After a trouble filled year and a half owning a Chrysler Voyager, our family decided to trade that piece of junk for a Toyota Sienna. Well, let me begin by saying that although the ownership experience has been immensely better, the myth that Toyotas are rock-solid has been dispelled in my mind. This does not mean that I don't like it; quite the opposite, I think it's the best minivan in the market today. It's just that it has not been as good as my Toyota Matrix, which hasn't had a single mechanical issue in three years.
This minivan's regular driver is my younger brother: a 22 yr old World Rally Championship fan, and aspiring local touring car racer. This should give you an idea of his driving style, which has definitely had an influence on the wear and tear of the car. Well, it's a testament to the extremely good performance of this car that he refuses to trade it for anything less than a Mini Cooper S.
For a 2 ton, 1.8 m tall minivan, this thing's performance is unbelievable. I've seen my (admittedly reckless) brother obliterate Audi A4s on twisty uphill mountain roads, and it's not like they weren't trying. The engine is very good and can handle cruising at 170km/h with 7 people and luggage on board (not that I'd recommend it). When I've driven it, it feels powerful, but the drive-by-wire throttle is extremely slow to respond, taking almost a full second to start throttling up no matter how gentle and progressive you try to be. This can cause you to get too close to the guy in front in stop and go traffic until you become used to it. Steering is Novocaine-sedate and way too light. These two factors, combined with its humongous exterior dimensions make it a bit awkward to drive in tight streets, and will make your front tires squeal often.
Another complaint of mine is that the thing's brakes are not a good match for the engine, as it's much easier to accelerate than brake. Stopping a Sienna with precision, even from a crawl, is not easy.
It is a very, very comfortable vehicle to drive. The driver's seat is easy to adjust and feels very nice. So nice that last week I took it to the beach, through cramped cities, windy deserts, huge mountain ranges and tropical forests (you gotta love the Mexican countryside!) for 10 hours straight, and didn't feel a single sore muscle when I finally got out. Yes I was tired, but simply from the sheer length of the trip. Their ergonomics engineers should get an award for this car.
It treats passengers well, too. Only two complaints: my girlfriend can't find a comfortable position for the seat belts, and I get carsick even from short trips when not in the driver's seat. The suspension has hard springs for a minivan (still soft, don't worry) but is not sufficiently dampened in my opinion, and although this gives it its cornering ability, the high mass means that the body wobbles all over the place after even the slightest turn.
An alien-faced van. Not too much to comment on here, except that the wheels are cool.
RELIABILITY AND SERVICE.
I must say I'm disappointed with it. I know the vehicle has been abused by my brother, but some of the problems we've had cannot be explain by wear and tear. For example: how in hell did the exhaust manifold become loose and break? The differential failing... well, that could be from his aggressive driving and weekly trips to dirt roads, but the CD player behaving erratically? Come on! That's surely nothing to do with normal wear! In contrast, my Toyota Matrix is just as old and has NEVER had a single mechanical problem of any sort. It's better than Chrysler and Volkswagen, just not as good as other Toyota's.
The quality of Toyota service depends on the dealership, but is always way above average in both speed and attention. Certainly miles above any European or American maker.