Pricing starts at $41,050 in Canada.
The LE has all the right features and can do the job as I discovered firsthand.
Even so, sign me up for an XSE AWD
The summer of 2022 marked the return of the Road Trip for many Canadians. In fact, and according to Toyota Canada’s own annual Summer Road Trip Survey, 77% of us had plans to hit the road this summer. After being essentially forced to stay home for two years, the itch to explore needed to be scratched. My family and I had a huge itch and frankly, I could not think of a better vehicle for a six-person family vacation for a week than the best minivan on the market: The Toyota Sienna.
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before but minivans are better at being utility vehicles than any SUV, and the latest generation of Toyota’s Sienna is the best of its kind. For the job of transporting four adults, two kids, luggage, beach toys, and chairs, and without needing to fill up every few hundred kilometres, it was basically the only choice.
Speaking of choice, our pick for a family vacation spot by the ocean is Old Orchard beach, in Maine. It’s a roughly 30-minute drive southwest of Portland, one of my favorite small-big towns in the US. The beaches there are lovely, well-groomed, and up until recently, was a somewhat affordable destination. The route from Montreal happens to take us through the White Mountain National Forest and numerous twists and turns while traversing country roads in Maine. In all, it’s just shy of 500 km one-way but because of the numerous two-lane roads, takes roughly seven hours to reach.
Critical space and comfort
As my kids still require large booster seats to travel, they were set up in the second row. And, as we were four adults onboard, this meant that two of us were going to spend an inordinate amount of time in the third row.
Thanks to the Sienna’s functionality, I was able to position the 2nd-row seats (minus the removable centre portion) in a position that gave 3rd-row passengers enough room to circulate between rows and provide them with plenty of legroom. Up front, all that was needed to do was slide in.
Again, about functionality, the Sienna’s standard power-sliding side doors are a blessing, as are the dual-level handles. Combined, the kids can effortlessly open the doors, climb in, close the doors, and strap themselves in without any help. Yes, a power hatch and intelligent access would have been welcomed editions. See below:
As you can see in the video and pictures, every inch was put to use. The Thule roof box served to transport beach apparel and a few other items and, let’s face it, make the Sienna look even cooler.
Off we go!
Loaded with everyone and everything, we set off early to avoid weekday morning traffic. Immediately, everyone onboard felt at ease with the seating arrangements. The drive was leisurely as the goal was not only to get to our destination but to minimize fuel consumption.
We nevertheless made many pitstops for bathroom breaks and to stretch our legs. The familiar road to the Eastern Townships carried casual conversations and a sense of well-being. The border crossing into Vermont was uneventful but already we’d entered the Appalachian Mountains. The cooler air at about 2,000 feet of elevation was invigorating but we’d only begun to climb.
Conversations carried on in the 2022 Toyota Sienna through interstates 91 and 93, and even at speeds slightly above the posted 65- or 70 mph speed limits, the hybrid minivan’s cabin remained quiet enough where shouting to each other was unnecessary.
Before I set off, I selected the ECO drive mode as I discovered, a while back, that it limited the eCVT’s over-zealousness to accelerate from a standstill and dulled throttle response just enough to cut the powertrain’s desire to quickly build engine revs. With this in mind, I was able to gently roll onto the throttle in anticipation of an upcoming climb.
Highway 302, from the 93, leads into the White Mountain National Forest and crosses a few small towns such as Bethlehem. The lower speeds allowed us to sample late 18th-century architecture, rolling hills, views from over 4,000 feet of elevation, beautiful golf courses, and, eventually, premium shopping outlets.
In North Conway, we had breakfast for lunch at a local well-known restaurant called Peach’s. Some shopping ensued at the outlets however few actual deals were to be had. We soon crossed into Maine and found ourselves traversing some rather spectacular twisty roads complete with sharp elevation changes. Here, a GR Supra would have better been suited to tackle apexes and crests but, to everyone’s amazement except mine, the Sienna, as loaded as it was, handled them with ease and aplomb.
With steady hands counseling well-calibrated steering and one foot per pedal, I enjoyed the experience, as did my passengers. In truth, never once did the rear-most passengers complain of feeling car sick or that they were being bounced around over any surface.
Ready to unload and head to the beach
We eventually pulled up to the rented house some nine hours after we initially set off. With over 500 km under its belt, covered in every imaginable condition including traffic and highway speeds, the posted returned fuel consumption average was an astounding 6.8L/100km, or just shy of 35 mpg (US MPG).
During our stay, we traveled around the nearby towns. At one point, the average dipped to an incredulous 6.6L. Remember, this 2022 Toyota Sienna LE was loaded with more than 1,100 lbs (my estimate) of people, bags, and gear. Also, the Thule box on the roof did not help with aerodynamics.
Thanks to my lumbar pillow, I and my passengers were in great shape to head to the beach even after a long day on the road thanks to the Sienna’s cosseting and quiet ride.
The final tally
The return trip took us from Maine, into New Hampshire, across Vermont, and finally into New York state before crossing back into Canada. The average speeds were lower on the way back however we traveled an extra few hundred kilometres.
Before returning the Sienna, we’d completed 1,350 km and consumed only 6.7L/100km. Had this been an AWD Sienna LE, its price would have been $42,850 (up $1,800 from the FWD LE) and fuel consumption would have risen by an estimated 0.2L/100km based on Toyota’s numbers.
Simply put, no other minivan (PHEV included) or SUV (hybrids and all included) would have done better fuel-mileage-wise. Bottom line, short of a compact hybrid SUV or car, no other vehicle would have managed such incredible figures. And it would only get worse with a trailer in tow to carry the extra stuff and at least one passenger…