The Toyota Venza rides and handles like a car but offers the cargo space of an SUV. It's more utilitarian than an ordinary car, yet it's smaller and lower than an SUV. Venza seats five and comes with premium equipment and attributes normally associated with SUVs.
The Venza is built on the platform of the previous-generation (2007-2011) Camry, and is assembled in the same plant in Georgetown, Kentucky.
But the Venza is more than an upscale, contemporary rendition of a Camry station wagon. The Venza is more original than that, and more functional, loaded with a mix of highly evolved features and fresh design ideas. Venza compares most closely with the Honda Crosstour, which is based on the Accord.
Venza is essentially a tall car, with a roomy, cleverly designed interior, that can handle the hauling tasks that make SUVs a popular choice. It's a family car, a good daily runabout that's easy to drive and park. And it's highly useful, for moving people, pets and grocery-getting. We found it spacious and comfortable. And it's much better looking than the Honda Crosstour.
Venza is available with a 2.7-liter four-cylinder engine or a 3.5-liter V6, both backed by a 6-speed automatic transmission. It's available in all-wheel-drive (AWD) and front-wheel-drive (FWD) configurations.
The four-cylinder makes 182 horsepower and 182 pound-feet of torque and gets an EPA-estimated 21/27 mpg City/Highway. The V6 is rated at 268 horsepower and 246 pound-feet of torque and is rated at 18/25 mpg with all-wheel drive.
On the road, the Venza feels like a car. It rides smoothly and quietly and steers easily. We were impressed with its stability on slippery roads, whether equipped with all-wheel drive or not. Although there are some SUV attributes, such as the higher seat height and a high degree of cargo versatility, from the driver's seat you'd swear you were in a four-door sedan.
The 2012 Toyota Venza is offered in three trim levels: LE, XLE, and Limited. Venza LE and XLE offer a choice of four-cylinder or V6 power, while the Limited comes only with the V6. All four-cylinder models roll on 245/55R19 tires, while V6s upgrade to 245/50R20. All three grades come with front-wheel drive or optional all-wheel drive ($1450). All Venzas come with a 6-speed automatic transmission.
Venza LE ($27,425) and LE V6 ($29,250) come well equipped with cloth upholstery; dual-zone automatic climate control with air filter and second-row vents; eight-way power-adjustable driver's seat; power windows, power locks, power mirrors, cruise control; 3.5-inch multi-information display; tilt/telescopic steering wheel with audio controls; dual vanity mirrors; overhead console with map lights; rear-seat reading lamps; cargo cover; three 12-volt power outlets; multi-projector-beam headlamps with auto on-off; integrated fog lamps; UV reduction windshield; privacy glass; and aluminum-alloy wheels. Standard audio is a six-speaker AM/FM/6CD/MP3/WMA system with satellite radio, Bluetooth hands-free phone and music streaming, USB port with iPod connectivity, auxiliary audio jack and auto sound leveling. An LE Convenience Package ($750) adds a power liftgate and a rearview camera. The Preferred Package ($1800) includes the Convenience Package plus a panoramic glass roof that incorporates a power moonroof up front.
Venza XLE ($29,775) and XLE V6 ($31,600) upgrade with leather seating surfaces, steering wheel and shift knob; a four-way power passenger seat; multi-stage heated front seats; satin mahogany wood-grain interior trim; anti-theft system with alarm and engine immobilizer; Smart Key with pushbutton start and illuminated entry; power rear liftgate and a back-up camera. Also standard on the XLE is a multi-information display that can be customized to adjust the font size and content. The XLE Premium Package ($2,130) includes the panoramic roof with moonroof, and a 13-speaker JBL Synthesis surround-sound system that retains all the input options and connectivity features of the standard audio setup. Or choose the Navigation Package ($2,580), which bundles voice-activated touch screen DVD navigation and an integrated back-up camera with the same JBL audio system.
Venza Limited ($36,465) includes the navigation package with JBL audio, panoramic glass roof with front power moonroof, plus high-intensity discharge (HID) headlamps with automatic high beams.
All V6 models are available with a Tow Prep Package ($220) that includes an engine oil cooler, larger radiator fan and heavy-duty alternator. (All listed prices are Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Prices, which do not include destination charge and may change at any time without notice.)
Venza also offers an array of pet-friendly, dealer-installed accessories, including a rear liftgate pet ramp; booster seat with harness; rear seat zipline-style harnesses; pet carriers; and bucket seat, bench seat and hammock style waterproof seat covers.
Safety features on all models include seven air bags and active headrests (front); Hill-Start Assist Control. Toyota's Star Safety System comes standard and includes Vehicle Stability Control (VSC) and Traction Control (TRAC) systems with a cutoff switch, plus Antilock Brake System (ABS) with Electronic Brake-force Distribution (EBD) and Brake Assist. A tire-pressure monitor system and child protector rear door locks are standard.