Not much has changed though, it’s still an attractive, competent crossover. In fact, Venza may be one of the best looking crossovers, simply because it blends the Camry’s sophisticated styling with a smooth execution of the rear hatch that looks more a modern wagon than square SUV. Some folks will take notice of this vehicle in your driveway. I certainly got more questions about its origins than I have for other crossovers.
It probably helped that my Venza was a bright metallic red and the XLE, or mid-level model with a gutsy 268-horse V6 and all-wheel-drive. Mine also was a bit pricey, starting at $35,080 and when you add an $860 delivery charge and $1,850 option package it hit $37,790. But don’t let that scare you off.
You can get into a Venza for $28,760. However, that’s the LE model with front-wheel drive and a more modest 181-horse, 2.7-liter 4-cylinder engine. If you require all the bells, whistles and techno goodies you’ll need to move up to the Limited AWD for $40,380. Like the XLE, it packs V6 power.
While based on the Camry, having the same 109.3-inch wheelbase and 189-inch length, the Venza feels more substantial. It weighs in at just more than 4,000 lbs. and is taller than the Camry too. Plus it rides on 20-inch tires, so it has a more aggressive stance and the steering is moderately heavy compared to the lighter feeling Camry.
Yet most folks probably won’t mind that because Venza seems pretty perky, its 268-horse V6 getting it up to highway speeds fairly quickly. Stuck in pokey traffic? You can floor it and Venza will respond quickly with its smooth 6-speed automatic.
Ride is still on the firm side, as noted in my previous review. The ride is mostly pleasant, but on our wicked city streets the craters did occasionally deliver a sharp jolt. There is not much rebound on rollers though.
Handling is good too with only slight play in the wheel and the crossover corners well with no lean. Naturally the all-wheel-drive system is aimed at helping in sloppy conditions, but ironically after the winter we’ve had, we didn’t have any slop during my drive.
I like the ergonomics too. First, the interior is quiet. Second, it’s easy to climb aboard the Venza with barely a step-up into the cockpit. Likewise crawling out is simple, just turn in your seat and step out.
The Venza’s flat seats help make for easy exits too, as there’s not a lot of contouring to the bottom seat cushions, and just mild contouring for the seat backs. But the XLE has powered front seats and there’s a power lumbar support and two-position memory buttons on the driver’s door.
The test crossover featured a black interior with perforated black leather seats and gray piping. The dash is a black plastic with rather severe texturing. Parts of it look fine, while others look too plastic with a reflective surface that doesn’t seem to fit this price range.
Yet the rest of the interior is attractive and more high-end with a herringbone and textured metallic facing on the center stack, plus that same herringbone design on the doors’ armrests where the power window buttons are located.
Generally everything is well laid out on this dash too, with easy to see main gauges, a tach and speedometer, along with fuel and engine temperature gauges. Way up high and deep on the dash’s center is a small digital readout with dual inside climate control temperature readouts, the outside temp and digital clock, plus trip computer readouts, such as current mpg.
The 6.1-inch radio/navigation touchscreen on the stack is large with good sized buttons surrounding it. Plus this is an HD radio and the test Venza added a premium package with JBL sound system, which did sound awfully nice, despite the $1,850 price tag. That package also included voice recognition, Bluetooth and 13 speakers, subwoofer and more. It also added a small sunroof over the front seat and larger one over the rear seat.
The front seats are good too, quite comfortable, as were the second row seats. Got a few comments on how roomy and comfy the back seat is. The front seats also are heated with dials on the console for each seat to be adjusted to several heat levels. However, anything beyond low was way hot.
There are some other pluses though, including power rear hatch that you can activate from inside.
The hatch also includes a rear wiper, a plus during Wisconsin winters. I like that there’s an inside fuel door release, tilt/telescope steering wheel and that the driver’s seat powers back when you turn off the car, making for easier exits. The XLE also has standard fog lamps, a cargo cover in back, and a plastic cargo floor that’s easy to keep clean.
Cargo room also is good there at 36.2 cubic feet, which grows to 70.2 when the split second row seats are lowered. And they do fold flat!
With the V6, the Venza also will pull a small trailer, its maximum towing capacity being 3,500 lbs.
Then there’s the gas mileage, never stellar in an AWD crossover, but this one is lower than some that cost even less. The EPA rates this at 18 mpg city and 25 mpg highway. I got just 19.9 mpg in about 60% city driving.
I don’t want to leave you on a sour note though. I like the Venza. It looks good and offers many amenities. But for value stick with the LE model or go with front-drive, not AWD that sucks up some of your gas mileage.
FAST Stats: 2014 Toyota Venza XLE V6 AWD
Hits: Good looking crossover with power hatch and rear wiper, quiet interior, well laid out dash and comfy heated power seats. OK ride with good power and handling, plus AWD.
Misses: Seats get very hot on all but lowest setting, textured dash looks cheap in spots and gas mileage is so-so. Pricey in AWD trim.
Made in: Georgetown, Ky.
Engine: 3.5-liter Dual VVT-i V6, 268 hp
Transmission: 6-speed automatic
Weight: 4,045 lbs.
Wheelbase: 109.3 in.
Length: 189.0 in.
Cargo: 36.2 cu.ft. (70.2 cu.ft., second row seats down)
Max. Tow: 3,500 lbs.
MPG: 18/25 (EPA)
MPG: 19.9 (tested)
Base Price: $35,080
Dealer’s Price: $32,733
XLE premium package (panoramic sunroof w/power front sunroof, navigation, Entune App, JBL audio, 6.1-inch touchscreen w/backup camera, 13 speakers & subwoofer, HD &satellite radio, audio jack, MP3, USB port, iPod connectivity, hands-free phone capability, voice recognition and Bluetooth), $1,850
Test vehicle: $37,790
Sources: Toyota, http://www.kbb.com