It seems like we've been writing "the Toyota Sienna enters yet another year without a full redesign" forever at this point. The current generation dates back to 2011 and is continuing into year 10 as we detail in our 2020 Toyota Sienna review. Now, there was a substantial overhaul of its interior and structure for 2015, while the powertrain was replaced two years later, and other important updates to its feature content made thereafter. In the meantime, though, the Kia Sedona and Honda Odyssey were completely redesigned and the Chrysler Pacifica became a thing. The Nissan Quest was reborn and died again. Nobody seemed to notice. Anyway, the Toyota Sienna is extremely long in the tooth, but these fresh spy photos would indicate it's finally going to see the dentist. That's how that metaphor works, right? Though covered in copious black plastic, this is most definitely not yet another warmed over version of the current van. Note the door mirrors migrating to the doors and the little quarter window above it now residing adjacent to the main front side window rather than within the A pillar. The rear quarter also appears quite different, possibly indicating some sort of rising element not unlike the Lexus RX. Of course, that bit of camouflage could also be a leftover from an old RX test vehicle being used to throw us off, but it seems likely that Toyota would try to make that area more interesting given its recent over-the-top styling as well as what was done with the past two Honda Odysseys. The big wheels, lower grille mesh and flared rocker panels suggest that this particular next-generation Sienna is an SE, the "sportier" trim level that boasts tighter suspension and steering tuning (current version shown above). Much like it did with the recently redesign Camry and Avalon, it seems reasonable to assume that the dynamic gap between the Sienna's LE and SE trim levels would narrow given the handling improvements inherent to Toyota's TNG platform that assuredly underpins its new minivan. Despite the new platform, we expect the current powertrain to carry over mostly unchanged apart from perhaps a minor power bump. We also wouldn't be surprised to see a new Sienna Hybrid, as most TNG cars are available as hybrids. Would it be a plug-in as the Chrysler Pacifica hybrid is? That's questionable. Given how comprehensively wrapped this test vehicle is, it seems like the next-generation Sienna is awfully close to completion. We wouldn't be surprised to see it shown at the Los Angeles Auto Show in November or even earlier. Sales probably wouldn't be too long after. That would certainly help explain why the 2020 Sienna was announced so early.
We sure hope Toyota is cooking something special up for its next-generation minivan, because it's certainly been a long wait. While most cars and minivans go six years between generation, the 2020 Toyota Sienna represents year nine since it was completely redesigned. Sure, there was a significant overhaul a few years ago and constant updating (including some for this year), but the competition has been completely redone, and it makes a difference. The Honda Odyssey and Chrysler Pacifica are more refined, more advanced technologically and have better safety ratings. Even the Kia Sedona, which is no spring chicken itself, is fresher in certain respects.
Now, despite being long in the tooth, the 2020 Sienna still provides plenty of distinctive elements that keep it relevant. Its second-row seat slides further than most, providing exceptional comfort for adults and teenagers. Its unique all-wheel drive option. Its SE trim level that is arguably the most engaging minivan to drive. In other words, don't write it off completely, but make sure to shop around.
A car infotainment system's ability to utilize Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and Amazon Alexa has become a major commodity in recent years, as customers continue to blend and connect various aspects of their 'smart' lives. Until now, none of Toyota's 2018-and-earlier products were compatible with smartphone integrations, but that's changing. Toyota announced a surprise upgrade for the 2018 Camry and Sienna, a retrofitting to include CarPlay and Alexa capabilities.
Toyota was pretty late to the game in introducing Apple CarPlay to its vehicles. Toyota launched the integration with the 2019 Avalon, and now offers the feature standard on most of its 2020 vehicles. That it took so long for the Japanese company to include the technology irked some customers, and now Toyota is trying to make good.
The 2019 Toyota Sienna represents the eighth year since Toyota's minivan was completely redesigned. Although it's received significant updates in that time, all of its competitors have been completely redesigned since then, most notably the Chrysler Pacifica and Honda Odyssey. That said, the Sienna still offers a compelling array of family-friendly attributes and continues to boast a serious competitive advantage by being the only minivan that offers all-wheel drive as an option (although a Pacifica AWD is coming) . While its competitors are ultimately stronger products, the Sienna isn't as hopelessly out of date as its age would indicate.
The Toyota Sienna has always been an inconspicuous van. They're out there, there's a lot of them and they're huge, but they blend in with darn near everything. Perhaps Toyota noticed that a little while ago and slapped on the slightly garish grille/not a grille plastic thing in the front bumper, but it still doesn't really stand out. On the other hand, our long-term Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid, which is a great deal newer than the Sienna, has slick styling that gets noticed. Toyota hasn't properly redesigned the Sienna since the 2011 model year, and it shows on every front. Despite its many shortcomings, there are still some valid arguments for going with the dinosaur.
The Chrysler is fitted with Nokian Hakkapelitta winter tires. As you might guess, this means that braking and grip around corners is better than the Sienna in snow. If the Sienna were to ditch its slippery all-seasons for a proper set of winters, it would be running circles around the Pacifica. Still, I drove our Pacifica through a lake effect blizzard in Buffalo and it never blinked from lack of traction with multiple inches of snow on the ground. Some folks are going to want the assurance of all-wheel drive, and the Sienna will offer it, but don't make it your only option. All-wheel drive might help you get going, but winter tires are there to save the day when sledding gets tough.
Toyota hasn't done so much as breathed upon the Sienna for what feels like eons, but here's our first hint that something new is finally around the corner for the big minivan. The vehicle pictured here is a test mule, presumably for the 2021 Toyota Sienna, with a body that doesn't quite match up to the chassis. Note the wheels that poke out beyond the wheel arches, revealing what is almost certainly a wider track courtesy Toyota's TNGA platform that continues to be permeate throughout Toyota's lineup. We'll assume that it's the longer version of TNGA currently employed by the Avalon and Lexus ES.
The Sienna is definitely going to be bigger than before, showing off both that wider track and a stretched wheelbase. Toyota even modified the body panels on this mule in order to fit the wheels and tires underneath it all. Patchy work is noticeable around the front door and longer rear overhang. The mirrors are then haphazardly stuck onto the doors, instead of the A-pillars where they live now.
If you're considering purchasing a minivan and the updated Toyota Sienna isn't already on your shortlist, this review might actually convince you to reconsider.
Sure, minivans have fallen victim to stereotypes and buyers nowadays more often than not go for an SUV, regardless if they actually need its off-road abilities or not. It's all about perception, and an SUV screams "adventure", which the minivan certainly doesn't, but as Kelley Blue Book's Micah Muzio points out, the latter is still king when it comes to practicality - and the 2018 Sienna certainly has its eyes on the throne.