Introducing The All New 2009 Toyota Venza
The Venza is a (mostly) carlike, (not too) small (high-utility) passenger vehicle. It’s based on the Camry platform, with which it shares some specifications, and has a high level of standard equipment. That makes it more than a Camry station wagon, and maybe less, in some respects, than a Toyota Highlander SUV. But what it does, it does well, and frankly, we think a lot of people are going to like it.
Toyota marketing sources say that the Venza is ideally designed to capture outflow from disenchanted SUV owners, who have been abandoning the truck market in droves. The base four-cylinder model comes standard with 19-inch wheels and tires. The V-6 comes standard with 20-inchers. That’s too big for most SUVs these days – the Highlander comes with standard 17-inch wheels. While large rims look good, smaller wheels and tires – even18-inchers – would improve the Venza’s ride quality and the tires would be cheaper to replace.
There are a few surprises that make the Venza stand out. The shifter is mounted in the center of the dashboard instead of lower in the console, between the driver and passenger seats. This allowed Toyota to create a huge cargo area in the center console, covered with a sliding cup holder tray. It’s a really interesting way of doing things.
A trip computer that displays the time, outside temperature and either driving range, mileage or average speed, along with air-conditioning settings, sits squarely atop the dash. This location is the perfect place for such a screen in terms of keeping the driver’s eyes trained on the road, and it’s unbelievably crisp and clear. This is also where the backup camera is located if you opt to get it as part of a $570 security package, without adding navigation. If you do get the nav system, the camera’s image appears in the nav screen lower on the dash.
Toyota’s biggest problem may be educating buyers, especially boomers, on what exactly the Venza is. It looks like an SUV, it has wagon utility, and it gets car-like gas mileage. It’s basically the car SUV drivers would want to drive – quite possibly making it the perfect car for today, when few people still want to buy an SUV.
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