The decision my husband and I made to buy a minivan some 13 years ago was due in part that we wanted lots of space to carry our “baby stuff” around. As the kids got older, our Sienna morphed from the carrier of all things baby to knapsacks, hockey bags, hockey sticks, baseball gear, friends and teammates. We never thought we’d keep our minivan for 13 years, but the Sienna never gave us a reason to replace it. As our kids got older, we made the decision to downsize our family car, so we reluctantly said goodbye to our Sienna. But then we got the opportunity to test drive the new 2017 Toyota Sienna XLE AWD 7-passenger minivan and let me say it felt like I was home again. It felt familiar yet it was anything but. The 2017 Toyota Sienna is all grown up with all the latest bells and whistles to go with it.
Our road trip with the 2017 Sienna took us to Montreal for my daughter’s hockey tournament, and it was anything but ordinary. Driving with a teammate and her mom, we managed to squeeze in a campus tour of McGill University, the team attended the Montreal Canadiens vs Toronto Maple Leafs hockey game, we saw a dazzling Christmas light show and last but not least, we found a bakery that sold fresh Montreal bagels. The extraordinary story here is how Mother Nature presented a unique opportunity. In just a few short days, the weather went from sunny and mild (perfect for the dual power moon roofs) to rain, snow, ice (thank goodness for the all-wheel-drive) and heavy winds. This turned out to be the ultimate test drive – navigating the 2017 Toyota Sienna through four seasons in seven days.
Canada’s Only All-Wheel Drive Minivan
The 2017 Toyota Sienna is Canada’s only all-wheel-drive (AWD) minivan. Together with the snow tires, the car took to the highway like a charm. We left Montreal in rain, and as we approached Kingston, it was all snow and ice. The highway turned treacherous in a short span of time. Many cars were in the ditch or facing the wrong way, but we continued on slow and steady. Honestly, I dread driving in snow and ice. But the Sienna’s all-wheel drive was designed to give just the right amount of torque to each wheel that allowed us to manage the roads safely.
Under the Hood
We left Toronto with a full tank of gas and filled up a half empty tank in Kingston. Even in an AWD, the Sienna still packs a decent fuel economy (13.4 L city/9.6 L highway/11.7 L combined). The 2017 Sienna has a new powertrain and 8-speed transmission, with increased horsepower and torque, that contributes to a smooth ride and fuel efficiency. The 3.5L V6 engine helps to reduce noise and vibration. If your family drives long distances often, you know how important comfort (less grouchy kids for one) and fuel efficiency are.
The 2017 Sienna is very spacious. My kids were particularly impressed with all the legroom in the middle row. They loved the leather Captain seats, which were super comfortable not to mention a fair (sibling) distance apart. Adults won’t have any problems getting into or settling in to the back seats. The driver and passenger seats rated high on our comfort scale also.
It never ceases to amaze me how much stuff we take on a weekend trip. We had to carry not one but two large hockey bags, 4 sticks, several pieces of luggage, knapsacks (yes, the girls managed to get some homework done), a wireless speaker (super important for pregame prep), 17 water bottles, coats and snacks. We had 2,470 litres of storage (behind the 2nd row seats) to work with, so there was plenty of space for the girl’s gear and our luggage with room to spare.
My only complaint is that I found the Split & Stow 3rd row seats a bit difficult to unfold and being a high-end minivan, I was surprised there wasn’t a button that would automatically fold and unfold the seats.
Before I left the lot for my test drive, Mike (product expert extraordinaire) used the Driver Seat Memory System to set my seat and side mirrors to my liking. This saved lots of time as I never had to fidget with my seat or side mirrors for the remainder of the my test drive.
hockey parent, it didn’t take us long to appreciate the dual power sliding doors and power rear liftgate. No more having to worry about the kids (teenagers included) hitting the car parked next to you when opening the side door.
SEE ALSO: 6 Tips for Vacationing With Tweens
I’m not sure why, but we can never agree on the temperature with the kids. They are too hot, we are too cold. The Tri-Zone Temperature Control was perfect as the driver, passenger and middle row each had control over the temperature in their zone.
With kids in tow (no matter the age), the Dual-View Blu-ray Entertainment System with a 16.4 inch overhead widescreen display is perfect for movie watching or gaming. My friend managed to set up the movie with relative ease. She mentioned how intuitive it was to set up. Although we never tried it, the screen can split to have 2 programs running at once. How cool is that? And yes, there are 2 wireless headphones and a remote control so you can drive in peace and quiet (it’s all about us, right?)
All in the Details
As a driver, you want everything to be simple, intuitive and within easy reach. The 7” touch panel display is sleek and personally, I loved its design to mimic that of a tablet. The flat screen was very user friendly. Being that I need to stay connected, require driving tunes and rely on the navigation to point me in the right direction, the touch panel display gets used often and therefore should look good and be super simple to use.
How often have you found yourself yelling to the kids in the third row of a minivan or SUV? It can be difficult to hear sitting in the third row, which is why I love Driver Easy Speak. You simply press it on the touch panel screen and thanks to a microphone strategically placed near the driver’s head, your voice gets amplified to the rear seat passengers. No more losing your voice screaming to the back row!
I’ll be honest in saying that I was initially disappointed to find only 2 USB ports (both up front, with one in a very awkward position) with no USB port for the middle row (my kids instantly noticed). However, the middle row has access to an outlet that is actually better than just an USB port. This provides flexibility as you can still charge a mobile device with the USB cube yet you can also use it for anything that requires power.
There never seems to be enough places to store things in a car. I loved the deep centre console and the grippy pad on the floor directly in front of the centre console. This is perfect to put down your bag or purse.
In these days with busy families on the go, cup holders are a must. The kids eat in the car a lot, due to their busy schedules, so if you want to avoid spills, cup holders are your best friend and there are plenty of them in the 2017 Sienna. I particularly love that the illuminated cup holders on the centre console. This really comes in handy when driving at night.
Safety, Safety, Safety
Technology has come a long way and the auto industry has taken notice. All 6 models of the 2017 Sienna come standard with the six active safety technologies of Toyota’s Star Safety System™ – Antilock Brake System, Brake Assist, Electronic Brake-force Distribution, Vehicle Stability Control, Active Traction Control and Smart Stop technology, which all assist the driver in avoiding potential dangers. The model I was driving also included Rear Cross Traffic Alert and Blind Spot Monitor, both of which you quickly learn you can’t live without.
In the end, the girls had a fabulous weekend and took silver in Montreal. Thanks to the 2017 Toyota Sienna XLE AWD minivan for bringing us all home safely in the stormy wintery weather.
Model Tested: 2017 Sienna XLE AWD
- D-4S, 3.5 Litre
- 8-Speed, Automatic, Lock Up Torque Converter, Transmission Cooler
- 7 Passenger Seating
- Limited Package
Total MSRP: $53,329.92 CAD
Learn more about the 2017 Toyota Sienna.
Photos by: Krista Beatty Photography
About Wendy Morelli
Wendy loves her 2 kids and her iPhone, not necessarily always in that order. She is an app obsessed mom who loves everything tech and is (unfortunately) old enough to remember the brick Motorola cell phone and the Commodore computer. Her love for technology stems back to the 10+ years of working for technology based companies. Wendy's alter ego, "AppHipMom" has been featured in Canadian Family, iVillage, Women in Biz, EverythingMom, BlogHer and Savvy Mom.