Review: 2009 Toyota Venza
This 2009 review is representative of model years 2009 to 2013.
By Kirk Bell of MSN Autos
As automakers search for innovative ways to disguise the station wagon, the crossover continues to grow in popularity. Toyota says a whopping 60 crossovers are on the market today, including its own Highlander and RAV4 utility vehicles. Even so, it seems there is room for another: Introducing the new 2009 Venza. Toyota says the 5-passenger Venza is 70 percent car and 30 percent truck. It feels like a larger version of the Camry, with more utility. That's certainly a good thing.
Toyota offers eight option packages. Among them are a Lighting package with auto-dimming xenon headlights; a Towing package; a Convenience package with a power rear liftgate and keyless access and starting; and a Security package with an anti-theft alarm and a rearview camera. A Leather package adds leather upholstery, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, and satin mahogany wood-grain-style trim. Many of these features can be combined into two available Premium packages, and a Comfort package includes the Leather package plus heated front seats and exterior mirrors. Stand-alone options include a panoramic sunroof, a navigation system, a rear DVD entertainment system and a premium JBL sound system with Bluetooth cell phone link and audio streaming.
Standard safety features include dual front airbags, front side airbags, side-curtain airbags, a tire-pressure monitoring system, anti-lock brakes with brake assist and electronic brake-force distribution, traction control, electronic stability control and hill start assist.
Under the Hood
The Venza's AWD system is front-biased. On dry pavement, it sends 100 percent of the power to the front wheels. When it detects slip, it can route up to 50 percent of the power to the rear wheels.
Front-seat occupants will appreciate the Venza's small-items storage. The center console is very long and deep — one the largest around. It has cupholders that slide forward and aft, and a small cubby next to those cupholders that houses an auxiliary input jack and a 12-volt outlet. Just in front of the console on the center stack is a pocket designed to hold MP3 players or cell phones. Two bottle holders are molded into each front door, the rear doors have one bottle holder each, and the back seat has a fold-down armrest with two cupholders for a total of 10. Toyota also provides map pockets in the doors, a large glove box, a cubby with a change holder to the left of the steering wheel, and a pocket on the right side of the center stack with another 12-volt outlet. No matter what you're carrying, you'll find a place for it.
The rear cargo area has a handy 34.4 cubic feet of storage space behind the second-row seats, and a more useful 70.1 cubic feet with the 60/40 split-folding second row down. Those seats fold mostly flat (they tilt up 4 ½ degrees), and they fold down with an easy pull on a pair of handles in the cargo area. Unfortunately the seats can't be folded from the second row. The rear cargo area is easy to access, though, thanks to a low lift-over height and a wide rear opening.
The Venza's interior is useful in other ways, too. It may be the easiest vehicle to get into and out of available today, thanks to a natural step-in height and short side sills. The controls are pleasingly simple to find, with large buttons and knobs that make them easy to operate. Even the multi-information display on top of the dash is straightforward. The large gauges are also very easy to read.
On the Road
Like the Camry, the Venza isn't especially sporty. It leans more in turns than the lower-riding Camry, but eventually takes a set and tracks well around corners. With more size and weight than the Camry, it flops back and forth in quick changes of direction, though not as excessively as your average SUV. The electronic power steering feels natural, though it is rather light and not very quick. We'd call the Venza more car-like than the Ford Edge, but less sporty than a Nissan Murano or Mazda CX-7.
The Venza's new 2.7-liter engine is the largest four cylinder on the market. It is based on the 2.4-liter engine in the Camry, and the extra displacement helps. This engine has 182 lb-ft of torque compared with the 2.4's 158 lb-ft. The extra torque helps get the Venza moving confidently from a stop, though passing response is still a bit lacking. While other fours often feel inadequate in crossovers, we would not hesitate to recommend this engine, especially considering its thrifty fuel economy.
Still, many buyers will prefer the fine 3.5-liter V6 that the Venza shares with the Camry, Avalon, Highlander and RAV4. The V6 provides confident passing response and is capable of motivating the Venza from zero to 60 mph in an impressive 6.7 seconds. It's also smoother than the four, which can be coarse under full throttle. Both engines are mated to 6-speed automatic transmissions that require a deep stab of the throttle to coax downshifts for passing.
Right for You?
Kirk Bell has served as the associate publisher for Consumer Guide Automotive and editor of Scale Auto Enthusiast magazine. A Midwestnative, Bell brings 18 years of automotive journalism experience to MSN, and currently contributes to JDPower.com and Kelley BlueBook's kbb.com.
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