I blame the Ford Flex and Mercedes Benz R-Class for the SE version of the new Toyota Sienna. For 2011 the Sienna is all new and it is a fairly remarkable minivan as far as minivans go. A spacious interior, swoopy new look, remote keyless entry and standard rear parking camera on all but the base model add up to a pretty compelling van.
But this time around there new Sienna on the block, the cool cat of minivans if such a thing could ever exist. See, Toyota says the Sienna SE is for those who see themselves as cooler than a minivan but since they're likely parents they can't deny the usefulness of a minivan. I say competition from family friendly and super stylish haulers like the Ford Flex, Lincoln MKT and Mercedes Benz R-Class led Toyota to such a radical attempt at cool. Family friendly layout + still want to drive something stylish + Toyota resale value = Sienna SE. Officially, Toyota says "The SE has a lot of design features not normally seen on a van such as a sportier grille and taillights, tighter tuned handling, and 18-inch alloy wheels to name a few."
OK, if that's the intent of the Sienna SE then Toyota can call it a success. As much as it kinda seems silly, I have to admit the sporty minivan sorta works. It does feel sportier and the look is more aggressive with that wide front air dam and rear roof spoiler. I even like the "sport" black and white gauges. Plus, it has the features that make minivans so family friendly anyway - side sunshades, power sliding side doors, fold flat third row seating and a large, very useful center storage box. But those useful features sort of miss the point of the new Sienna SE - this rap video produced by Toyota says it all.