Here was my recent phone conversation with Toyota… “Hello Toyota, I was wondering if I might test drive a Toyota vehicle that I can use to transport five women for a ladies weekend to a remote cabin in Pinetop, Arizona. It’s for two nights and about a four hour drive north of Phoenix. Please surprise me with a fun vehicle, I said with a wink in my voice.” Now in my mind I thought I might get that new Highlander that seats 8 or maybe they would squeeze us in a fire engine red Rav4,Copper Venza, or a black sexy FJ Cruiser. I told the ladies to pack light and be ready for a weekend free of husbands, boyfriends, kids, grandkids, jobs and pets. I suggested we pack for hiking and our favorite wine for the fireside chats where we would be discussing all of the above.
Imagine my surprise when Toyota dropped off a 2014 Sienna Minivan at my door with a note… “Have a great time!” At first I wasn’t sure if it was a minivan or just a slightly larger and good looking SUV. I was a bit taken aback at how nice looking it was on the outside and didn’t scream “family transportation.” In fact, I remembered the new slogan for the Sienna, “The original Swagger Wagon,” that’s a tag line I hadn’t thought of.
As I packed up the Sienna with my suitcase and cooler, I realized that I could bring more stuff. I didn’t call the women in advance to discuss the chariot I would pull up in thinking I’d surprise them when I arrived. I couldn’t wait to see the expression on Cindy’s face when she saw the minivan. I wanted to see her shoulders drop and “Angeline Jolie smile” go south. I was laughing inside and hoping to catch it on my camera when I reached her condo. Much to my surprise her reaction was the opposite, maybe she was thinking she might bring more shoes with the roomy interior she quickly observed.
I tried to fight it, but I couldn’t help but love the way the Sienna drove, how it handled on side streets and on Bee Line Highway. It was so easy to check the mirrors, park and maneuver through the roads–from my first stop in Fountain Hills all the way to Karen’s cabin in Pinetop.
I loved where the automatic gear shifter was perfectly positioned where my right hand would land naturally which was away from the middle console or on the steering wheel like most cars.
I loved the way the automatic gear shifter was perfectly positioned where my right hand would land naturally
I couldn’t believe there was a spot for my purse and a deep bucket size console between the front seats and cup holders built for a Circle K drink fest. So let’s see, we have purse placement, back up camera, remote doors, and three rows of seating including easy access to the third row even by five women who are over 60. I started to fantasize that maybe a woman designed this vehicle.
It went from “I am test driving” to “we are test driving” (everyone had an opinion or question about the top of the line Sienna with all its bells and whistles). I think the seating pattern we had is best not only for families but for any group. The 8-passenger configuration offered on SE, LE and XLE trims substitutes two captain’s chairs for the bench. The third-row seats are removable providing expanded cargo space. The captain’s chairs were easy to tilt and slide forward for easy access to the third row.
purse placement, back up camera, remote doors, and three rows of seating…..I started to fantasize that maybe a woman designed this vehicle.
We had the luxury package which includes the basics and then adds on the JBL premium stereo (do you know how compelling Barry White sounded?), 18-inch alloy wheels, SmartKey remote keyless entry, a power moon roof, heated seats, automatic climate control system, wood grain interior trim, parking assist system, and a Bluetooth hands free calling interface.
We also had the dual view entertainment system allowing the ladies in the rear seat to watch two different programs on one display. It had navigation, satellite radio, HID headlamps, rain sensing wipers and adaptive cruise control.
By the way, it rained on and off during our trip. We were impressed with the fact that while driving; the windshield wipers would go on with the slightest drizzle and off when it stopped raining. What a great concept.
The remote fob controlled the opening and closing of the side doors and trunk so I could open them from several feet away to get the ladies in the van quickly when it would start to rain.
We found the van easy to park at our destination on Saturday which was the Pinetop–Lakeside Fall Parade and the Annual Run to the Pines Car Show.
The parade was a bit different from the St. Patrick’s Day parades I grew up with in New York, more like a Norman Rockwell painting parade. It appeared as though the whole population of Pinetop came out for that event. The car show, in an open field, packed the streets of Pinetop with barely enough room to squeeze by other passenger cars, cops and exotic cars. Surprisingly, the Sienna seemed to be a hit with the owners of the classic cars as well. I can’t tell you how many times people asked us what we were driving and couldn’t believe it was a minivan.
One night it stormed and hailed… the Toyota suffered zero damage and the next day it traveled through the muddy back roads like a truck or ATV. We had room to spread out, fill the cargo area with antiques and visit some of the horse farms and golf courses in the area.
All the ladies enjoyed the Sienna, everywhere we went they would say to people, “Do you believe this is a minivan?” and best of all we felt safe despite the rain, the remote location and the hundreds of classic cars in our path.
The trip back to Phoenix was smooth sailing filled with laughter and loud music. We reflected on a peaceful trip with good food, friends and lots of sleep. It was relaxing; which prepared us for our return to the husbands, boyfriends, kids, grandkids, jobs and pets. Thank you Toyota!
All the ladies enjoyed the Sienna, everywhere we went they would say to people, “Do you believe this is a minivan?”
Toyota Sienna Facts and Figures: