PALM SPRINGS, Calif. - There is nothing in the 2004 Toyota Sienna that screams "innovation." Unless, that is, you consider that Toyota has made the redesigned model bigger, faster, smoother and quieter than the outgoing model - and about $1,000 cheaper.
"When Sienna arrives in March, it absolutely will redefine the American minivan concept," Toyota Division General Manager Don Esmond predicts.
Even recognizing Esmond's boast for what it is, the 2004 Sienna is a massive improvement over its predecessor. Its wheelbase is 5 inches longer, the track 4 inches wider, interior volume has increased by 45 cubic feet, it's better equipped, and the engine has gained 20 hp.
Toyota realized it was outgunned in the segment, so it bored out the Sienna's engine to 3.3 liters from 3.0 and boosted horsepower to 230. That still doesn't match the 240 horses of the Honda Odyssey, but it shrinks the gap considerably.
The engine produces a claimed 0 to 60 acceleration time of 8.3 seconds while delivering 27 mpg highway with a ULEV-II emissions rating.
Perhaps as a response to recent incidents of oil sludge buildup in Toyota V-6 engines, the Sienna has a maintenance warning indicator that begins blinking at 5,000 miles after the last oil change. At 7,500 miles, it glows continuously. But the owner can turn off the light.
The standard five-speed automatic transmission has knocked the first four gear ratios lower for better acceleration and added a higher fifth gear overdrive for long-range cruising.