienna is the only genuine minivan still available with four driven wheels.
Toyota is nothing if not consistent, and that is borne out by the track sheet. Our 2018 Sienna AWD needed 7.0 seconds to reach 60 mph and 15.4 to complete the quarter-mile, right on the money with numbers posted by a 2017 Sienna AWD we tested in 2016. The same goes for the 0.77 g of grip it generated on the skidpad. In acceleration measures, this Sienna roughly splits the difference between the slightly swifter Odyssey and the slightly slower Pacifica. Braking to a stop from 70 mph required 183 feet, six more than the 2017 Sienna needed. Both minivans were running 18-inch wheels shod in 235/55R-18 Bridgestone Turanza EL400-02 run-flat all-season tires.
What We Like: At the top of the list is the all-weather assurance offered by the all-wheel-drive system; mount a quality set of winter tires and you’ve got one capable foul-weather people hauler. The naturally aspirated V-6 is of the stoic type, never groaning or shrieking even when pushed above 6000 rpm. For 2018 Toyota addressed the chronic shortage of USB outlets, with all trim levels now being graced with dual ports in the dashboard and another pair in the third row, with a trio of 12-volt sources tossed in for good measure; opt for the LE trim or higher and the center console sports a third pair of USB ports for second-row passengers. Those middle-row bucket seats are arguably the most comfortable in the current minivan universe (AWD Siennas aren’t available with a second-row bench seat). And if previous-generation Siennas are any indicator, you’ll grow tired of looking at it long before it’s sidelined by a serious mechanical malady.