The Bottom Line
As a rule, I never trust a reviewer who only says nice things about his subject -- which means I probably wouldn't believe a word of this review. So I give you my word of honor: What I am about to write is true. I am not on the take. I did not get a visit from a muscle-bound Toyota employee who warned me that criticizing the Venza could result in a permanent limp. What I did was to take a thousand-mile road trip in the Venza, from Los Angeles to Phoenix and back, during which I found almost nothing to complain about. I'll go into detail below, but the bottom line is that I think the Toyota Venza is brilliant.
- Excellent balance of power and fuel economy
- Roomy interior
- Well thought out from stem to stern
- Tiny backup camera
- Not all that much fun to drive
- Steep starting price
- Base price: $27,235; Price as tested: $29,664
- Engine: 2.4 liter I4, 3.5 liter V6
- Horsepower: 182 @ 5,800 rpm (2.7 I4); 265 @ 6,200 rpm (3.5 V6)
- Torque: 182 @ 4,200 rpm (2.7 I4); 246 @ 4,700 rpm (3.5 V6)
- Transmission: 6-speed automatic with FWD or AWD
- Wheelbase: 109.3" Vehicle Length: 189.0" Width: 75.0" Height: 63.4"
- Cargo: 30.7 cu. ft. behind rear seat; 70.1 with rear seat folded
- Curb weight: 3,760- 4,045 lbs
- Fuel economy: 21 MPG city/27 MPG highway (4-cyl FWD), 20/25 (4-cyl AWD) 19/26 (V6 FWD), 18/25 (V6 AWD)
- Warranty: 3 years/36,000 miles basic; 5 years/60,000 miles powertrain
Guide Review - 2011 Toyota Venza
Toyota introduced the Venza in 2009, and in the two years since they haven't made a single change -- and I don't blame them. What sets the Venza apart from most crossovers is that it wasn't designed with families in mind. The Venza was intended for empty nesters, with adult-friendly features like door sills that are level with the floor and rear seatbacks that can be lowered with a gentle tug on a single lever. That said, I found the Venza well suited to my kids, aged 11 and 14. The older one is 6 feet tall and liked the room in the back seat, while the younger one appreciated the space for the arsenal of books, toys and video games he feels compelled to take on every road trip.
Up front, my wife and I were happy with the accommodations. The seats are comfortable and the interior has some unusual shapes and textures that give it a bit more personality than most Toyotas. And the sheer amount of storage space boggles the mind -- I've got closets smaller than the Venza's center console.
I'm the guy who has to pay the fuel bills, so I asked Toyota for a front-wheel-drive Venza powered by the 182 hp 2.7 liter 4-cylinder engine. With five on board (me, my wife, the kids and Bayla the dog) and the 30.7 cubic foot cargo bay packed full, I figured I'd have to take it slow on the steep mountain grades east of Palm Springs. Not so -- the Venza flew up the hills at 70 plus, with plenty of room between the accelerator pedal and the floor. The Venza's ride is smooth and quiet, and the fuel economy is excellent: We averaged 25.9 MPG for the whole trip, including plenty of around-town driving in the suburbs of Phoenix. I've made this journey in several SUVs, and I can't recall any that were more fuel efficient than the Venza. (Matter of fact, I made this trip in a Volvo V70 wagon -- a car -- and only averaged 25.6 MPG.) The Venza is also offered with a 268 hp V6, but after this trip, I'm convinced the four-cylinder is the way to go -- although if I lived where it snowed, I'd consider paying the extra $1,450 for all-wheel-drive.
I can't say the Venza is completely flawless (which is a relief -- maybe I can trust this review!). The backup camera is too small to be useful, and like most Toyotas, the Venza isn't particularly fun to drive. Still, neither would stop me from buying one.
What might stop me from buying one is the Subaru Outback, which delivers comparable space and standard all-wheel-drive for a lot less money than the Venza. And if you're willing to try something unconventional, I'd consider the Honda Accord Crosstour. Though not as utilitarian as the Venza -- space-wise, it's more of a sedan than an SUV -- its good to drive and it definitely stands out.
I drive a lot of cars and SUVs, and few fulfill the promises they make as well as the Venza. The Venza is comfortable, practical, and strikes a nice balance between power and fuel efficiency, plus its good looking and built to last for decades. If you're looking for a five-seat crossover, I'd strongly recommend test-driving the Toyota Venza to see what you think. You probably won't believe yourself, either. -- Aaron Gold