2018 Toyota Sienna SE new car reviews

Going on 20 years of production, the Toyota Sienna is now in its third generation. Our test van came with an athletic body and the standard 3.5-liter V6 engine. You may remember that Toyota campaigned a pair of these minivans in the Tire Rack One Lap of America last year.

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Tom Suddard Tom Suddard
Digital Experience Director

If you’re cross-shopping this against the Honda Odyssey or Chrysler Pacifica, just don’t. Yes, it looks awesome, but that’s about it for positives. I think it’s fair to say that Toyota now builds cars like the ones that ruined the big three a few decades ago. The van was fast, but that was definitely offset by the road noise and the heavy, dead steering.

I couldn’t find any USB ports in the back, which is so weird I’m pretty sure it’s actually impossible, but what really killed the interior for me was the horrible rattles that permeated every mile and every seating position. It was like being back in middle school, wondering if the bus would actually come apart that day. It’s not refined and comfortable like an Odyssey, and it doesn’t have Stow-N-Go like a Chrysler van. I’m not sure why anybody would buy this.

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Tyler H
Tyler H UltraDork
12/22/17 8:20 a.m.

Hey, I just bought one!  So there IS a butt for every seat.

1988RedT2
1988RedT2 UltimaDork
12/22/17 8:42 a.m.

Hello, Beautiful!  There may be one in my future.

Ian F
Ian F MegaDork
12/22/17 8:53 a.m.

Gee Tom, don't hold back.  How do you really feel about it?

markwemple
markwemple UberDork
12/22/17 9:17 a.m.

We have a loaded 2017 XLE (Limited doesn't have enough headroom in the rear for me). Anyway, 300 bhp from a 3.6. My 996 is 330 from a 3.6. Ever think that a new minivan would have almost the same output as a 15 year old 911?

Ian F
Ian F MegaDork
12/22/17 9:44 a.m.

In reply to markwemple :

Or about the same as a Mustang GT from 15 years ago... 

Fueled by Caffeine
Fueled by Caffeine MegaDork
12/22/17 9:46 a.m.

I got a 2013.  Yes... I agree the quality has degraded...  

 

I'm really souring on toyota lately...  The modern stuff is not awesome.

markwemple
markwemple UberDork
12/22/17 12:11 p.m.

In reply to Ian F :

The Mustang had a 3.6 putting out over 300 bhp 15 years ago?

Ian F
Ian F MegaDork
12/22/17 4:01 p.m.
markwemple said:

In reply to Ian F :

The Mustang had a 3.6 putting out over 300 bhp 15 years ago?

I'm not sure the 5.0 V8 was putting out 300 bhp 15 years ago...

Driven5
Driven5 SuperDork
12/22/17 4:55 p.m.
Ed Higginbotham said:
Going on 20 years of production, the Toyota Sienna is now unfortunately in the 8th year of its third generation.

FTFY.  Simply saying it's "now in its third generation" makes it sound like this is an all-new platform that happens to suck, rather than sucking largely because it's an outdated platform.  Aside from the leftover Grand Caravan production, It's the oldest platform in its class by at least half a decade and feels every bit of it compared to its rivals from Honda, Chrysler, and Kia.  The only thing it has over the competition is the availability of AWD, for those who feel they need that in a minivan. 

Of course, it probably doesn't turn the engine off randomly while you're driving with your family in it like the Pacifica either...So it does have that going for it too.

dean1484
dean1484 MegaDork
12/22/17 6:30 p.m.

What is an athletic bodied mini van?  You have put pictures in my brain that I am having a hard time un seeing as my brain is a rather warped place. 

markwemple
markwemple UberDork
12/22/17 6:54 p.m.

In reply to Driven5 :

I disagree with your position on the chassis. This was the best drive among all the vans we tried. Chrysler quality just sucks. Couldn't find one on the lit tgat was 100% ready. And the Kia feels ancient. Horrible fuel economy too. Only the Honda compares. And we actually wanted the Chrysler hybrid. Just don't trust it.

dean1484
dean1484 MegaDork
12/22/17 7:15 p.m.

I have visions of mini vans doing squats and riding stationary bikes with live trainers on tv with them. The hot sexy vans are swetting and then a little Corolla rides in on a tricycle. Emulating the minivan on the stationary bike.  

 

Ok probably not not a good idea to let people in to my mind.  

Tyler H
Tyler H UltraDork
12/22/17 7:28 p.m.

I liked the Odyssey, but I couldn't get past a belt line that looks like Pikachu's tail.  That's like, inexcusable man.  Plus a rich tradition of broken transmissions is still looming in the rear view mirror.

The Chrysler is nice, but the tail lights piss me off.  If it were just my decision, it would have opted for a lightly used Grand Caravan RT, however lets not deny that image is a thing and my baby momma wants to blend in with the rest of the upper crust moms in the school line.  Yes, the Toyota space sombrero badge still has swagger.

Now, let me be objective.  I agree with almost all of Tom's points.  The platform is 7 years old.  This is a front bumper cover refresh of a 2015 update of a 2011 van.  Occasionally I have noticed a couple of VERY minor rattles, and that annoys me for a car with 690 miles on it.  They are dissipating though... may be a break in thing, either way it's a minor annoyance.

Toyota Entune infotainment is not with the times.  I rented a Kia Soul last week and it had Apple CarPlay.  Sienna still doesn't.

I disagree with the steering feedback.  It is heavier than every other numb arse electrically boosted car out there.  Not a bad thing.  I don't think it's vague at all.  In fact, it felt it had the best steering feel and visibility of them all.

An old platform isn't necessarily bad, if it's good.  How long was the fox Mustang in circulation?  The Sienna isn't the latest, but for me it's still a solid choice.  My 2017 Sienna SE was $40,800.  I've been waiting for the 2018s to hit.  I paid $32,600. 

Since when does being the best looking and fastest of the breed disqualify anything around here?

Vigo
Vigo UltimaDork
12/22/17 9:01 p.m.

I agree with those who pointed out that it's fairly outdated and due for replacement. 

An old platform isn't necessarily bad, if it's good.  How long was the fox Mustang in circulation?

Interesting analogy... This is kind of a joke only a mechanic would get but whenever i used to look up Mustangs in AllData i would always instinctively click Ford Truck instead of just Ford. I always thought they felt ancient compared to actual modern cars that they were sold alongside. 

Boost_Crazy
Boost_Crazy HalfDork
12/23/17 1:16 a.m.

My wife had a 2014 Sienna that we bought new. Back when we bought it, the SE and the XLE were the same price- the former has a firmer suspension, 19" wheels, and a more "sporty" look. We bought the XLE because we were not going to run One Lap with it and a stiff suspension and low profile tires didn't make much sense to us. It still rides nice and is rattle free four years later. 

The only vans re really considered at the time were the Honda and the Toyota. If we were getting a van, we wanted something that could seat 8. While Stow 'N Go is a neat trick, I've never needed to remove the middle row. Have needed that 8th seat plenty of times now. The Toyota had a better layout than the Honda in our opinion. Access to the third row was much easier, which was important for our needs. I guess my point is that when comparing minivans, you really should look at how they are used. While how it works from the driver's seat is important, it's much less so than most other vehicles. I'll gladly trade a little steering feel to have something that will be easier to get my kids in and out of thousands of times. 

markwemple
markwemple UberDork
12/23/17 7:44 a.m.

Just wondering if those insulting the chassis on the Sienna, did you ever try driving all the available vans? We did! The Toyota does not "feel" out dated in comparison. In fact, it's better than all except the 2018 Honda. And, it compares well to the 2018 Honda. It has the best build quality, by far!

Ian F
Ian F MegaDork
12/23/17 8:07 a.m.

To me a minivan is all about utility (#1), price (#2) and efficiency (#3). Driving dynamics and styling are a distant 4th and 5th on the importance scale.

1988RedT2
1988RedT2 UltimaDork
12/23/17 8:18 a.m.

I'll take outdated all day long.  My biggest gripe with many new vehicles is that they are filled to the brim with a bunch of crappy "tech" that breaks once a month or so. 

Jaynen
Jaynen SuperDork
12/23/17 9:37 a.m.

My biggest issue with our 2010 Odyssey that just went over 100k is that I feel like I wish I could just switch manually on or off "eco" mode because it is not very smooth when it deactivates cylinders

einy
einy HalfDork
12/23/17 10:19 a.m.

Jaynen ... if the control system on the 2010 is anything like it was on the 2005 that I used to have, I believe you can remove a single fuse to disable the cylinder deactivation system.  I'm betting that the Odyclub forum has info on this if it still true on your year Ody.

On my 2005 it never really bothered me when it did switch modes, but since the first generation system only went from 6 cylinders to 3 (not 6 or 4 or 3 like the newer system does), it never really had much effect on mileage, as 70+ MPH cruise on the interstate mainly kept it in 6 cylinder mode.

markwemple
markwemple UberDork
12/23/17 11:28 a.m.

In reply to Jaynen :

Eco mode on our 17 Sienna feels no different. You'd never know cylinders had shut down.

Tyler H
Tyler H UltraDork
12/23/17 6:07 p.m.


BTW...I had to go look today.  Found 2x USB charge ports between the 2nd and 3rd rows.  ;)

pinchvalve
pinchvalve MegaDork
12/23/17 7:53 p.m.

The thing I loved about the Sienna is that the package that enthusiasts want (the Swagger Wagon SE) was in the middle of the price ladder.  With most vehicles, you have to step to the top rung to get the good looking, racy stuff. 

https://youtu.be/j8u2xMfERTU

TGMF
TGMF Reader
12/24/17 7:43 a.m.

For tall drivers the Honda has a stupid high dead pedal that makes driving uncomfortable. So that choice is out.   The Toyota is old, but spacious.  Huge actually. It's still the van I'd buy... Except at only  one kid, I'm not ready to move to minivan yet. 

mazdeuce - Seth
mazdeuce - Seth Mod Squad
12/24/17 8:48 a.m.

I spent HOURS lobbying the Toyota marketing guys at One Lap. I tried to convince them that an inch lower, slightly rumbly exhaust, slightly bigger brakes with painted calipers, maybe bigger sway bars, and the same stripe the put on the One Lap van and they'd have a winner. They admitted that they could do it with parts they already had. They said they'd see about getting it done. I'm still waiting. The upside is that there are a TON of people at Toyota that really do get it, cool guys (and girls) but unfortunately they can't quite get the products to the showroom.

Ian F
Ian F MegaDork
12/24/17 9:57 a.m.

Sometimes I really hate you guys...  as this thread has me pondering an upgrade to my current GC. I had no idea this trim package existed.  The downside of this van is the no-haggle Car Max price is at least $2000 higher than Edmunds thinks it's worth. Ouch.

Driven5
Driven5 SuperDork
12/27/17 2:52 p.m.
markwemple said:

Just wondering if those insulting the chassis on the Sienna, did you ever try driving all the available vans? We did! The Toyota does not "feel" out dated in comparison. In fact, it's better than all except the 2018 Honda. And, it compares well to the 2018 Honda. It has the best build quality, by far!

Admittedly, the last Sienna I drove was a (very well equipped) pre-facelift version when new, but it had the most vague steering of any vehicle I have ever driven.  While weighty enough, it felt felt totally additional. Almost like there was no direct connection between the steering wheel and the front wheels.  I wasn't even sure there was a direct relationship between the steering wheel angle and the steered angle.  Honestly, it was borderline frightening to drive.  Sure it rode fine, but was certainly nothing special in comparison to the newer competition either.  At best it might have been a little better damped than the Kia, which is a bit floaty.

As previously noted by Ian F though, we weren't buying a minivan for it's driving dynamics...Or looks for that matter.  Functional interior volume is far and away our primary reason for buying a minivan.  When I say the Sienna felt outdated, I wasn't even talking about the ride and handling.  Five minutes crawling around in the latest and 'greatest' Sienna in the dealership showroom made it instantly apparent that it was lacking in function, form, fit, and finish compared to its more modern competitors.  Even if the one I drove a few years ago was a fluke, or they put in a whole new steering system at the facelift, we had zero need to drive it.  Nothing about the interior functionality came close to matching what we had experienced with any of the other three competitors

OF course, yes there is the "swagger wagon" SE trim, which gives you a sportier appearance and a sportier (rougher) feeling ride...In exchange for exactly zero measurable performance advantage from what I've seen.  Which seems counterproductive for a utilitarian vehicle in my opinion, but if that's what somebody needs to make feel better about driving a minivan, then by all means go for it.  Now a genuine performance upgraded variant might have been somewhat more interesting, but I just don't get that from the SE.

Tyler H
Tyler H UltraDork
12/28/17 8:20 a.m.

Well, clearly this can only be settled at a Time Trial.  GRM?  

grover
grover HalfDork
5/22/18 12:08 a.m.
Jaynen said:

My biggest issue with our 2010 Odyssey that just went over 100k is that I feel like I wish I could just switch manually on or off "eco" mode because it is not very smooth when it deactivates cylinders

highly suggest getting the "vcm muzzler" or something similar.  The VCM only get's worse over time.  I just traded our 2010 odyssey in on a lexus gx460 because the cam was making noises due to vcm at 186,000.  

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