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Discussion Starter #1
I know that minivans aren't exactly popular with the general membership here. But here goes this bit of news.

Toyota has announced the 2004 Sienna, expected to ship in March. It appears that after suffering at the hands of the larger, more versatile, and more powerful Odyssey the last several years, Toyota has gone back to the drawing board and made a worthy competitor. On paper, the new Sienna exceeds the current, aging Odyssey design in numerous ways.

- Even more passenger and cargo room than the Odyssey (along with the famous 4x8 sheet plywood capacity).

- A 60/40 split "magic seat" that folds out of the way, trumping the Odyssey's most innovative and popular feature (which is only one-piece, all-or nothing.

- Available 8-passenger seating instead of just 7, with a split portion of the 2nd row that moves a young child closer to the parents in front (like the new Volvo XC90 and the Ford Expedition).

- Power is very close to the Odyssey though still 10 hp shy; but with a minivan, that's more than good enough. Toyota claims it will be faster than the Odyssey, possibly because it's slightly lighter. Slightly better fuel economy at 20/25 for front-wheel drive.

- Safety features galore: Side-curtain airbags for all three rows, VSC (stability control) and Brake Assist. Run-flat tires available, rear-view camera, backup sensors.

- Available xenon headlamps.

- Available All-Wheel Drive. No more excuses for the people who can't admit they won't drive a minivan but want AWD that's reliable (only AWD minivans have been the awful Chrysler minivans). They'll just have to come clean and say I don't wanna drive a minivan. Though at 18/22 mpg for the AWD version, it uses about as much gas (but perhaps not premium) as an MDX. Take that, Arianna Huffington and your SUV's-as-terrorism supporters!

Now, this all said, I will bet the bad news will be that the new Sienna will be frightfully expensive. Options only come as part of packages, and you can only get certain packages with certain trim levels. E.g. xenons only come with the top trim level.

Nevertheless, Toyota seems to have done its homework on this one. The next-gen Honda Odyssey will have to respond to this and do the new Sienna one better.

More info at:

http://www.toyota.com/html/shop/vehicles/sienna/newsienna.html

Specs at:

http://www.toyota.com/sienna/minisite/popup_html/sienna_04_specs.html
 

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The lines are blurring

There is no doubt that the big old station wagons were the family car of choice prior to Chrysler's minivan. The minivan was king until the SUV's became civilized.

Look at the side of the new Sienna - very similar to a lot of new SUV's. The harsh line between the oldstyle minivan and oldstyle SUV is certainly blurring with the newer designs of each. Both are "evolving" ever closer and closer to our father's station wagons.
 

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October 03 Consumer Reports - Minivans

The latest Consumer Reports (Oct 03) has the new '04 Sienna edging out the Honda Odyssey for top Minivan pick. Both the Odyssey and the Sienna are recommended models (as well as the Mazda MPV in 3rd, and the '04 Nissan Quest in 4th), but the Sienna's Overall Score places it in the middle of the Excellent category, with the Odyssey (the only other rating an Excellent) at about 1/3 in the Excellent category.

CR's summary is basically that the '04 Sienna's improvements ("larger dimensions, improved versatility (with 60/40 split fold-down third-row seat), more power and a wider range of features, including all-wheel drive") finally matches most of the Odyssey's attributes and goes it one better with better fuel economy and a quieter ride.

One of their chief complaints of the Sienna is that many features are often only available in "pricey option packages". And in an ironic twist, while they laud the Odyssey's agility and steering, and security at the handling limits (hmmm, I thought the underpinnings were identical to the MDX:rolleyes: ), they complain of the Sienna's stopping distance (which from 60-0 is 152 feet, greater than the MDX's 151 and the Odysseys 147).


In almost every category the Sienna and the Odyssey are tied with identical marks aside from the aforementioned "Noise" (in which the Sienna is better), and "Rear Seat Comfort" (in which the Odyssey is better). Also, there is no info available on the Sienna's IIHS and NHTSA crash tests - compared to the Odyssey's Excellent marks.

All in all, while the Sienna may be the new "top dog", the Odyssey faired extremely well given its 5 year old design.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
Sounds right to me. The Sienna is ahead of the Odyssey, but the Odyssey still acquits itself well. It's not like the Chrysler or GM or Ford vans have gotten close to the Odyssey.

I think the main appeal with the Sienna is that, while pricey, you can get a lot of options simply not available on the Odyssey. Everything from side curtains to xenons to AWD. The Odyssey remains a price leader.
 

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wmquan said:
I think the main appeal with the Sienna is that, while pricey, you can get a lot of options simply not available on the Odyssey. Everything from side curtains to xenons to AWD. The Odyssey remains a price leader.
Oh, side curtains are a package option on the Sienna and not standard except on the XLE Limited model. I always learn something from wmquan's posts!
 

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Discussion Starter #9
robrecht said:
Oh, side curtains are a package option on the Sienna and not standard except on the XLE Limited model.
Yes, the same goes for VSC (Toyota's version of stability control). It is available for all models like side curtains, but is only standard on the XLE Limited.

Toyota (and Lexus) do make it difficult to get certain models with or without certain packages. They let their regional dealer associations set what models they get with what packages. Using www.toyota.com or www.lexus.com to build your own vehicle (after entering your zip code) often reveals that an "optional" package is "required." E.g. I just checked it and there's no way to configure an LE without a package that includes side curtains. Though getting an LE without VSC is possible.

Curiously, there was a way to configure an XLE without side curtains, though the site indicated "limited availability."

To be fair, side curtains are not standard on most non-luxury models. Honda only recently let 4-cylinder Accord EX's get them (before it was just Accord EX V6 models).

Probably the best job a non-luxury make has done with side curtains is VW's. I think that all their models, in all their trims, come with side curtains. E.g. all Passats and Jettas come with side curtains standard. Also impressive is the fact that all (?) of their models and trims have stability control available as an option (only about $280). Of course, VW's tend to be pricey nowadays and the brand clearly has aspirations for being "near-luxury" so this might not be a fair comparison.
 

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Re: October 03 Consumer Reports - Minivans

they complain of the Sienna's stopping distance (which from 60-0 is 152 feet, greater than the MDX's 151 and the Odysseys 147).
This is very strange, as all other road tests published puts Sienna braking performance ahead of all the competitions:

http://www.caranddriver.com/article.asp?section_id=3&article_id=6647&page_number=4

And MotorWeek test of 60-0 is significantly less at 135ft:
http://www.mpt.org/motorweek/reviews/rt2238.shtml

Did they use a drum brake base model?

The major shock, however, is the 4th place finish of Nissan Quest. But I think Consumer Report is guilty of not placing enough weight and emphasis in the availability of side guard curtain and electronic stability control options in the view of recent reports. These are must have options for any new cars for me.
 

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Discussion Starter #11
Re: Re: October 03 Consumer Reports - Minivans

lak said:
Did they use a drum brake base model?

The major shock, however, is the 4th place finish of Nissan Quest. But I think Consumer Report is guilty of not placing enough weight and emphasis in the availability of side guard curtain and electronic stability control options in the view of recent reports. These are must have options for any new cars for me.
I had wondered if the Sienna LE tested didn't have rear discs. However, while their print article isn't very specific about the brakes, it does mention that the model tested had VSC and side curtains. I don't believe that you can get VSC on an LE without getting rear disc brakes. Thus I believe that the Sienna that CR tested did have the rear disc brakes.

It is possible that the tires that came on their LE could have made some difference in the braking tests.
 
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