The term crossover is one of those dirty words that advertising agencies came up with when SUVs could no longer cut it and automakers needed to figure out a way to move more units. While we tend to frown upon that kind of labeling because it leads to less than capable vehicles built upon a car’s chassis with rather boring styling and even worse performance. However one reliable Japanese automaker has made us eat our own words with the Toyota Venza.
Overall it looks like someone stepped on a Lexus RX and then pulled the e-brake so hard that all the torque from the VVT-i equipped 3.5 Liter V6 stretched it a couple of inches in the midsection. The Venza is smaller than the traditional truck and offers loads of luxury and performance, in short, Toyota has produced the quintessential crossover and is guaranteed to sell a lot of them.
Loaded with options like 20 inch rims, HID headlamps, multi screen displays, comfortable leather upholstery and wood grain trim; this multi passenger vehicle is perfect for any new car shopper who needs the space and practicality of a minivan, but wants the attitude and style traditionally associated with a fun to drive vehicle.
Continued after the jump.
The Toyota Venza is the definition of a crossover; it’s big, but not too large, it rides a little lower to the ground than an SUV or minivan and it looks somewhat sporty thanks to touches like the bright Barcelona Red paint work, rear spoiler and 20 inch wheels. The front end of the Venza is interesting to say the least, the wide grill and stretched projector headlamps when combined with the low roofline give the people mover a very squatty stance. The Venza truly is a large vehicle but because it is not so tall our Toyota was clearly something different than the previous Previa, a much sportier and more compact multi-people mover.
The Venza that Toyota provided us with was dressed up nicely with chrome accents on the grille, door handles and window frame while brushed aluminum was reserved for the roof rails. This well equipped Venza also came with a set of high intensity discharge light bulbs to replace the standard halogen ones. Don’t be fooled by the utilitarian nature of this chopped and stretched RX, the design team snuck in a few hidden speed inspired shapes that could be getting consumer’s eyes ready for a future super car. As soon as our editorial staff saw the taillight housings on the Venza, we knew that shape from somewhere, a Lexus perhaps. However no luxury badged Toyota has a housing that resembles the Venza’s bolted to their rear. If you look at a Lexus LF-A, you will notice a sort of spike that comes off allowing for a piece of the body work to become a more integral part of the unit. Well if you turn it upside down, fatten it up and paint half of it red; you have a Venza taillight.
The interior of our Toyota Venza was spacious and luxurious; the designers chose an excellent combination of warm tones for the dash and seats that when combined with the very elegant wood trim and soft materials made us wonder why it wasn’t wearing a Lexus badge. One of the first things that you will notice after you settle into the comfortable leather seats is that like most modern Toyota’s, the Venza features a pair of LCD displays on the dash. There is the traditional larger screen incorporated into the center stack which is complimented by a smaller 3.5 inch Multi Display that shows the settings for the dual zone climate control, fuel economy and a few other helpful facts for the driver. Meanwhile the larger LCD displays everything from audio settings to navigation. The Venza also came equipped with a very attractive instrument cluster and an easy to use dual zone climate controller.
The Venza offers seating for 5 and has more than enough cup holders to allow a few passengers to enjoy multiple beverages. There is also plenty of rather large storage compartments that conveniently let you stow away your goods. The Venza shines when it comes to cargo capacity, offering over 30 cubic feet of available space behind the rear seats and over 70 cubic feet when they are laid flat; there is even a 110 Volt outlet and audio/video inputs so you can play some video games while camped out in back of the Toyota. There was also a very convenient flip down monitor complete with remote control and wireless headphones that can keep the backseat occupants quiet on road trips for 90 minutes at a time.
Our well-equipped Venza came with the Premium Package #2, at $4,345 it seems like a lot of money and that is because it is, but what you get is well worth it. The upgrade starts off with a few more leather wrapped surfaces like the power adjustable seats, tilt/telescope steering wheel and shift knob. The next item on the list is the Satin Mahogany wood grain trim pieces that add a whole new level of sophistication to the Venza. The Premium Package also adds the HIDs and chrome door handles to the exterior of the vehicle, so the money is well spent everywhere. The Venza also came equipped with a $2,590 Voice activated DVD based Navigation unit that brought along an in dash CD changer, AM/FM/XM/MP3 capabilities and hands free Bluetooth connectivity.
You will never feel underpowered in the Toyota Venza that is because there is enough torque coming from the 3.5 Liter 24 valve VVT-i V6 to break the large 20 inch tires loose on even the driest of days and highway overtaking will be no problem at all thanks to the 268 HP and 246 lb-ft of torque while consuming just MPG in the city and 29 MPG at higher cruising speeds.
Although he Venza is not a light vehicle weighing in at around 3,800 pounds, nonetheless the sporty exterior was complimented by a sporty ride. Not only did the Venza have plenty of get up and go in a straight line, the low profile 20 inch tires helped it to go around turns with a bit more enthusiasm, making the Venza feel like a much smaller vehicle.
Why to Buy
If you are looking for a fun alternative to driving a minivan but still have to fulfill your carpooling duties, the Venza is most definitely what you are looking for. This Toyota crossover is packed with even cool gadgets than the traditional MPV and combines a very high level of sophistication and luxury on the inside with a very sporty and stylish exterior. This is the perfect vehicle for any man planning on conducting any covert operations that involve any school zones or soccer practices. Even if you just want a solid ride and don’t care about the stigma of a minivan the Toyota Venza is an excellent option when new car shopping.
Why Not to Buy
Despite it’s race car like appearance, the Venza is still a CUV, so there will be no Nurburgring lap times set anytime soon. Our only suggestion when shopping for a new Venza is to skip the four cylinder and go straight for the V6, the crossover is a little heavy, and might just be underpowered with only four pistons, besides there’s no such thing as too much power. There really is no other reason to look for a more luxurious car because a well-optioned Venza is absolutely fabulous, but if labels are your thing then consider a new Lexus RX, it’s a bit more top heavy and the looks are nowhere near as good, but you can buy it as a hybrid.
Other models to consider would be the Mazda CX-7, Ford Edge and Nissan Murano. All are similar sized crossovers that offer more or less interior space and power train options, however it would be hard to match the Venza’s level of style, luxury and performance.
Top Speed Final Verdict
We were surprisingly pleased by the Toyota Venza, everything from its price to styling and even level of luxury and comfort made this one tough new car to beat. Not only could our Venza haul some serious butt, it was capable of hauling some serious cargo. We loved the sporty appearance and stylish 20 inch wheels but the Barcelona red paint was one of the most important items to make the Venza stick out in our minds. Toyota has successfully turned us into crossover believers.