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Toyota Sienna is also a mobility access people mover

Sienna provides mobility - shown at Lakeway Regional Medical Center in Lakeway, Texas
Sienna provides mobility - shown at Lakeway Regional Medical Center in Lakeway, Texasaustinautoboomer by permission

The 2014 Toyota Sienna family van offers a segment-unique mobility auto access version – factory built – that enables families with elders, children or veterans - with physical challenges or disabilities - to go wherever they want whenever they want, together, with freedom.

Auto Access van offers true mobility for families with challenged members
Auto Access van offers true mobility for families with challenged membersaustinautoboomer by permission

We had the unusual opportunity to test drive a 2014 Toyota Sienna XLE Auto Access Seat family van this month. Normally, we would not expect to get a vehicle of this type as it generally has appeal to a more narrowly focused market – and general media auto coverage does not always reach that market.

But, today, with much more awareness and acceptance of mobility challenges as a fact of life for families with physically challenged, disabled or elderly members, we were very pleased to be able to drive this Sienna and show it to a number of people we know who are in that group of families facing those challenges.

Since 2011, with little fanfare, the Toyota Sienna family van has offered a factory-installed powered second row mobility access Captain’s chair styled seat on the LE and XLE grades of the Sienna. The seat is controlled by either a remote key fob or by buttons located on the seat to provide access mobility to a passenger needing extra help getting in or out of the Sienna.

This feature is actually a model variant – not an accessory - of the LE and XLE and, as such, is subject to every sales and finance incentive available plus qualifying for a $1,000 Mobility Reimbursement mailed directly to the owner by Toyota following purchase. The access seat is also covered under the new car warranty for the Sienna and can be serviced (if needed) by any Toyota dealership.

When engaged, the Auto Access seat rotates up and swivels out of the side door, extending clear of the doorway and then lowering to the curb level so that the person using the seat can easily transfer to or from a walker or wheelchair as needed. The seat looks very much like the other second row Captain’s chair and comes in cloth or leather. It is child friendly with ISOFIX latches and weighs just 144 pounds more than the standard Captain’s chair. Fitted with adjustable arm rests for added comfort and safety of the passenger, it can transfer and carry a person weighing up to 330 pounds.

The mobility Auto Access seat offers full comfort and support for any passenger using it and many do not notice its special purpose unless they see the control buttons along the side of the seat. There are no special batteries as it is powered by the Sienna’s battery and electrical system. The seat has additional recline and foot rest features to augment the already increased leg and foot room in the second row.

During our week of test driving the 2014 Toyota Sienna XLE Auto Access Seat family van around Austin and Central Texas, we used it as a standard family van and also to move a friend with a wheelchair who needs assistance getting in and out of a vehicle (including mini vans). We found the powered chair unit was quick and easy to use enabling the person to transfer easily (the leather seat surface works better than the cloth) to and from the seat. The wireless control enables the operator to start and stop the seat at any point in the travel as needed for added convenience.

With the 60/40 third row seating, we found that, when folding the shorter section flat (behind the access seat), we could place a collapsed wheel chair or other personal mobility device in that space and still have seating available in the third row.

The Sienna XLE Auto Access Seat 7-passenger model (Captain’s second row seating) model has an MSRP of $40,915 which is a $7,270 premium over the XLE as an 8-passenger (second row three-seat bench) family van. Toyota says that aftermarket installations by others can run $3-4,000 more than that – without the new car warranty and the cash back from Toyota.

The 2014 Sienna XLE is available as an all-wheel-drive (AWD) van, but the Auto Access model only comes as a front-wheel drive (FWD) in the XLE or LE versions. The XLE we tested was a very well equipped family van even without the Auto Access feature.

The Sienna XLE is powered by a 3.5L V6 generating 266 horsepower with torque of 245 lb.-ft. delivered through a 6-speed automatic transmission and has a tow capacity of up to 3,500 pounds while getting decent fuel economy (FWD) of 16/25 mpg City/Highway with an expected average of 21 mpg.

Standard features of the XLE with Auto Access included Power Brakes, Electric Power Steering, Cruise Control, 17-inch 7-Spoke Alloy Wheels, Vehicle Stability and Traction Control, Electronic Brake Force Distribution with Brake Assist and Smart Stop Technology. On the exterior, the Sienna LXE included Dual Powered Sliding Side Doors and Power Lift Gate plus a Power Tilt/Slide Moonroof.

On the inside, front seating is provided by a Leather 8-Way Powered Captain’s Chair for the driver and 4-Way Power Captain’s Chair for the passenger. The front seats are heated with adjustable temperature control. The Second row Captain’s Chair seat (non-Access Seat) is removable and has a Tip Up and Long Slide feature for easy access on that side. Third row seating is a 60/40 bench in leather and a Tri-Zone Climate Control System can be controlled both front and rear.

One of the features we really liked was the sliding center console that can be shared between the front seats and second row passengers. The illuminated console slides into the second row area to provide convenient access for both rows.

A XLE Mobility Premium Package ($4,870) turns this multi-feature access family van into a luxury ride adding the 16.4-inch wide Dual View Entertainment Center with Two Wireless headphones the enables wide screen second row viewing or separate program half screen viewing as desired; Voice-Activated Touch Screen DVD Navigation System with Panorama Camera and Integrated Backup Camera with Regular or Wide Screen Modes plus On-Screen Backup Guide; 10-Speaker JBL AM/FM/MP3 4-Disc CD Changer Audio System with SiriusXM Radio and Nav/Traffic, Auxiliary Audio Jack, USB Port, iPod Connectivity, Bluetooth Hands-Free Phone and Music Streaming; Chrome Accented Door Handles, Rear Parking Sensor and the Toyota Safety Connect Telematics System.

Already very well fitted out, our Sienna XLE Auto Access Seat family van then added Blind Spot Monitoring with Rear Cross Traffic Alert (RCTA) for $500 and upgraded fitted floor mats for $330.

The delivered price for the 2014 Toyota Sienna XLE Auto Access Seat family van was $47,475 and earns Toyota a ‘bravo’ for offering a solid, well equipped van that makes it easier for a family with challenged members to enjoy life together.