New CC Feature: Is It Bigger Than A Town Car?

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Time for a new series that will appear occasionally here at CC: Is It Bigger Than A Town Car! As a new owner of one of Wixom’s plush luxury cruisers, I notice that when most people hear I own one, they say “Oh, what a land yacht!” Well, this car is actually only about three feet longer than my Volvo V50, and about 11″ wider. Not double the size, which is what most of my non-automotive friends initially think. This week, in honor of Van Week, let’s look at the Sienna. And yes, I know it’s a minivan, but after this post you may think otherwise.

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When the current-gen Sienna came out, I thought they looked pretty decent in print ads and on TV. But the first time I saw one on the road I thought Dang! What a lardass! “Oh Tom, you’re not being fair. With modern safety features, the new Sienna MUST be bigger.” OK, message noted. Let’s agree to disagree.

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Now, in this shot the Lincoln does look much longer, but part of it is perspective. Indeed, the 2013 Sienna is shorter, at 200.2″ to the Cartier’s 215.3″, but for a MINIvan, that is suspiciously large. Just a bit over one foot? Really! And the Lincoln is only one-tenth of an inch wider. But where the Sienna’s blubberiness is readily apparent is in curb weight, where the porky Toyota tips (breaks?) the scales at 4,310 lbs. At 4,015, my Lincoln is about one football player lighter.

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In the close-up shots, you can clearly see the Lincoln’s tail is longer than the van, but I did my best to line the noses up on the same imaginary line–even got out of the car to adjust it. Now, I knew the Sienna was bigger than the last couple generations, but I still kind of expected to see the Lincoln eclipse it–except for height of course.

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Yep, minivans are getting bigger–to accommodate portlier children, perhaps? My parents’ 1992 Grand Caravan ES was 192.8″ long, 72″ wide. It actually had the very same wheelbase as this Toyota–119.3–but park one next to a new Sienna and it looks like the newer model has spent a little too much time at Old Country Buffet!

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Inside it is attractive but a bit bland (on a Toyota? No!). I have always wondered why so many minivans have cloth seating. I mean, they are generally kid haulers, and with motion sickness, candy overdose etc. it would seem that vinyl would be a better bet. Or maybe cloth front buckets, and the second- and third-row seats in vinyl?

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Clearly, the Lincoln has the Sienna beat in plush interior surroundings. No Cartier clock on the Toy, for openers!

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The Sienna’s weight gain is reflected in its fuel economy. I have been driving the Lincoln for about a month now, and have been averaging about 20-21 mpg when I drive it. Not much different, and my car has a V8. Where’s the Toyota efficiency, man?

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OK, it’s a different world now. Stricter regulations, stricter CAFE, etc., ad infinitum. I know. I get it. But I still am suprised to see the Sienna become much less of a minivan than the original. Back in my banking days, a loan officer I knew had a first-gen Sienna, and it was a nice size, comfortable, and Jay liked it quite a bit. No trouble with it, either. But like so many modern cars, each successive generation of Sienna has had more weight and less glass area than the last.

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I for one, do not like this trend. This poor Sienna just happened to be a convenient target; I’m sure it’s a very nice, quiet, versatile vehicle. I actually like many of the new Toyotas, as seen in my Toyota Sunday post a few months back–particularly the Scion FR-S and new Avalon. But when a minivan weighs more than a Lincoln Town Car, you have to wonder where exactly the “mini” went. At least I do.

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