$10,994 - $17,604

2012 Toyota Sienna Performance Review

Note: This performance review was created when the 2012 Toyota Sienna was new.


Performance: 8.6

Reviewers are pretty happy with the Sienna’s performance. The Sienna is the only van on the market with available all-wheel drive, which makes it a good SUV alternative. Four- and six-cylinder engines are offered, which lets buyers choose between having extra power on tap, or saving a little on gas. Just know that you can only get all-wheel drive with the V6 engine, and that that V6 engine is a pricey option. If you want more power or all-wheel drive, you’ll have to pay for it. The favorite trim of most reviewers is the Sienna SE, which Toyota says is tuned for sportier driving. Most reviewers say the SE drives on par with the Honda Odyssey, which they call the best-driving van on the market.

  • "After driving the whole lineup, including the sport tuned SE, we were impressed with the Sienna's composed road manners and surprising performance." -- Autoblog

Acceleration and Power

There are two engines available on the 2012 Sienna. The base engine is a 2.7-liter four-cylinder that makes 187 horsepower; it comes on base models and two-wheel-drive models of the Sienna LE. The EPA estimates that engine’s fuel economy at 19 mpg in the city and 24 mpg on the highway. The other engine, a 3.5-liter V6 that makes 266 horsepower, is optional for base and 2WD LE models and standard for all other models. The V6 has EPA-estimated fuel economy of 18/25 mpg city/highway on two-wheel drive models and 17/23 on all-wheel drive models.

Both engines are well-liked by reviewers, but a few recommend the V6 over the four-cylinder if you routinely carry lots of people or heavy loads. However, most agree that the smaller engine does just fine, especially if you want to save some money. Both engines have a six-speed automatic transmission.

All-wheel drive is available with the V6, but you should know that the all-wheel drive system’s extra weight will hurt fuel economy. Still, the Sienna is the only minivan on the market with all-wheel drive and that makes it a viable alternative to an SUV.

  • "The four-cylinder engine actually feels adequate and unstrained in the Sienna LE." -- Popular Mechanics
  • "Powerful enough for most buyers, the four-cylinder does make a few gritty noises under acceleration, but there is enough torque (186 lb-ft) to move the Sienna smartly. Those who regularly carry a full load of passengers might want to opt for the 3.5-liter V-6 that produces 266 hp and 245 lb-ft of torque." -- Car and Driver
  • "As with the V6 model, the I-4's six-speed transmission held gears appropriately, but it was clear that the engine was working harder than the V6." -- Edmunds
  • "Both of the Sienna's engines are strong enough for commuting, but the V-6 is the one worth having for anything other than light duty. The four tends to strain up hills if you're carrying a mild load, and its fuel economy isn't that much better than that of the two-wheel-drive six." -- Jalopnik

Handling and Braking

Since it’s a minivan, most car reviewers don’t expect much from the Sienna when it comes to handling. The majority report, however, that the Sienna offers a comfortable ride that should satisfy most families. A few are even pleased by the sporty Sienna SE, which has special tuning that makes it more agile. However, you should note that while some critics like the SE’s handling, they think its ride is a little too harsh for minivan buyers.

  • "The Sienna SE doesn't float like a marshmallow because the body motions are so much better controlled. The SE doesn't steer like an ocean liner because the steering is more lively and natural-feeling. Don't get us wrong, because the 4,465-pound Sienna SE will never feel like a sport sedan or even a European wagon, but it will give a run to the class-leading handler, the Honda Odyssey." -- Edmunds
  • "From behind the wheel, the Sienna still feels larger than the Honda Odyssey-which is our minivan handling benchmark and the most carlike in the segment-but the body's resistance to roll and the supple-yet-controlled ride are on par with the Honda." -- Car and Driver
  • "The Sienna rides and handles like little more than a tall, heavy Camry. Damping and suspension calibration is much better than before; third-seat passengers no longer get treated to a jitter-wallow ride and stomach-turning body motions. The SE is no fleet-footed wonder, but it pulls off chassis tricks that no mass-market minivan should be able to accomplish." -- Jalopnik
  • "All of the new Sienna models handled and rode reasonably well with very little body roll, squat or dive. The SE, on the other hand, felt almost tossable, although bumps were less dampened." -- Autoblog

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