It’s the best minivan I’ve ever driven, but it’s still a minivan. Now, Toyota would prefer you not think of their redesigned 2021 Sienna as a minivan. That’s why they’re running a shitload of ads featuring young people, who are clearly not parents, driving it along mountainsides and parking it next to the back door of a sold-out theater. This ain’t your dad’s minivan!
Except it totally is. The reason Toyota threw all those young people into their spots isn’t because they expect them to actually buy this van (the fully loaded Platinum edition I tested has a sticker price of $53,770; buy one for your Uber driving gig and it will not pay for itself), but because they want middle-aged consumers to feel younger when they drive it.
And on first impressions, the 2021 Sienna succeeds. It’s a nice van. The ever-reliable 2011 Sienna I own is made almost exclusively of Tupperware. The 2021, by contrast, lays on a thick layer of bells and whistles. A new exterior with a silhouette that hews closer to a luxury SUV. A gorgeous interior. A hybrid drivetrain that beats my old 2011 by 9 mpg. A better turning radius. A bridge console that makes you feel like you’re at the controls of the starship Enterprise. Flawless parking cameras. Motion sensors for the sliding doors, ooooh. Radar cruise control. Tinted windows for optimal soccer mom energy. And driving dynamics that, as with any good car, make it feel like you’re not driving anywhere near as fast as you actually are.
But it’s still a van. The ride isn’t terribly smooth. The driver’s side footwell has, surprisingly, less room than the 2011’s, which is a big problem for guys like me who use van time to manspread freely. The bumper still hangs down low enough to get into fights with any curb. And when my wife and I took the new Sienna out for our first road trip, we instantly got into an argument.
That’s a minivan, kids. That’s a minivan all the way.
In some ways, this is reassuring. I like minivans. I ain’t picky. Minivans are the right tool for the job. I’d be ecstatic if you gifted me a 2021 and parked it outside my house with a dipshit Christmas-car-ad bow stapled to the roof. After all, you buy a minivan for the interior, and this may be the best interior of any minivan available in America right now. But Toyota, maker of the legendary Alphard minivan back home in Japan, should have the resources and the engineering savvy to devise a minivan that truly feels like another breed of car entirely. The 2021 Sienna does not. It very much is what it is, and this one costs $22,000 more than the average American’s annual salary. At that price, you won’t want to treat the Sienna like shit. And the whole point of a minivan is that you can treat it like shit.
What the 2021 Sienna represents, then, is the ultimate luxurification of normal cars. This is something Toyota has long since achieved in the Camry. You get all the fancy shit inside, plus a Fuck You-sized grille up front to make you look richer and perhaps dumber than you really are. Every new car and every new minivan that rolls off the assembly line from now until global warming chokes out mankind (call it 2052) will have all of these accoutrements. And you’ll love them. You’ll love the heads-up speedometer hidden at the bottom of the windshield. You’ll love the blind spot alert on the side mirrors. You’ll love that the parking brake automatically disengages without you driving 40 miles with the goddamn thing still on. You’ll love the seat warmers. (Text from my wife: “Ps I found the seat warmers. Omg Can’t go back.”) You’ll love all that shit.
But you won’t be fooled. You’ll still know exactly what you’re driving, and so will the bouncer at the nightclub.
You Might Also Like