By far the smartest and most startling automotive decision I ever made was leasing a 2011 Toyota Sienna XL mini-van two years ago. As I wrote earlier this summer, driving this car has improved my life beyond what any material object probably should. It will surprise none of my readers to find out that on the anniversary of my lease I have doubled down on the manny van.
Not only did I get another one, I've traded up to a 2012 Sienna Limited. Limited means, perhaps, there are a certain small number of them and are therefore made exclusively for only the most discerning buyer. Which might explain the price.
More likely it is an instructional phrase lest we true believers get carried away. It will hold seven passengers safely and comfortably, for example, but it cannot fly. Passengers in the backseat can enjoy a widescreen video of their choice on the fold-down screen while wearing crisp digital wireless headphones, but they would not be able to track terrorists and attack them with predator drones. It is, as they readily admit, limited.
However, it's almost impossible to complete a list of the things it will do. Allowing for a driver, it will transport six small hockey players and their bags. It will carry six fully grown Red Sox fans to Fenway Park two-and-a-half-hours gone and back. Seven, if there is one that nobody likes all that much and will sit in the middle back without whining about it. On the downside, it would also carry seven of the above-mentioned terrorists safely. Probably 12 or more unsafely, which I'd think in their case we'd want to encourage.
With a whopping 150 cubic feet of cargo space, the Sienna could deliver over a thousand wild caught Alaska salmon or approximately the same number of fresh baguettes, although you'd want to do that in reverse order. You might think it ridiculous to suggest doing either one, but it is no sillier than lacing sharp blades to your children's feet and sending them out onto a sheet of ice with crooked sticks, which we van owners do all the time.
The Sienna's stated curb weight of 4275 pounds seems an odd thing to list -- I mean, how many of us ever have to carry curbs? -- but if you are in that business I'm sure that is an attractive number. It would be more useful if Toyota were to list how many Dominican nuns it might carry (seven, just like Red Sox fans). Or cords of wood (one). I've personally jammed four bicycles, two watermelons, a diesel transfer pump and a bag of recycling into one load. Needless to say, that was an interesting day.
I know what you're thinking guys -- but Tom, we're all-American men who choose the cars we drive for more practical concerns, like, how does it make us look? Gentlemen, let me assure you, this van will look great on you. Far better than that little silver Audi you've been eyeing at the AutoMart which will only make your butt look big.
The manly van will show you are a man of taste -- salmon and baguettes? Come on. A man of faith -- loaves and fishes anyone? Nuns? Red Sox, for godsake! A provider - curbs and firewood. A protector -- predator drones. Not to mention a devil-may-care risk taker -- kids, ice, crooked sticks, etc.
Remember, American ends in I can. Say it with me, I Can Man the Van.
(photos courtesy of Tom Bodett)