2022 Toyota Sienna Woodland Edition First Drive Review | Not woodsy enough

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The 2022 Toyota Sienna excels at moving a lot of people and/or cargo frequently in comfort and convenience. One expects that from a minivan, but the current, fourth-generation Sienna that was all-new last year goes beyond what's expected. First, it offers all-wheel drive for added confidence in foul weather, and second, it uniquely comes standard with a hybrid powertrain that returns vastly superior fuel economy than its V6-powered competitors. Those are key reasons why the Sienna is one of our top minivan choices (the Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid is the other).

Now, there's a third distinctive element: the 2022 Toyota Sienna Woodland Edition. Toyota appears to have been taking notes from Subaru, and from lessons learned about human behavior during Covid, and recognizing that increasing numbers of families want to get away from it all, where the air is fresh and you’re more likely to get eaten by a bear than to catch a bug from another human being. The Woodland Edition is a slightly ruggedized version of the well-rounded Sienna meant to facilitate those restorative adventures off the beaten path. It builds upon the XLE trim level (second rung up the trim ladder) with an increased ground clearance, standard all-wheel drive, a tow-hitch rated to trailer 3,500 pounds, 18-inch alloy wheels, and crossbars for the roof rails found on other Sienna.


Looking at it in the driveway, you’d be forgiven for overlooking the Woodland’s specialized function. The added ground clearance isn’t obvious — in fact, at 6.96 inches it’s just 0.59 inches higher than the standard XLE. It's hardly a TRD Off-Road. The roof rails with cross bars are present, but for all you know, those could simply be standalone options. The tow hitch is also noticeable, inelegantly integrated below the rear bumper, but we had one on an XLE AWD we tested out in Oregon. To be fair, perhaps the extra ground clearance will mean the hitch won't so easily drag on the ground when going up driveways.

Most surprisingly, there aren't even any special "Woodland" badges as there are on other such outdoorsy trim levels. The main clues therefore boil down to color: the exclusive Cement exterior paint (the other option is Midnight Black Metallic), dark chrome accents and blacked-out badging. It basically looks like a sporty Sienna with a few options. That's not necessarily a bad thing; we think it actually looks pretty cool.

Inside, the Woodland is differentiated with earth-tone stitching in the black Softex vinyl trim and upholstery, which on the seats features the same diamond-like pattern as the Sienna XSE. It has the Sienna's seven-seat configuration as standard, along with heated front seats, second-row sunshades, a wireless phone charger, seven USB ports and a 1200-watt, 12-speaker JBL sound system. Integrated navigation is also standard, which is appreciated in a vehicle supposedly intended to venture off the beaten path and therefore out of cell data range. There’s also a 1,500-watt inverter with a three-prong, 120-volt power outlet in the cargo area, which should come in handy when powering appliances while camping or tailgating, or running air pumps for an innertube trip down a river.

Overall, it’s a familiar space, with the same usefulness you’ll find in the other seven-seat Siennas that so impressed during our minivan comparison. That includes the extremely handy Super Long Slide captain’s chairs and split-folding third row that let you prioritize passengers over cargo — or vice versa — with the pull off a couple levers and straps. Unfortunately, as the Woodland is based on the XLE, it also includes a lot of hard plastics with questionable textures that don’t seem to know whether they’re trying to (poorly) mimic wood or metal. The XSE, Limited and Platinum get higher-quality materials.

Behind the wheel, the Woodland feels familiar to those who have driven the current-generation Sienna. Its hybrid powertrain is the same, with a 2.5-liter inline-four at its heart, supplemented by electric motors and a continuously variable transmission. With all wheel-drive, which is standard in the Woodland, it gets a third electric motor to power the rear wheels as necessary. The system provides a total of 243 horsepower, which is enough to make it feel lively off the line, thanks to the instant torque from the e-motors, but it loses much of that motive urgency when approaching highway speeds.

The tradeoff is the same excellent fuel economy found in every all-wheel-drive Sienna: an exceptional 35 miles per gallon in city driving, 36 mpg highway and 35 combined. That's an insignificant deficit from the FWD Sienna’s 36/36/36 mpg rating. It’s a tradeoff we like, as the time we spend on highway on-ramps is just a tiny fraction of an otherwise refined and balanced driving experience. Especially considering these EPA ratings are easy to achieve or best in real-world driving, the savings at the pump are significant compared to all competitors apart from the plug-in Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid. The Honda Odyssey, Kia Carnival and V6-only FWD Pacifica all get 22 mpg combined, a difference that equates to spending $850 more on gas per year, according to the EPA's annual fuel cost estimates. You'd spend $1,100 more for the only other AWD minivan, the 20-mpg Pacifica.

The ride and handling are familiar, too. Just as you’d be hard pressed to see the change in ride height of the Woodland Edition, you’re unlikely to feel it from behind the wheel, either. The extra six tenths of an inch of ground clearance don’t change the way the Sienna drives — it offers the same straight-line stability, minimal body roll and surprisingly engaging responses (for a minivan). It felt comfortable on gravel and rutty dirt roads, but not so much more so than the other Siennas that we could notice. Its standard all-season radials don’t provide any extra grip, including on snowy roads.

In the end, the 2022 Sienna Woodland Edition doesn't add much to the experience, but it certainly doesn't take anything away from the efficiency and overall usability that make every other Sienna such a smart purchase. The real reason to avoid it are the extra features and better interior quality found in upper trim levels. With those, you can effectively recreate almost all the Woodland functionality apart from the extra ground clearance – and somehow we doubt 0.59 inches is going to make that much of a difference.

Now, you would also miss out on the few visual upgrades that give the Woodland its unique look, but again, they're subtle. There just needs to be more here, both visually and in total. The Woodland Edition feels more like an options package than a dedicated trim level, such as the RAV4 Adventure. At a price of $46,565 (including $1,215 in destination fees), we’d probably rather pick and choose options on our own and perhaps save some money in the process.

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