2009 Toyota Venza AWD
- June 20, 2017
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The Venza takes Toyota to a place it has never been before. Not only does this big crossover deliver SUV-like utility without the unruly ride, it boasts a degree of style for which Toyota is not normally known. From the grille to the tailgate, the Venza has road presence. The reaction to its distinct form surprised me. I half expected a somewhat tepid response – most onlookers nodded in approval. Spend some time behind the wheel and it does not take long to learn that the Venza’s beauty is more than skin deep.
For example, its size says it should be somewhat of a barge in terms of handling. It is 4,800 millimetres long, it rides on a 2,775-mm wheelbase and it’s 1,905 mm wide. That’s a substantial footprint. Carve a few corners and it becomes only too apparent that the Venza’s looks are deceiving. When pressed into a corner with enthusiasm, there is but a handful of degrees of body roll and understeer is a long way out, the V6’s oversized P245/50R20 tires delivering copious amounts of grip. The latter also explains the dialled-in feel afforded by the electrically assisted steering: Most electric systems feel dull and lifeless; the Venza’s is alive and predictable.
Conversely, out on the highway, the ride quality is vastly superior to that of any SUV. The larger wheel/tire package, along with the increased unsprung mass this brings, should introduce some harshness – it does not. Even the potholed tarmac that defines Ontario’s highways and byways slides by without the usual bone-jarring feedback. It is a pleasant cruiser that’s eerily quiet. At inflated speeds, there’s very little wind noise, and the usual sizzle caused by the winter tires the Venza was wearing was commendably muted.
The Venza also comes with the needed toys – in the case of the test car, it included the Touring package. At $5,335, it’s not cheap, but there are some welcome additions. The heated power passenger’s seat, smart key with push-button start, high-intensity-discharge headlights and the expansive panoramic sunroof being the highlights. The two-panel glass roof tilts and slides at the front; it’s fixed at the rear. It really opens up an already spacious cabin, especially for those sitting in the back.
The other part of the Touring package that’s a must is the backup camera.
The tall beltline limits what the driver can see behind the vehicle. Select reverse gear and the trip computer’s 3.5-inch screen shows what’s lurking back there. Yes, the picture is small, but it’s highly functional. The fact it’s bundled up in an expensive package is a mistake.
The rest of the Venza pans out very nicely. The driving position is first-rate and the comfort is there for all the riders to enjoy. Ditto the available cargo capacity. With the 60/40-rear seat upright, the Venza makes light work of 30.7 cubic feet of luggage; folding them flat, which is a one-touch operation, opens up a cavernous 70.1 cu. ft. The needed tie-downs, cargo net and privacy cover are also in place.
The driving experience is the Venza’s other forte. The 2.7-litre four-cylinder engine is good; the V6 is a sweetheart. Not only does it put 268 horsepower and 246 pound-feet of torque at the driver’s disposal, it does so in a quiet and unflustered manner. Much of the credit for its easygoing demeanour is down to the six-speed manumatic. It delivers the right gearing across the board. The low first gear accentuates the launch; the tall top gear brings quiet cruising. This team is also pretty good on gas – a test average of 11.1 litres per 100 kilometres was better than expected.
The beef? Whenever one slides the transmission’s shifter into the sport position, the box automatically drops into fourth gear – it makes no sense, at least to me. The better strategy would be to leave the transmission in its existing gear and let the driver pick the right time to initiate a downshift or two.
The final part of the driving experience is the Venza’s available all-wheel-drive system. Its proactive nature means it’s quick to reapportion the power whenever unwanted wheelspin surfaces. Under normal circumstances, it drives the front wheels until something untoward happens. Layering this ability with a top-notch electronic stability/traction control system ramps things up to a rare level. It takes a lot to get the Venza to come unglued.
The better news is that the system is realistically priced.
It would be very easy to dismiss the Venza as being little more than a gussied-up Camry wagon. It is so much more. There is a degree of flexibility to its makeup that goes beyond the crossover norm, it has commendable handling, the V6 engine delivers a ton of power and it is, with the exception of the backup camera, sensibly packaged. It comes together such that if I were Toyota I would be a little concerned about the Highlander and its future.
- Air Bags
- Air Conditioning
- Alloy Rims
- AM/FM Radio
- CD Player
- Cruise Control
- Power Locks
- Power Mirrors
- Power Steering
- Power Windows