2024 Toyota Sienna XSE AWD: Same Again, Same Again

toyota logo transparent backgroundToyota is the best selling car brand in the world so it seems reasonable to have high expectations when getting into a Toyota vehicle. I used to be tightly aligned with the brand too, having owned a Tercel, a Supra, and a Prius in the past. My son has a 2022 Toyota Tacoma and generally it’s hard to beat the Toyota tech. Where the company has always been challenged, however, is in keeping the interior feeling modern and fresh; my son loves his truck but is entirely underwhelmed by the fact that the interior looks like it was designed in 2002, not 2022.

When Toyota offered me their flagship mini-van the 2024 Toyota Sienna XSE AWD for a week, I naturally was interested in and very curious how it would feel after driving a number of other mini-vans in the segment, including the lovely Chrysler Pacifica PHEV. It showed up in vivid Ruby Flare Pearl with Black Wood interior and was definitely quite attractive curbside:

2024 toyota sienna xse awd minivan - front exterior

Yeah, it’s dirty but that’s because it’s a vehicle that’s ready for every daily trip and journey, whether it’s picking up lumber at the hardware store, kids at the soccer field, or a few goats for your farm. Okay, I might have been stretching a bit with the goats (don’t worry, Toyota, I didn’t put any livestock in my loaner mini-van!). Still, the best way to test out a vehicle is to slot it into your daily life to see whether it’s better, more convenient, and more comfortable. In that sense, the Sienna was a delight with lots of space and adjustable passenger seats that offer the potential for VIP-level legroom:

2024 toyota sienna xse awd minivan - legroom galore

Where this is truly great is when you fold down the rear seats and fold up the middle seats, rolling them as far forward as possible. It’s an enormous cargo space:

2024 toyota sienna xse awd minivan - rear cargo space seats folded

The very back seats fold into the floor, as you can see, but rather surprisingly there isn’t a mat that then covers it all to create a uniform surface. Perhaps this is an optional accessory? As is, I did help my daughter move some furniture, including a couple of 5-foot bookcases that slid neatly into the space with everything folded down. The seat folding and unfolding process is manual, however, which is a bit surprising on a car with a price tag northward of $50K.

Where the Sienna underwhelms, however, is the front dash design…

2024 toyota sienna xse awd minivan - front dash

There are some nice modern touches, like the extra space below the gearshift which is much appreciated (it’s the perfect spot to tuck a purse or small backpack), but the overall design feels like it’s stuck in a Groundhog Day time loop without any design progress for a decade or more. The worst offender was the infotainment screen, which is nice and big at 9 inches, but the Toyota software is painfully antiquated:

2024 toyota sienna xse awd minivan - slow screen refresh

This is what Toyota is shipping in 2024? It seems like even a simple design revamp with all the same functionality would be an improvement, but why have the four unused speed dial buttons when it could show weather, for example? The Sienna also offers Android Audio and Apple CarPlay, but only when the device is plugged in, and only with a USB-A port located directly below the radio, on a shelf that also offers Qi wireless charging. There’s both a USB-A and USB-C charging port in the armrest storage unit, but neither are wired for CarPlay/Android Auto.

 

More fascinating is that the refresh rate of the display screen was oddly slow, meaning I couldn’t use it with my polarized glasses and that most of my photos ended up sync’d with the camera’s capture speed, resulting in odd results like this:

2024 toyota sienna xse awd minivan - slow screen refresh

Looking at it, everything was fine, but it seems a super easy fix to upgrade the screen to a higher refresh rate. This gets back to the update frequency of the entire dash and interior design, however, and while it’s all entirely functional, aren’t buyers of a 2024 model vehicle expecting a 2024 interior design?

To be fair, the main gauge display is attractive enough, and I like that the tachometer has been overlaid with charge/eco/power sections to help drivers master the drivetrain system:

2024 toyota sienna xse awd minivan - main gauge

Fuel efficiency was good though my numbers were considerably lower than the EPA estimates. Toyota reports that this vehicle should have been getting 35 city and 36 highway but I averaged 29.7mpg across a few hundred miles of driving. 30mpg for a vehicle this size is still pretty good, but 35 would be even better, of course. Since I’m at 5300-foot elevation, it’s possible it just needs to be tuned for altitude.

The 2024 Toyota Sienna XSE [the middle of the trim packages] is powered by a 2.5L 4-cylinder engine and the great Toyota Continuously Variable Transmission, offering a somewhat underpowered launch from a stop (you aren’t going to rabbit into traffic in this vehicle) but entire acceptable highway performance. Then again, the idea of a high performance mini-van is rather an oxymoron and potential buyers aren’t expecting aggressive or sporty performance from a vehicle in this class anyway, so suffice to say performance is just fine. The vehicle does offer a 3,500-pound towing capacity, but that might be quite a strain if you’re towing your boat or trailer into the mountains.

Like so many modern vehicles, the Sienna has a lot of overhead buttons and controls:

2024 toyota sienna xse awd minivan - overhead controls

Being able to open and close either side door or the back liftgate was quite helpful, something I used from the very first time I got behind the wheel. The XSE also features hands-free dual power sliding doors and liftgate, which was cool: With the fob in your pocket, a swing of your foot in the (subtly) denoted spot under the vehicle would unlock the van and open up that door. I found myself getting into the routine of unlocking the Sienna and opening the sliding door with my foot, then getting in and pushing the “CLOSE” button above my head when I was ready to move. A great convenience.

These accessibility features also crept into the keyfob design too:

2024 toyota sienna xse awd minivan - complicated key fob

Being able to open – or close – any of the doors was great and super convenient, coupled with the impressive range of the keyfob signal: I could easily open a door from 50′ away. The Sienna is full of conveniences and Toyota’s state-of-the-industry safety features too, including pedestrian detection, steering assist, lane departure, lane tracing assistance, road sign assistance, and radar cruise control.

2024 toyota sienna xse awd minivan - exterior rear

There’s a lot to like about the 2024 Toyota Sienna with the XSE trim kit, and while you won’t be confused into thinking you’re driving a sportscar with lots of cargo space, it’s a comfortable drive with oodles of room and flexibility. Toyota really just needs to give the dashboard – and especially the entertainment system – a refresh to stay ahead of the more modern design sensibilities of the EVs and competitors’ latest generation vehicles. Then we’ll really have a solid choice for soccer moms and everyone else who finds a comfortable mini-van their best choice.

2024 Toyota Sienna XSE AWD with 2.5L 4-Cylinder Engine and Electronic Continuously Variable Transmission. BASE PRICE: $45,635.00. Options Included: XSE Premium Package, 1500W Inverter with two 120V outlets, Special Color, Door Sill Protectors, Rear Bumper Applique, Cargo Tray, Wheel Locks, Floor Lines. AS DRIVEN: $52,374.00.

Disclosure: Toyota loaned me the Sienna for a week in return for this candid writeup. Which I much appreciate!

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dave taylor vertigo film swirl backgroundPlanet Dave is run by Dave Taylor, who has been writing about film, cars, games, and his lifestyle for many years. He's based in Boulder, Colorado and assures readers he's only occasionally falling into a gravity well or temporal distortion field.

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