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A Miniwagon in Crossover Clothing

This article is from our archives and has not been updated and integrated with our "new" site yet... Even so, it's still awesome - so keep reading!

Published on Sun, Oct 30, 2011

By: The LACar Editorial Staff

Toyota Venza

By John-Fredrik Wright What is a Venza, you might ask? Other than stating the obvious (“it’s a car; something to transport people and stuff in”), I am hard-pressed to answer that question. Is it a crossover? Is it a station wagon? Is it a minivan? I can’t really say it’s a crossover, since it really doesn’t have much off-road capabilities. If the Venza is a station wagon, it would be the big brother of the station wagon bunch. A minivan usually looks boxier and taller, so it doesn’t quite qualify there either. Maybe “mini-cross-wagon” is a new segment Toyota is trying to venture into?


In the mini-cross-wagon segment, the driver expects the driving characteristics of a station wagon (the best of the three), which the Venza somewhat delivers. We also expect the loading capabilities of a minivan, which again, the Venza reasonably delivers on. Regarding the crossoverness of the Venza, I suppose it would do better off-road than most minivans and most normal sedans (it has a slightly higher ground clearance), so I suppose it delivers here as well. The Venza does a good job at all three, but not a great job at any of them. This in itself is not a bad tradeoff, as most of us do not need the full capabilities of any of the extremes. To qualify more as a crossover, however, you will need to choose the AWD version. Our review vehicle was not, but it did have the larger of the two engines—a V6 instead of the four. Having all that V6 power under the hood and only two wheels to deliver that power into usually meant that we could get some tire squeak when mashing the accelerator. On the contrary here. Toyota does a good job of keeping it all in check. If not for the anti-skid and slip and all the other fun safety systems Toyota has, we suspect understeer would be much more present.


Given the V6, however, this vehicle has no problems getting up to speed, either from a standstill or to pass at highway speeds. The Venza’s gas mileage might not be it strong point, but the 19/26 EPA rating mpg is good for a vehicle of this size. The engine and the ease with which it traverses any a road, along with a very smooth ride, makes this a very competent long trip-hauler. In addition, there is a fair amount of room in the back seat, and the seating surfaces are comfortable as well. No one will mistaken the Venza for a luxury car, however. The abundance of plastic visible from the front seats does not help. However, if you look closely, the plastic does have a certain design element to it. This plastic has a texture and, to much surprise, doesn’t look too much like plastic after all. Maybe some real wood or brushed metal would be nice, but if I have to have plastic in my car, this kind ranks right up there.


Loading up the mini-cross-wagon, you quickly notice that it does a great job at hauling stuff too, not just people. With the second row up and ready for human rear ends, you can easily fit a couple of large dogs in the back. If a four-legged animal is not your cup of tea, then the space will prove great for hauling kid’s toys, your tools, or that random stuff that seems to gather in the back of large cars. For that extra cargo space, you can easily fold the rear seat flat and make room for larger toys. Now suddenly you can transport bicycles, short surfboards, and maybe the random furniture you might pick up at a yard sale on a Saturday morning. So, for a car that invented a new segment, the mini-cross-wagon Venza does a decent job in all three categories. Like previously mentioned, it might not be the best tool for off-roading, nor will it hold as much as a minivan, and you will probably feel a distinct difference in handling in comparison to a station wagon. However, the off-road capabilities might just be enough for most families (given that you have the AWD option). And the carrying capabilities will likely suffice for any normal family—at least those that don’t plan on carrying the entire soccer team around town. As for the station wagon in the Venza, the only thing it doesn’t do quite as well is to take tight corners at high speeds—and I’m not allowed to do that with any car my wife helps make payments on anyway.


For more information on Toyota products, go to SPECIFICATIONS Name of vehicle: 2011 Toyota Venza V6 5-Door SDN FWD Price: $28,300 (base) $37,024 (as tested including Premium Package #1, Navigation system, Panoramic Glass Roof) EPA fuel economy rating: 19 mpg (city) 26 mpg (highway) Engine size and type: 3.5-Liter Double Overhead Cam (DOHC) 24-Valve V6 with Dual Variable Valve Timing with intelligence (VVT-i)


Horsepower: 268 hp @ 6200 rpm Torque: 246 lb-ft. @ 4700 rpm Transmission type: 6-speed Electronically Controlled automatic Transmission with intelligence (ECT-i) and sequential shift mode Drive configuration: Front-Wheel Drive (FWD) Steering (type): Electric Power Steering; power-assisted rack-and-pinion Suspension (front and rear): 4-wheel independent MacPherson strut suspension with front and rear stabilizer bars Brakes and tires: Power-assisted ventilated front/solid rear disc brakes with Anti-lock Brake System (ABS), Electronic Brake-force Distribution (EBD) and Brake Assist P245/50R20 Dimensions Length: 189.0 in Width: 75.0 in Height: 63.4 in Curb weight: 3870 lbs


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