Toyota Venza — An underappreciated crossover

By Al Vinikour

There are many descriptions used to describe Toyotas: bulletproof, dependable, trouble-free, vanilla, et al. One word one never hears is “underappreciated.” Well add it to the stack because I’ve recently tested one of the best-looking vehicles Toyota currently builds — the 2013 Venza…and it’s underappreciated.

Because it’s a sibling of the Camry it inherits all the attributes of its better-known family member and every comment made about the Camry can be said of the Venza. There are few times when I don’t object to being stuck behind someone in traffic but whenever it’s a Venza it “softens the blow.”

Venza’s design is highly practical, with a rear load-in height that is almost as low as Toyota’s other well-known people mover, its Sienna minivan. The EPA rates Venza as an MPV (midsize passenger vehicle).

Venza has an aerodynamic shape with short overhangs, forward A-pillar, a low roofline and continuous brushstroke lines that run from the front grille to the D-pillar. Its angled rear hatch, spoiler and wide wraparound taillights that interconnect with the hatch door complete its stylized appearance.

The 2013 Venza comes in three models: the LE, XLE and top-of-the-line Limited. It’s available in FWD or AWD and comes with two engine choices: a 2.7L DOHC, 4-valve per cylinder I4 with dual VVT-I or a 3.5L DOHC 4-valve per cylinder V6 (the V6 is the only engine available on the Limited).

The 4-cylinder puts out 181 horsepower and 182 pound-feet of torque and the V6 produces an impressive 268 horsepower and 246 pound-feet of torque. Both engines are mated to a six-speed electronic transmission with sequential shift. Four-cylinder models sit on 19-inch aluminum alloy wheels and radial tires while the V6 comes with 20”. Ground clearance is 8.1 inches.

Safety items are plentiful. They include Toyota’s STAR Safety System that features enhanced Vehicle Stability Control, Traction Control, Anti-lock Brakes, Electronic Brake-force Distribution, Brake Assist and the Smart Stop Technology. Furthermore, Venza comes with seven airbags, driver and front-passenger seats employ active headrests and Hill-start Assist Control. Just add driver awareness and Venza provides a safe haven for all its occupants.

Handling is superb thanks to its low center of gravity, rigid L-arm-type MacPherson strut w/stabilizer bar front suspension and dual-link MacPherson strut setup w/stabilizer rear suspension. Electric power steering contributes to Venza’s spirited driving dynamics by helping provide a more direct steering feel at both high and low speeds while delivering just the right assistance when maneuvering the vehicle into tight parking spaces. When properly equipped the 4-cylinder’s towing weight is 1,000 pounds and the V6’s is 3,500. Curb weight runs from a minimum of 3,760 pounds to a maximum of 4,045 pounds.

As good as Venza’s styling that’s only half the pleasure. Its interior is made for everyone no matter where they’re sitting. There’s an abundance of personal space with ample head-, shoulder- and hip-room. It seats 5 and passenger volume is 108 cubic feet and with the second row down the cargo volume is 70.2 cubic feet. 

Standard seating in the base-model LE is more impressive than the high-end of some other vehicles. It comes with fabric-trimmed front seats with seatback pockets, eight-way power adjustable driver’s seat, power lumbar support, four-way adjustable front passenger seat, fabric-trimmed 60/40 split, reclining, one-touch fold-flat rear seats with center armrest with cup holders.

Amenities include dual zone automatic climate control w/air filter; 3.5-inch LCD Multi-Information Display with outside temperature, clock, climate control settings, fuel economy information, average speed and trip distance; center console w/sliding cover and armrest… plus a warehouse full of storage space; the usual amount of power features; and more items than I have space to write about.

Moving up to the XLE will add: leather-trimmed seating including multi-stage heated front seats; leather-trimmed tilt/telescopic steering wheel with audio, Bluetooth hands-free phone and voice-command controls; Smart Key System w/Push Button Start and remote illuminated entry and leather-trimmed shift lever w/inlay.

If you really feel like spoiling yourself opt for the Limited because it includes everything the XLE provides plus Premium HDD Navigation w/Entune, a feature that includes a 7-inch high-resolution touchscreen w/split-screen capability, AM/FM CD Player w/MPE/WMA Playback Capability and a raft of other items that will make an audiophile believe in a higher power. Furthermore, Limited comes with a panoramic glass roof w/front power moonroof and high-intensity discharge headlights with automatic high beams and LED Daytime Running Lights. 
The high-beam feature detects oncoming vehicles and automatically switches the headlamps from high-, to low-beam.

There are various packages available as well. The warranty is equally good; 3-year/36,000-mile comprehensive, 5-year/60,000-mile powertrain, and 5-year/unlimited-mileage corrosion perforation. It also includes Toyota Care – complimentary maintenance plan with the purchase or lease of every new Toyota.

For two years or 25,000 miles (whichever comes first), every new Toyota will be covered for all normal factory-scheduled service as well as 24/7 roadside assistance. Finally, Venza can be ordered in one of nine exterior colors and three interior colors (cloth or leather).

And just how much is a 2013 Toyota Venza going to cost me, you ask? Not nearly as much as you’d think, especially when considering the large amount of content. A new Venza LE with FWD has an MSRP of $27,850 and they go up to the MSRP of a Venza Limited V6 w/AWD, of $39,020.

For all those “America firsters” who will only buy an American car, Venza is for you — it’s manufactured at Toyota Motor Manufacturing/Kentucky’s plant located in the Bluegrass State’s city of Georgetown.