2015 Venza New Car Test Drive
The Toyota Venza drives like a car but offers the cargo space of an SUV. It offers more utility than a sedan, yet it's smaller and sits lower than an SUV. Venza seats five and comes with premium equipment and attributes normally associated with SUVs.
The 2014 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 2.7-liter four-cylinder engine makes 181 horsepower and 182 pound-feet of torque and gets an EPA-estimated 20/26 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.
A significant facelift for the 2013 model year gave the Venza a bolder, better integrated look; particularly at the front end, where a few substantial and decisive strokes of brightwork brushed away the frilly grille of the 2009-12 models.
Changes for 2014 are more subtle. XLE and Limited grades now feature power-folding outside mirrors. And parallel-parking the Limited will be even easier, thanks to new front and rear parking sonar.
The 2014 Toyota Venza is offered in three trim levels: LE, XLE, and Limited. Venza LE and Venza XLE offer a choice of four-cylinder or V6 power, while Venza Limited comes only with the V6. All four-cylinder models roll on 245/55R19 tires, while V6s upgrade to 245/50R20. All three trims come with front-wheel drive or optional all-wheel drive ($1450). All Venzas come with a 6-speed automatic transmission.
Venza LE ($27,950) and LE V6 ($29,770) 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 heated mirrors with puddle lamps, cruise control; 3.5-inch LCD multi-information display, tilt/telescopic steering wheel with audio and Bluetooth 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; fog lamps; UV-reduction glass and acoustical windshield; privacy glass; and aluminum-alloy wheels. Standard audio is a six-speaker AM/FM/CD/MP3/WMA system with 6.1-inch touch-screen control, 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, and upgrades the information display to a Thin Film Transistor (TFT) unit that can be customized to adjust the font size and content. The Preferred Package ($2,850) includes the Convenience Package plus a panoramic glass roof that incorporates a power moonroof up front, and Toyota's Entune suite of mobile apps and information services.
Venza XLE ($31,810) and XLE V6 ($33,630) 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; power-folding, reverse-tilt outside mirrors; memory function for driver's seat and mirrors; and the upgraded TFT information display. The audio system retains all the input options and connectivity features of the standard setup, while adding HD radio, SiriusXM satellite radio (with three-month trial subscription), Navigation, Entune, and advanced voice recognition. The XLE Premium Package ($1,850) adds the panoramic glass roof with power front moonroof and a 13-speaker JBL Synthesis surround-sound system.
Venza Limited ($38,120) comes with all of the above, plus HDD Navigation; JBL audio; panoramic glass roof with power front moonroof; and high-intensity discharge (HID) headlamps with automatic high beams and LED daytime running lights. New for 2014 are parking sonar systems front and rear.
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.