Review: The 2021 Toyota Sienna Is the Most Logical Hybrid I’ve Ever Driven — Seriously.

There's one thing keeping it from protection

(Images: TFLcar, unless otherwise noted)

Spending time with the 2021 Toyota Sienna AWD absolutely floored me in unusual ways.

I am not much of a hybrid fan, but the 2021 Toyota Sienna AWD is the most logical, utilitarian, family-friendly vehicle that has a hybrid power plant. Honestly, I was stunned with its ridiculous efficiency. It makes so much sense to me now.

Initially, when I heard that Toyota was going all-hybrid on their minivans, I thought it was a bad idea. My experience told me that lots of people who need minivans, are into efficient large-family mobility. That’s something that a ton of other automakers kind of forgot, and now you have minivans that can run well in to the $50,000 zone. That’s ridiculous.

Still, these same automakers have entry-level models which are (usually) well priced. This is where I thought Toyota would fumble, because hybrid tech is pricy. I was wrong. A base model 2021 Toyota Sienna hybrid with front-wheel drive starts at $34,460. That’s not too shabby for all of the standard tech you get. AWD models are $2,000 more.

2021 toyota sienna
The new interior layout of the 2021 Sienna is modern, fresh and logical. Seat comfort on all models feels better than the Pacifica. On the other hand, the Pacifica is more utilitarian. Still, the Sienna is a sweet space to spend time. (Image: Toyota)

The 2021 Toyota Sienna AWD has some interesting numbers

Toyota got ride of its old V6 and bolted in a 189 horsepower, 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine. Then, they added a 180 horsepower electric motor. It is all connected to Toyota’s planetary-gear system, that gives you a combined 245 hp. It weighs 4,610 to 4,725 pounds – depending on the model and if you added AWD.

Towing is listed at a maximum weight of 3,500 pounds.

The Sienna can hold top to 33.5 cubic feet behind the third row, and ups to 101 cubic feet with the second and third row folded. While rear (third row) seats do fold flat, the second row slides forward.  

The Chrysler Pacifica AWD is the only other van in the U.S. available with AWD.

Let’s talk about the 2021 Toyota Sienna’s AWD

Despite being an all-new minivan, the 2021 Sienna uses old tech, and that’s a good thing. The all-wheel drive (AWD) system is basically the same setup as in the RAV4 and Highlander hybrids. That is to say, it’s already tested and perfected, much like the hybrid system itself. We’ve tested all of Toyota’s hybrid 4×4/AWD crossovers with this system, and they’ve all done well.

There is no mechanical connection between the main power source and the rear wheels. No driveshaft, and no transfer case. The Sienna AWD has a separate independent electric motor that powers the rear wheels the instant additional traction is needed. This system works at all vehicle speeds, and it’s totally automatic.

2021 toyota sienna
7 and 8 passenger seating is available. Higher trims can give you first-class-like seating in the second row. (Image: Toyota)

Thanks to smart packaging, and dispensing with the heavy mechanical bits, the overall penalty for having an AWD Sienna is minimal. The regular Sienna hybrid gets up to 36 mpg city, 36 mpg highway – and 36 combined. The 2021 Toyota Sienna AWD is rated at 35 mpg combined. That’s insanely good, and the range with the 18-gallon tank can be well over 600 miles.

The minivan (that has the aerodynamic qualities of a toaster) averaged 34 mpg while driven aggressively.

I kind of felt self-conscious driving a minivan and blasting hard rock, heavy metal and punk though its 12-speaker JBL System. I got over it when I saw my ridiculous MPG.

Driving the box

Sure, minivans are no fun to drive. This Sienna is no exception. In the past, we even raced one against the current Honda Odyssey. It was one boring race to be sure, but it wasn’t fair to either vehicle. The point of a minivan is to transport comfortably, be utilitarian and (hopefully) be economical to run. The Sienna AWD is all of that — in spades.

Sure, the Pacifica AWD can out haul it, and upcoming minivans from Kia and Hyundai look promising, but this Sienna AWD is definitely the new leader. The ride is the best I’ve sampled in a hybrid, and a minivan. It moves smartly, but you have no steering feel at all. The brakes can be a bit sensitive, but I figured them out after just one day.

We moved lots of items with this van, and I hauled my little ones as well. On top of that, I considered stealing Tommy’s old Mini Cooper clone – as I think it would fit inside. Worrying about leaking oil from the Mini, and Tommy having a anxiety attack, I opted to just stick to normal stuff – like EV quads. In an upcoming video, you will see this van haul some interesting stuff.

Verdict: It’s one step away from perfection

As I said before, this hybrid absolutely makes sense to me. Sure, our Cypress-colored, top-of-the-line Platinum has a $52,000 price tag, but you can save a ton of dough and get an LE or SE – with AWD. It is remarkably economical, roomy as an aircraft hanger, and very comfortable on the highway. Smart through and through.

The only other issue I had with this van is its looks. As of 2021, I know for sure there are way better looking minivans out there. Toyota’s insistence on a massive grill hurts the image of this vehicle.