Hey ya’ll, nothing says “hoon” like a minivan, am I right? However, in the automotive community, at least in the fringes of the Hooniverse, “cool” is relative. Nothing else would explain the cool factor that wagons and vans have around here. So, how does the minivan fit into our little corner of the world? Typically, aside from some of the minivan classics (OG Previa and Caravan), it’s been about as cool as a Prius. I’m not going to sit here and say that this silver 2021 Sienna Hybrid Platinum AWD (whew…that’s a mouthful) minivan with chrome wheels that I’ve been driving is “cool” but damn if it isn’t really good at what it does.
Toyota was cool enough to let me add a ton of miles to this 2021 loaner, which I caravanned (Siennaed?) it from our domicile near Washington D.C. down to the lovely escape that is Hilton Head Island (HHI) in South Carolina. We were all set to take my wife’s (new to us) GLS Benz, but when this became available I couldn’t resist. It meant that we couldn’t take our bikes (no hitch receiver on the loaner) but that’s not a big deal. Bike-friendly HHI will drop bikes off for you to use for a reasonable daily or weekly fee.
I hardly ever get minivans to review. My last outing in a Pacifica was…interesting (apologies for the cut scene with Ugg boots and leggings, I was going through some shit). This is too bad because they are an interesting segment in the automotive community. Comedian Joe Koy has a bit talking about the time-honored birth control method of “pulling out”. He noted that it will be the difference between “sports car” (out) and “minivan” (in). I really shouldn’t drink and review, but here we are. Right, think about the Sienna, concentrate.
You can choose between five different trim levels on the 2021 Sienna. The alphanumeric soup consists of LE, XLE, XSE, Limited, and Platinum. Here is the spec for our test car. Van.
I mean, that’s a $50,000 minivan folks, that’s what that is. Not long ago reviewers were postulating when the $50K mark would be broken. I guess you could call it inflation, but it’s been broken and then some. Is the world ready for a fifty-thousand-dollar minivan? Well, the Sienna thankfully comes in a variety of packaging options starting at just $34,460. I don’t know what my parent’s early model hunter green Caravan would cost in today’s money, but considering how many cars I drive during the course of the year, that’s a good starting price.
Our road trip van was the top-spec Platinum trim which tips the financial scales at almost $50,000 without options. Thankfully it’s incredibly well-equipped. Let’s see what’s what.
I love that Toyota is taking some chances with its exterior design. Alice Cooper couldn’t put more makeup on his eyes than this thing has draped around its taillights. And I gotta admit, I dig it. Minivans are historically pretty conservative, staid, and other adjectives for boring. This thing has some pizzazz, some flavor. It’s the Guy Fieri of minivans, flavortown here we come!
This sucker has a big ole grille, it’s sort of like it’s wearing a dental appliance. I like it though, much like the rear end (hehe) it has character. Character is in short supply in some cars, so the fact that a minivan has it is a great thing.
The chrome wheels suck, pure and simple. What year is it?
The real value of a minivan is on the inside, which is some crap I probably said about myself in high school. It’s very much true in this case (also, I looked good in high school, F-off) and the Sienna is a real jack of all trades when it comes to hauling people and stuff.
The picture above is near max capacity with the 3rd row of seats folded. You’ll notice a child’s bike (bike racks are for people without minivans) and several bags and suitcases. What you can’t see is another layer or two of bins, beach chairs, and other gear. This thing swallowed so much of our load (Ed. Note: Come on…you’re better than this). The practicality of a minivan is really unmatched across the crossover and even full-size SUV world. I couldn’t get the rear seats to click fully into place when folded, but they did their job. Elsewhere, the bins, cubbies, and storage is as good as you would expect. My wife, an adamant minivan hater, had to agree that the interior was about as practical as it gets. She even had a spot under the center stack for her purse.
We were impressed with the shelf that ran across most of the dash. It had ridges around it to keep things from sliding and even had an integrated wireless phone charger built-in. My sole criticism of the interior was the oddball cup holders. They were convex on the bottom vs. being flat, so our cans were always at a slight angle. Luckily there are four up front and a boatload more in the back. It was just that these two were the most convenient from a placement perspective.
I seriously had very few other issues with the interior, the DVD screen blocks the rearview mirror, but whatever. Our kid was glued to his iPad on the trip anyway. I might suggest that automakers move to a tablet holder solution for the seatback/headrest area. #BYOD Speaking of devices, the 120v plug up front was great for laptop use while on the move. Toyota definitely spent a lot of time and energy thinking about the interior.
Out on the highway, which is where I spent the most time in the Sienna, it did amazingly well. It would cruise at 80 mph with every other vehicle when speed limits jumped up to 70 or higher. I did get pulled over once, so much for the anonymity of the silver minivan blending into traffic. The HUD does display your speed, along with the speed limit, so I paid a bit more attention to that moving forward.
The Sienna Hybrid’s massive range (500+ miles) meant that we didn’t have to panic about gas, especially since our trip was just on the tail end of the southeast U.S. gas shortage. That also meant it was cheap to run, that huge range landed us a $40 or so bill to go from DC to Hilton Head.
Things weren’t perfect on the drive, there isn’t much dead pedal room, so I found myself slightly uncomfortable from time to time. After the traffic stop, I tried the radar cruise function. However, it is so conservative (even in “tailgate” mode) it doesn’t really work in most situations. Don’t get me started on the lane assist. Like a lot of systems, it was so judgy that it yelled at me before I even touched the line.
It’s OK to hate on minivans, this 2021 Toyota Sienna Hybrid Platinum AWD is far from “cool”. I know I said I dig it, but the more I think about it (and reread this sober), the oddly aggressive grille and rear styling, paired with the bland silver paint and chrome wheels, feels like a bit of a boomer attempt to be cool. But it’s incredibly good at what it does. In fact, there are likely no better road trip vehicles than minivans. This thing hung with fast-moving traffic (a little too well at times), was comfortable, economical, and spacious. It’s a do-it-all vehicle, it’s just not cool. And that’s OK.