July 18, 2014 5:13 pm
Updated: July 18, 2014 5:14 pm

New Toyota minivan lets you scream at kids louder, with less effort

Visitors inspect cars on display at Toyota gallery in Tokyo Feb. 4, 2014.

Koji Sasahara, The Canadian Press/AP

DETROIT – Toyota wants to help you scream at your unruly kids.

The latest version of the company’s Sienna minivan has a feature called “Driver Easy Speak.” It uses a built-in microphone to amplify a parent’s voice through speakers in the back seats.

Toyota says it added Easy Speak “so parents don’t have to shout to passengers in the back.” But chances are many parents will yell into the microphone anyway.

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And the feature only works one way, so the kids can’t talk back. At least not with amplified voices.

The feature is an option on the 2015 Sienna, which is being refreshed with a totally new interior. It also has an optional “pull-down conversation mirror” that lets drivers check on kids without turning around.

Automakers are trying to come up with creative ways to make the out-of-fashion minivan more appealing, said Jessica Caldwell, senior analyst at the Edmunds.com automotive website. Last year Honda unveiled a vacuum cleaner built into the back of its revamped Odyssey minivan that got a lot of attention.

Such features are important because there’s little automakers can do to make the practical but bland vans more stylish, Caldwell said.

“I think they’re on the right lines of trying to find these features that people are going to talk about,” she said.

Toyota is unveiling the new Sienna mainly through social media and at a Baltimore arts festival this weekend. It’s due to hit showrooms in the fall.

“Driver Easy Speak” is available only on vans equipped with Toyota’s Entune premium audio systems. Prices of the van and the voice feature were not announced.

© The Associated Press, 2014

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