2009 Venza New Car Test Drive
The all-new 2009 Toyota Venza is spacious, like a minivan. It rides and handles like a sporty sedan. And it has premium equipment and attributes normally associated with SUVs. Yet it's smaller and lower than an SUV. And far more utilitarian than an ordinary passenger car.
So what is it?
The Toyota Venza is built on the Camry platform, and made in the same plant in Georgetown, Kentucky. But it would be unfair to say the Venza is just 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.
We might be tempted to call it a smaller, nimbler minivan, but it's a five-passenger vehicle, and emotionally, much hipper than any minivan we know. If it's a minivan, it's one Dad won't be afraid to be seen in. And if it's a compact SUV, the Venza would be by far the quickest, slickest, hauler out there.
Truth is, it's really none of the above, but with attributes of all three. In simplest terms, the Venza is an upscale car, with a roomy, cleverly designed interior, that can handle lots of the tasks SUV owners might have become accustomed to. 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.
That's why Toyota expects many Venza buyers will turn out to be people moving down from SUVs. Other than the ability to tow loads heavier than 3500 pounds, SUV owners won't give up much by getting into a Venza.
Venza is available with either a 2.7-liter four-cylinder engine or a 3.5-liter V6, both backed by a six-speed automatic transmission. It's available in all-wheel-drive and front-wheel-drive configurations.
The standard engine is the 2.7-liter four-cylinder that makes 182 hp at 5800 rpm, and 182 pound-feet of torque at 4200 rpm. It is matched with a six-speed electronic transmission and, according to preliminary estimates, can deliver mileage as high as 21 mpg in the city and 29 mpg on the highway. The optional engine for the 2009 Venza is the 3.5-liter V-6, which makes 268 hp at 6200 rpm, and 246 pound-feet of torque at 4700 rpm.
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 2009 Toyota Venza comes in one trim level. It comes with a choice of four-cylinder engine ($25,975) or V6 ($27,800). All-Wheel-Drive ($1450) is available for either model.
Standard equipment includes cloth upholstery; dual-zone automatic climate control with air filter and second row seat vents; cruise control; six-disc CD changer with roof-mounted XM satellite radio antenna; AM/FM audio with MP3/WMA playback and six speakers; tilt/telescopic adjustable steering wheel with integrated audio controls; vanity mirror; power windows with auto up/down function and jam protection on all four doors; cargo tonneau cover; rear personal overhead lamps; dual exhaust; 14-degree rear seat recline; rear spoiler; integrated fog lamps; HomeLink; rear windshield wiper; electrochromic rearview mirror with compass; and cargo area one-touch forward-fold seat levers. It comes standard with 20-inch aluminum alloy wheels. Also standard are multi-projector-beam headlamps with auto on-off; integrated fog lamps; power outside mirrors; chrome exhaust tips; UV reduction glass windshield, privacy glass on two rear side windows and back window; variable intermittent windshield wipers; rear window intermittent wiper; remote keyless entry system; carbon fiber interior trim; overhead console with map lights; center console with sliding cover and armrest; rear seat personal reading lamp; 12-volt auxiliary power outlets (two front, one cargo area).
Options are available in eight packages with four stand-alone options. Stand-alone options for the 2009 Toyota Venza include navigation system ($2590); JBL Premium Audio ($1090); a panoramic roof ($1050); rear-seat entertainment ($1680); and Blizzard Pearl paint ($220).
The Leather Package ($1600) includes leather-trimmed seats, shift knob, steering wheel with satin-mahogany wood-grain style trim; the Security Package ($570) features backup camera and anti-theft alarm; the Convenience Package ($860) adds a power rear lift gate and Smart Key; the Lighting Package ($815) adds HID headlights and automatic high beams; the Tow Prep Package ($220) includes engine oil cooler, heavy duty fan, larger alternator. The Comfort Package ($2100) combines the Leather Package with heated seats and mirrors. These packages can be combined and bundled. Accessories include racks, cargo nets, floor mats, wheel locks, and an extensive assortment of pet travel products. Safety equipment is comprehensive, and includes seven air bags; Hill-Start Assist Control (HAC); active headrests (front). Also standard in all models is Toyota's Star Safety System, which 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.