2014 Toyota Venza AWD V-6 LimitedPosted on December 20th, 2013
Five-passenger crossover with sporty performance
By Nina Russin
The term, crossover, has come to connote a range of vehicle types including those almost indistinguishable from SUVs to others approaching passenger cars. The Toyota Venza is the most car-like of Toyota’s crossover family that also includes the Highlander and RAV4. Think Camry with a more spacious, versatile cargo area.
Buyers can choose between front and all-wheel drive, with four-cylinder or V-6 engines. The test car is the upscale Limited all-wheel drive V-6 model, with 3500-pound towing capacity. Power comes from a 3.5-liter engine rated at 268-horsepower and a six-speed automatic transmission.
Twenty-inch rims dress up the exterior and give the Venza an ample footprint for high-speed performance. The car’s low center of gravity and aerodynamic profile enhance performance and extend fuel economy.
Pricing for the all-wheel drive Limited grade starts at $39,570 excluding the $860 destination charge. Standard convenience features include keyless entry and start, dual-zone automatic climate control, satellite radio, Bluetooth interface, leather upholstery, heated front seats, panoramic glass roof, heated power outside mirrors and a power liftgate.
The test car comes with two options: special pearl coat exterior paint and floor and cargo mats. Final MSRP is $41,115.
When Toyota introduced the original Venza in 2008, product planners expected the majority of buyers to be young families. What they found is that the Venza resonated with empty nesters that wanted the styling and performance of a passenger car, but needed four-season capability and a more spacious cargo area
Because the Venza sits lower to the ground than Toyota’s other crossovers, access and egress is better. The seats have a relatively high hip point, so the driver doesn’t need to worry about climbing out of the vehicle.
The cargo area has a lower lift-over height that prevents back strain and the roof is easier to reach for those who want to add a rack up top. The rear seats fold completely flat, making the cargo area bicycle-friendly. Its 3500-pound towing capacity enables the Venza to haul a small trailer.
Although it doesn’t carry the Lexus nameplate, the Venza Limited is in essence a luxury car, with the premium amenities buyers who plan to keep their vehicles for a long time like to have. Standard Entune not only enables owners to utilize apps such as Pandora, Bing and OpenTable through the car’s head unit, but also to contact emergency services or a concierge for help with directions.
Test drive in Phoenix
My 150-mile test drive included highways south and east of the Phoenix, Arizona metropolitan area, as well as rural roads through the Gila River Indian reservation and the foothills of the Superstition Mountains east of town. Although the V-6 engine can’t match the fuel economy of the smaller four-cylinder block, I think it’s the best choice for this car.
Curb weight for the all-wheel drive Venza is over 4000 pounds. That’s a fair amount of mass to move off the line. The V-6 engine handles it best. The bigger engine is also better suited for climbing hills and driving in high altitude areas.
The six-speed automatic transmission includes large overdrive gears for conserving fuel when the car is cruising at highway speeds. I found the transmission well matched to the engine. Even when I accelerated hard, there was very little shift shock.
An electric power steering system is more compact than a traditional hydraulic unit and therefore easier to package under the hood. On-center response is not particularly crisp, but I felt well in control of the car taking decreasing radius turns at speed. I would not be uncomfortable performing an emergency evasive maneuver or a quick lane change.
The Venza’s long wheelbase and large wheels make for a big turning circle: 40.7 feet. It is difficult to perform a U-turn except on extremely wide suburban roads. Conversely, there is plenty of power assist for maneuverability at low speeds.
The four-wheel independent suspension does a good job of isolating passengers from bumps and rough road surfaces while keeping the chassis flat in the corners. I took some of the steep hills on a rural road east of town at speed and was impressed by the way the MacPherson struts controlled float.
Large brake rotors on all four wheels stop the Venza in firm, linear fashion.
A large windshield makes for excellent forward visibility. Convex inserts in the side mirrors enable the driver to monitor several lanes of traffic to either side of the car. The standard rear backup camera projects a wide-angle image to the back of the vehicle on the center stack screen when the driver shifts into reverse, eliminating blind spots in the back corners and beneath the rear glass.
The large wheels and tires on the test car produced some road noise at higher speeds, but otherwise, the interior is pleasantly quiet. Passengers won’t be bothered by engine or wind noise, enabling them to converse or enjoy the audio system.
The Venza’s upscale interior can easily seat up to five adult passengers. Keyless entry and start saves the driver from having to fumble in his pocket for the key fob. I found the power driver’s seat controls easy to adjust, providing ample lower lumbar support for drives several hours in duration.
The large center stack screen displays the rearview camera image when the driver shifts into reverse as well as navigation maps, audio information and apps. I had no problems reading the screen, even on a sunny day with the sunroof open.
Redundant steering wheel controls are intuitive to operate, minimizing driver distraction.
Designers did an excellent job of providing storage space throughout the passenger compartment, as well as plenty of cup and bottle holders.
Second-row seats recline to keep passengers comfortable on longer drives, and also fold flat to extend the cargo floor.
The Toyota Venza comes with front, side, side curtain and driver’s knee airbags, antilock brakes, traction control, stability control and LED daytime running lamps.
Toyota builds the Venza in its Georgetown, Kentucky assembly plant.
Like: A versatile crossover vehicle with performance and handling similar to a passenger car.
Model: Venza V-6 AWD Limited
Base price: $39,570
As tested: $41,115
Horsepower: 268 Hp @ 6200 rpm
Torque: 246 lbs.-ft. @ 4700 rpm
Antilock brakes: Standard
Side curtain airbags: Standard
First aid kit: N/A
Bicycle friendly: Yes
Fuel economy: 18/25 mpg city/highway2014, Luxury 2014, Active Lifestyle Vehicles, auto review, performance, pricing, standard safety, Toyota
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