2023 Toyota Sienna Platinum AWD Long-Term Update: Grateful for a simple shifter

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We’re in a period of serious automotive interior design experimentation. And the results are deeply mixed. On the one hand, we’re seeing some really clever use of materials and lighting. On the other, we’re seeing automakers change control schemes that have been standardized for decades, often making them less useful and intuitive. Shifters have been a particularly popular subject for these reimaginings with automakers trying out dials, buttons and a cadre of monostable stalks. Our 2023 Toyota Sienna, however, doesn’t mess with success, and we’re deeply appreciative.

For the record, I’m not entirely opposed to experimenting with tried-and-true controls. And certainly, they can have advantages, such as taking up less space, particularly with dials. They can also be extremely stylish, like the orb in the Genesis GV60. But so often, automakers don’t actually use these new schemes to a car’s advantage, and simply do it just to be different. And new control schemes can often add a moment or two of thinking twice before using. It’s not much, but it’s annoying when there’s additional friction added to the most basic operations in a car.

That’s what’s been great about our Sienna’s super-simple automatic shifter lever. It’s a basic PRND line with a button to release it, and you click it to the side to engage the manual gear select. It has a mechanical feel, and the lever stays where you leave it, none of that electronic monostable stuff. And because of this, I can hop in, hit the start button, slip the lever into R, and be leaving my driveway with hardly a thought. I can feel what gear I’m in. I don’t have to wait to see the light switch to the preferred cog. I don’t have to navigate an odd path. It’s all completely natural.

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I know it may seem silly, but in a world where we have to navigate oodles of apps, manage loads of passwords and generally fidget with all kinds of gadgets and gizmos, it’s refreshing to have something that’s simple and just works. Something that gets out of the way so I can get on with what I need to do. So thank you for that, Toyota.

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