OUR TAKE: The Venza is a pleasant surprise. We’ve always been fans of station-wagon utility, the sort that doesn’t force you to compromise by having to drive a truck. The same applies here: The trunk easily swallowed up all the goodies from a once-a-month shopping spree at the local everything-under-one-roof store. The sharp exterior is more appealing in person than in photographs, and the interior is well thought out, with quality touch points, materials and controls. The cabin feels quite roomy, though three people might be a little too much for the back seats to accommodate for long hauls. But four adults can ride in this with no problem, and there’s plenty of cargo room to boot.
Fun to drive? Not really, though our test car suffered from an apparent misalignment that caused the Venza to pull to the left constantly; we assumed the problem was not due to some inherent fault of the vehicle. Still, combined with Toyota’s typically over-boosted and artificial-feeling electronic steering, it was irritating. The brakes also feel awful, with a mushy pedal and slow response.
So, enthusiasts should stay away. But buyers in need of a fair amount of utility and practicality wrapped in a stylish skin should add the Venza to their shopping list.
As-tested price: $38,444
Drivetrain: 3.5-liter V6; AWD, six-speed automatic
Output: 268 hp @ 6,200 rpm, 246 lb-ft @ 4,700 rpm
Curb weight: 4,045 lb
Fuel economy (EPA): 21 mpg
Options: Premium package 2 including leather seats, four-way power front passenger seat with lumbar support, driver and front passenger seat heaters, satin mahogany wood-grain-style interior trim, leather-wrapped steering wheel, leather-wrapped shift knob with inlay, HID headlights with auto high beam feature, smart-key system with push-button start, power rear door with jam protection, chrome-accented door handles, back-up camera, anti-theft system, color-keyed foldable power heated outside mirrors and windshield wiper de-icer ($4,345); voice-activated touch screen DVD navigation system with JBL Synthesis surround sound AM/FM four-disc in-dash CD changer and integrated satellite radio, MP3/WMA playback capability, hands-free phone capability and music streaming via Bluetooth wireless technology and 13 speakers ($2,590); panoramic glass roof with front power tilt/slide moonroof ($1,050); floor mats ($269); prep package ($220)
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