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Toyota Sienna In Snow & Winter Driving? (Explained)

The Toyota Sienna has all the goodies we’ve come to love on family-friendly minivans–luxurious interiors, expansive cargo holds, and refined ride quality.

How well does it handle in snow and winter? Read on to find out.

Here is the short answer to whether the Toyota Sienna is good for snow and winter driving:

The Toyota Sienna comes with a slew of drive assistance features that make it ideal for snow and winter. It is the only minivan that has all-wheel-drive (AWD) capability, an essential feature for driving in winter conditions. The vehicle also has ABS, Stability Control, and Traction Control. 

Is a Toyota Sienna Good in the Snow?

When you think of cars you can drive with confidence in snow, we’d bet a minivan is the last vehicle on your mind.

You’d probably pick a large pickup such as the Tundra or a rugged SUV like the 4Runner over the Sienna when choosing a snow vehicle.

No doubt the aforementioned vehicles are excellent in snow; but the Sienna is just as good on the white stuff.

The Sienna is the only minivan with AWD capability, a factor that contributes significantly to the Sienna’s prowess in navigating snowed-out roads.

The Sienna’s sturdy body means it is powerful enough to wade through deep snow with ease.

That the model has a decent ground clearance of about six inches also helps with tackling snow on roads.

What Features Will Improve Winter Driving?

Since its release in 1997, the Toyota Sienna has acquired a reputation for being able to navigate roads in the harshest of winter conditions.

Below, we discuss the features responsible for the Sienna’s exceptional winter performance:

1. All Wheel Drive (AWD)

The All-Wheel Drive feature on the Toyota Sienna is partly why it is considered the best minivan for winter driving. Essentially, AWD helps deliver more traction to the wheels to prevent them from spinning and going out of control.

While AWD and 4WD are used interchangeably, they are not the same.

The AWD doesn’t send power equally to all four wheels like the 4WD. Rather, it sends power to two wheels and when the other two are slipping; it sends power to them as well.

AWD is important for winter driving because it prevents loss of traction on slick surfaces. Once the wheels start slipping, the AWD kicks in and ensures your vehicle remains stable.

2. Daytime Running Lights

Winter weather is notorious for its low visibility–a factor that makes driving risky. The Daytime Running Lights on the Toyota Sienna ensure you can see clearly and drive safely.

3. Traction Control (TRAC)

As the name suggests, the Traction Control feature on the Toyota Sienna controls the amount of traction your vehicle gets. More importantly, it ensures that the wheels don’t lose traction and spin out of control.

To do this, TRAC monitors wheel operation and senses if a wheel is spinning and not gripping the road. Once it detects that a wheel is losing traction it slows the vehicle, allowing the tire to make proper contact with the road.

TRAC is useful when driving in winter because it ensures your vehicle maintains adequate traction on even the slickest of surfaces.

4. Anti-Lock Brake System and Electronic Brake-Force Distribution

The Anti-Lock Brake System (ABS) and Electronic Brake-Force Distribution (EBD) combine to make driving in winter safer.

As you know, it’s easy to lock up your wheels when braking on wet ground. Wheel lockup is dangerous as it can make you lose control of your car.

The ABS will reduce brake force supplied on a wheel that’s about to lock.

Meanwhile, the EBD shifts brake force away from a wheel that’s about to go into lockup. Both actions will stop your vehicle’s wheels from locking up on ice or snow.

5. Stability Control

Stability control helps your vehicle stay on the road even in low-traction conditions such as snow and ice. If Stability Control detects that the vehicle is veering off the road, it will slow down the vehicle, so it doesn’t crash.

Also read our article about driving the Honda Odyssey in snow and winter.

Does a Toyota Sienna Have Snow Mode?

Some new vehicles have a feature called the Snow Mode that helps with driving in snow.

It reduces the torque a vehicle requires to accelerate, thus, forestalling excessive wheel spin. This ensures the vehicle doesn’t lose traction on snowy surfaces.

The Toyota Siennas doesn’t have a Snow Mode system; but this doesn’t remove from its snow driving ability.

You get Traction Control, ABS, and Stability Control on the Sienna–features that improve the minivan’s snow driving capabilities.

Besides, the Sienna has All-Wheel Drive capability which improves its performance in snow.

Can You Install Additional Snow Gear on Toyota Sienna?

It is possible to install additional snow equipment on your Toyota Sienna. However, it is necessary that you do it properly to avoid problems.

For example, you should know your tire size before you buy snow chains or snow socks for it.

Similarly, you should know your wheel size before buying snow tires for your Sienna.

Installing extra snow gear on your Sienna can help bolster its driving capability in snow and other winter conditions.

Snow tires, for example, have deep grooves designed to increase traction on both ice and snow. Snow chains, too, allow your car to grip the road properly in low-traction conditions (ice/snow).

How Much Snow Can a Toyota Sienna Handle?

Take our word for it; the Toyota Sienna is a beast in snow and can handle all kinds of the flaky stuff, whether light or thick.

The 2020 Sienna comes with over six inches of ground clearance, which is among the highest of any minivan.

Based on the impressive ground clearance and availability of AWD, the Toyota Sienna should handle up to four inches of snow easily.

In fact, expert reviewers who tested the AWD Toyota Sienna report that only door-level snow will stop the vehicle.

You can invest in a suspension lift procedure for your Sienna if you want to use it in even deeper snow.

How Do Sienna Handle Low Winter Temperatures?

Because the Toyota Sienna uses fuel injection, low winter temperatures cannot affect its performance.

However, if you use older Sienna that uses carburetion, not fuel injection, you may have issues with starting in winter.

Carburetted models have to warm up before they start in cold weather and may not run until after multiple attempts.

However, your Sienna can find it difficult to start in winter on occasions. Here are some things that can prevent your Sienna from starting on winter mornings:

  • The battery has little or no power
  • The battery has degraded
  • You are using oil that’s not thick enough
  • Your fuel lines have water in them
  • The fuel filter is dirty

Make sure to also read our article on 11 Toyota Sienna statistics you should know.

Can a Toyota Sienna Drive on Ice?

The same features that make the Sienna good in snow are responsible for the model’s good ice driving ability.

Boasting features like Traction Control and Vehicle Stability Control, the Sienna can get safely across ice-covered roads.

The presence of Anti-lock brakes and electronic brake-force distribution further removes the risk associated with braking on icy surfaces.

The Sienna has some qualities that may make it unsuitable for use on ice.

The large body mass makes it difficult to control on slippery roads, while its higher center of gravity increases the risk of a rollover crash. However, you won’t have to deal with such problems if you drive carefully.

Does the Sienna Have 4WD?

The Toyota Sienna models come standard with front wheel drive (FWD). However, all-wheel drive–a form of four-wheel drive (4WD)–is available as optional equipment.

The Toyota Sienna is the only minivan to offer AWD as an option.

The benefit of AWD is that it doesn’t send power to the four wheels at the same time unless some situation warrants it.

This reduces fuel consumption and makes driving more comfortable (driving with all four wheels getting power is often uncomfortable).

What About Older Sienna Models and Winter Driving?

The older Toyota Sienna has always been a minivan families could trust to get them through winter safely.

Almost every Sienna model, including the older ones, are suitable for use in winter. This is because they have features like ABS, EBD, Traction Control and Stability Control that make snow driving easier and safer.

However, we’d advise that you check if a Sienna comes with those features, especially if you’re buying used.

Some of the aforementioned features such as Vehicle Stability Control only became standard equipment in later generations.

Please also read our article on where Toyota Siennas are made.

Do Siennas Need Snow Tires?

Yes, you need to fit your Sienna with snow tires for winter driving. Why? Snow tires are the best bet for navigating those slick surfaces common in winter.

Some may ask, ‘What about all-season tires, aren’t those good in winter?’

The short answer is yes, they are not. The longer answer is all-season tires are hardly effective in winter because they aren’t engineered specifically for those conditions.

Snow tires have several features that make them better at handling the peculiarities of winter driving.

For example, some snow tires have circumferential grooves that boost traction on wet surfaces.

Can You Mount A Snow Plow On A Sienna?

While you can attempt to put a snow plow on your Sienna, it’s not something we’d advise you to do.

The design of the minivan means installing a snow plow on it may increase wear and even cause extensive damage.

If you want a vehicle that can plow snow and has minivan-like qualities–comfort, space, and so on–a big SUV like the Toyota 4Runner is a better option.

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