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Bill Brown

A complicated man.

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We bought a 2005 Toyota Sienna LE last night. It took awhile for me to become comfortable with turning into a mini-van guy because my parents owned a mini-van—a 1987 Ford Aerostar XLT, for the record—and I always thought it was a heinous monstrosity of a vehicle. It was woefully underpowered, lacked the cargo space of a van, and drove like a truck. The fact that we’ve got two kids and another on the way was one factor in the decision.

But the main one is that mini-vans have come a long way, baby. The 2005 Toyota Sienna is replete with niceties that evince an amazing attention to design and it’s got 3.3L V6, which is a step down from the 5.9L V8 in our Durango but still quite respectable. The Sienna has sliding doors on both sides and the huge windows on those doors roll up and down! That’s quite a nice innovation on Toyota’s part that seems completely common-sense once you see it. (“Why shouldn’t they roll down? Every other car in existence has rear windows that roll down.”) There are 14 bottle/cup holders in the vehicle. The second and third row of seats can be removed and folded flush with the floor, respectively. There’s a ton of locking modes that automatically unlock or lock the doors depending on the situation.

The coolest feature to me is the one that I’ll probably never use, but is suggestive of the overall thoughtfulness of the car: the passenger seat has a sensor in it that disables the passenger-side airbag whenever the seat’s occupant is less than 66 lbs. It’s a nice touch that really underscores the Sienna’s family orientation.