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Toyota's Sienna Puts Swagger in a Wagon

Who's manning up the minivan? Toyota is. Last spring in an effort to equate cool and minivan, Toyota's online ad campaign for the Sienna minivan went viral . Then, their popular TV ads made the term "swagger wagon" an automotive buzz-phrase, and male buyers took notice.

With good reason. The Sienna, according to Nick Stergiou of Toyota of Westport , is "day and night different" from its more maternally inclined predecessors, sporting Dad-friendly options (in the XLE premium package) that include a dual view entertainment center with wireless headphones, a voice activated touch-screen DVD navigation system with panoramas and integrated backup camera with dual views (regular and wide angle) and on-screen backup guides. And if those toys weren't enough to entice grownup boys to the Sienna sandbox, the Sienna sports a JBL four-disc CD changer with 10 speakers, as well as XM radio with a 90-day free trial of NavTraffic.

And, Nick adds, "The driver's seat is real comfortable. Men like it because it's wide -- almost like an RV's driver's seat." And, he says, driving it is "fun and sporty."

Toyota's not alone in trying to steer its seven-to-eight-seater cars away from the exclusive domain of soccer moms and "Mannies" ("Man" plus "Nanny" equals... You got it). Its commercials for the venerable Odyssey minivan have attempted lure men back to the van's driver's seat with heavy metal music, as well as some very grown up innuendo as to what might transpire inside said vehicle. And Ford has gone so far as to ban the word "minivan" from its vehicular vernacular, instead referring to its new C-Max car as a "people-mover."

Swagger notwithstanding, minivans have some pavement to pound before regaining the overwhelming popularity they relished in the United States only 10 years ago. According to Autodata, they now account for only 4 percent of new-vehicle sales, compared with 20 percent for their rival crossovers.

Nick maintains that a little chrome is going a long way. "The Sienna's gotten more sporty and men aren't embarrassed anymore to be seen driving one. It practically sells itself." When asked if it were selling itself to any single men, Nick responds, "Well, it's not there yet. But you never know."

What's your choice for a minivan? And who usually sits in the driver's seat? Let me know here, or email me, at jcurtis@mainstreetconnect.us.

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