LOS ANGELES -- Minivans are said to be out of fashion, but with the redesigned 2011 Sienna, Toyota is trying to bring some style and a little charisma to the people-mover concept.
"We wanted to get the new bold design like the Venza" crossover, said designer Ian Cartabiano.
And with the new sport model, Cartabiano said, "We hope to capture dads, Gen X and Gen Y families."
Cartabiano said the top priorities for the new Sienna, which goes on sale in February, were an expressive exterior, safety and a more spacious and comfortable interior.
The Sienna comes in five trim lines, including the new sport model. A 2.7-liter four-cylinder engine making 187 hp has been added. The 266-hp, 3.5-liter V-6 that powers the predecessor is still available. A new six-speed automatic transmission replaces the five-speed automatic on the 2010 model.
The four-cylinder delivers 19 mpg in the city and 26 on the highway, while the V-6 is rated at 18/24, compared with 17/23 for the current model.
The new Sienna rides on the same 119.3-inch wheelbase but is wider and slightly shorter than the outgoing version.
The face is more aggressive and the rear is rounder, moving away from the boxy minivan look. To give the Sienna a sporty stance, Cartabiano said, Toyota gave it wide shoulders, a hidden door shoulder and a strong D-pillar.
The sporty SE version sits lower on a sport-tuned suspension and has 19-inch wheels, a first for the minivan.
Interior designer Benjamin Jimenez said comfort was the key consideration. The Sienna comes in seven- and eight-seat configurations; the outgoing model was only a seven-seater.
Said Jimenez: "More room and interior space will be our competitive edge." c