The all-new 2009 Toyota Venza is spacious, like a minivan.It rides and handles like a sporty sedan.And it has premium equipment and attributes normally associated with SUVs.Yet it's smaller and lower than an SUV.And far more utilitarian than an ordinary passenger car.
So what is it?
The Toyota Venza is built on the Camry platform, and made in the same plant in Georgetown, Kentucky.But it would be unfair to say the Venza is just 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.
We might be tempted to call it a smaller, nimbler minivan, but it's a five-passenger vehicle, and emotionally, much hipper than any minivan we know.If it's a minivan, it's one Dad won't be afraid to be seen in.And if it's a compact SUV, the Venza would be by far the quickest, slickest, hauler out there.
Truth is, it's really none of the above, but with attributes of all three.In simplest terms, the Venza is an upscale car, with a roomy, cleverly designed interior, that can handle lots of the tasks SUV owners might have become accustomed to.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.
That's why Toyota expects many Venza buyers will turn out to be people moving down from SUVs.Other than the ability to tow loads heavier than 3500 pounds, SUV owners won't give up much by getting into a Venza.
Venza is available with either a 2.7-liter four-cylinder engine or a 3.5-liter V6, both backed by a six-speed automatic transmission.It's available in all-wheel-drive and front-wheel-drive configurations.
The standard engine is the 2.7-liter four-cylinder that makes 182 hp at 5800 rpm, and 182 pound-feet of torque at 4200 rpm.It is matched with a six-speed electronic transmission and, according to preliminary estimates, can deliver mileage as high as 21 mpg in the city and 29 mpg on the highway.The optional engine for the 2009 Venza is the 3.5-liter V-6, which makes 268 hp at 6200 rpm, and 246 pound-feet of torque at 4700 rpm.
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.