2020 Toyota Sienna SE FWD Review: SoCal Cruising Done Right

It's not the most stylish option, but the Sienna has plenty of endearing features

It’s still a minivan, but the 2020 Toyota Sienna looks kind of special with the SE trim.
[Photos: TFLcar]

Smart utility in the 2020 Toyota Sienna SE FWD

This isn’t the first time Toyota has given me a Sienna to test, but this is the first non-all-wheel drive version I tested. In some notable ways, it’s a better driver — as long as you don’t live in snow country. The SE package makes this van a little more sporty with a tighter feel and (somewhat) performance-orientated rubber. 

The Sienna near a converted Ford full-size van. It wasn’t much bigger, but it was a convertible, because SoCal.

For a big van, it handles well. 

Power is routed to the front wheels via a 296 horsepower 3.5-liter V6 that makes 263 lb-ft of torque. That’s best in class and there is an option for AWD, something the competition doesn’t offer. The whole shebang is connected to a fairly smooth eight-speed automatic transmission. 

It moves rapidly, often leaving an inch of rubber when you’re aggressive from a standstill. Passing power is pretty good, but it takes a moment for the transmission to kick down when heavy power is needed. The ride is quite good for a minivan. Unfortunately, the low-profile tires make a bit of noise and are not as forgiving as other offerings. Fortunately, those same tires provide good grip and help with cornering.

This is (for a minivan) fairly athletic thanks to the SE trim’s enhancements. “Sport-tuned” coil springs and “sport-calibrated” Electric Power Steering (EPS) make the SE version of the Sienna feel frisky. For such a cavernous vehicle, it handles with confidence. 

While I feel the Honda Odyssey is smoother, and the Pacifica far more contemporary (especially the hybrid) the Sienna SE is the athlete in this group. Despite its age, it’s still relevant. 

It’s rated at 19 mpg city and 27 mpg highway. The AWD version is rated at 18 mpg city and 24 mpg highway. Driving the FWD 2020 Toyota Sienna SE somewhat aggressively – I averaged exactly 20 mpg. That’s not too shabby for a vehicle that weighs around 4,500 pounds.

Chauffeur duty

Hanging out in Los Angeles, I gave the 2020 Sienna an important mission: transport my family to a raucous wedding. We held a total of seven adults comfortably. There is a provision for an eighth seat, but you have to install it between the middle-row captain’s chairs. It’s a pain to install, and I was fortunate not to need it. 

Despite a high-energy wedding and inebriated passengers, the Sienna was an island of tranquility. Maximizing the environmental systems for rear passenger’s comfort – I avoided rider nauseousness. Tuning the excellent amble sound system to a new-age station, everyone was mellowed and relaxed. 

Our luggage fit easily in the cargo area that normally holds the third-row seats – with room to spare. Extra storage, cup holders and grab handles were welcomed by the passengers as well. It was an excellent people mover.

Looks and price 

I like the fact that the Toyota Sienna is somewhat stylized, but nothing can conceal its boxy shape. Still, if you like the way a Camry looks, the Sienna’s design might please you. There are other versions that give you more customization, like the Nightshade Edition Package . This includes black sport mesh front grille; black door handles, wheels, spoiler, black outside mirror caps, black Toyota emblem and grade badging. 

A base model 2020 Sienna starts at $34,385. The upcoming Chrysler Voyager will undercut that price by a large margin. Our SE model starts at $37,715 before adding over $5,000 in options. If you opt for AWD, you will add over $2,500 – depending on the trim. Considering how damn good these vans are, I feel it’s a bargain – and much more utilitarian than most crossovers. 

Check out this video and you’ll see what I’m on about. 

Yes, this is a 2019 model – but little has changed.