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The 2019 Sienna lowers its eyebrows, raises the bar on safety and reliability

06 Apr 2019 9:12 AM | Danny Harrison

When I wrote last year about the 2018 Toyota Sienna minivan, I said something about how the front looked like a lizard, because the hood rose to sharp brows over the headlights. I like lizards, and I like minivans, but…

I was pleasantly surprised this mid-March when the 2019 model was delivered for my week-long review and those eyebrows were lowered a bit. Or at least they seem to be. I didn’t measure them, though now with neither Sienna in my driveway, I wish I had. It’s a detail you won’t find in any product brochure.

Thanks, Toyota, for listening to that suggestion. Now go back and notice the part of that review that suggested you offer a V-8 option. Your 4.6L V-8 truck engine would do nicely.

So, did we like the 2019 Sienna? Of course we did. It still has the 3.5L V-6 delivering 296 hp, the optional entertainment packages (dual-view DVD screen for the kids, phenomenal sound for all), the generous storage spaces, and the cup and bottle holders all over the place. Crazy as it sounds, when you’re a dad who actually loves having the whole family of seven under one headliner, you dig the bottle holders. Slide past Aldi for a case of water and a bag of baby carrots, and you’re set.

We did something like that on the Saturday of our seven-day Sienna experience. All aboard, we took I-75 up to what is now Georgia State Stadium in Downtown Atlanta, and then we cruised surface streets up to the Buckhead Barnes & Noble and back. Especially along the motorway, we were all about the DVD screen for the kids and the we-time happening on Row One. With their third-zone climate control and clear view of the flip-down screen from all five seats, we heard nary a peep out of them.

That third row, by the way, is more comfortable seating than you’re going to find in some competitors’ middle. That’s super handy for us, because our three older children ride aft, while our toddlers take Row Two. It’s nice to think long trips will be more comfortable for them, too, even if they don’t offer to help with the monthly payments.

I noticed on the Monroney* sticker that the 2019 Sienna earned an NHTSA** five-star safety rating, which in all considers frontal crash, side crash and rollover test results. That kind of peace of mind is a luxury feature in itself.

Here’s another bit of safety info. During that afternoon road trip, I accidentally activated one of the side doors, which closed on a daughter, but after nothing more than a gentle bump it retreated. We shared a laugh, I apologized, and we moved on. Things like that make you appreciate a vehicle. My Chrysler’s automatic side doors are not so sensitive.

Not surprisingly, the 2019 Sienna takes top honors from Consumer Reports, which stamps the XLE trim level with a 78. (The Kia Sedona EX was second with a 74.) Of particular note for the Sienna XLE was the bevy of standard safety features, which include Forward Collision Warning, Automatic Emergency Braking and Pedestrian Detection, all of which are also standard down at the less-expensive LE and SE trim levels. More peace of mind. CR also gave Sienna high reliability marks.

And that brings me to a fave feature. In five years of writing vehicle reviews, I think Toyota excels them all when it comes to cruise control, and in particular I love the always-improving Dynamic Radar Cruise Control. This allows you set a max speed while also setting a variable car-length distance from the vehicle you are following in the lane. There may be a few times in curvy, multi-lane traffic where it gets confused with irrelevant vehicles ahead of you in other lanes, but let’s be honest here: cruise control isn’t really meant for the Downtown Atlanta Connector.

Another fave of the Sienna copy we reviewed is the body color, though I’m not fond of the name of that color. I’d call it an almost-Army green, but some bi-lingual high-earner somewhere decided it should be called Alumina Jade Metallic. Sounds like an anime character. Probably, that’s the point. It’s a stunner, though, especially given that Toyota/Lexus in well into this present era of sculpting front-ends to look like Battlestar Galactica robots. It looks battle-ready, especially when accented by the mid and rear tinted windows.

This is the third Sienna we’ve reviewed in five years, and I look forward to the next. As I’m more of a late-model, used car buyer, I have paid closer-than-normal attention to the 2018 and 2019 models, because we’ll be in the market again within a year or two. This 2019 model starts around $30K ($45K as tested), but you can find the 2016 under $20K.

*Monroney stickers are named for 1950s-era U.S. Senator Mike Monroney, who was from Oklahoma and had his own lizard-looking eyebrows.

**NHTSA is the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

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