Review 2009 Toyota Venza: where performance and design don’t quite meet


The Toyota Venza debuted in late 2008 as a 2009 model and as a new approach to the dreaded two words, “station wagon.” The Venza has a keen exterior and interior design. The Japanese manufacturer introduced the vehicle with hopes of attracting customers who want the comforts of a passenger car (camry) with the versatility of a sport utility vehicle (highlander). The combination defines crossover. In other words, the Venza is a modern-day station wagon.

The Ratings

Acceleration (6)
It's standard for its vehicle segment, but doesn't have the same peppiness as its primary competitors, the Mazda CX-7 or Nissan Murano. I drive often to the Monterey Peninsula and the stretch over the Pacheco Pass has a winding, hill section ideal for braking, acceleration and handling. The Venza fared well, with some moments of hesitation when accelerating on short, steep hills — even with the optional

Braking/Steering/Handling (6)

The AWD works ideally — braking is steady and firm. The Venza has 20-inch tires, so the vehicle powers along the open open road effectively. Cruise control operates easily and with perfectly gear shifter, the trio of functions mesh smoothly.

Cargo Room (7)
One of Venza's best qualities. Doors open wide and second-row seats flatten in a flash with easy-to-use levers. Height and leg room result in easy ingress and egress. There's plenty of room for five adults and not one front or back area is cramped or anything but spacious.

Controls (6)
Clean and well-presented, particularly the blue-time odometer backlit trim. The shifter is perfectly positioned at angle in front of the console above the same between the two front seats. Radio, heat and air-conditioning controls aren't intuitive, but work efficiently with dual zone driver and passenger seat controls


Details (7)
Seven airbags (including a driver's knee airbag, 10 cupholders, the one-touch fold-down seat levers, the wood grain console trim. It's all good and adds to the Venza's handsome appeal.

Front Seats (7)
Easy entrance and exit, good overall space (for a 6-foot, 185-pound driver), firm cushions and headrests

Fuel Economy (6)
The standard engine has better averages, of course. But the optional V6 gets 18 (city) and 25 mpg and that's good for the class. Some national publication's reviewers got less than expected even with more 1,000 miles of testing and several fill-ups.

Quietness (5)
At higher speeds, there's substantial wind sheer from the front window, but overall, the Venza falls in line with its segment.

Rear Seats (6)
Good recline and when folded flat offer 70.1 cubic feet of storage, more them the three topic competitors. It's not often SUV rear seats are comfortable and versatile.

Ride Quality

The optional 20-inch tires, the sleek design, quality materials and few shortcomings in any area add up to a good, but indifferent ride.

Total (62 out of 100)

Class — Sport utility vehicle

Primary competition — Ford Edge, Mazda CX-7, Nissan Murano


Standard/Optional equipment

Engine: 3.5L DOHC SFI 24-valve V6 engine w/dual VVT-i, 6-speed electronically controlled automatic transmission w/sequential shift mode, All wheel drive w/active torque control, 4-wheel independent MacPherson strut suspension w/front & rear stabilizer bars, Electric-assist rack & pinion, Power steering, Power-vented front/solid rear disc brakes, Dual chrome exhaust tips.

Interior: Fabric-trimmed 8-way pwr driver seat w/lumbar support & 4-way front passenger seat-inc: active adjustable headrests, seatback pockets, Fabric-trimmed 60/40 split flat-folding reclining rear seat-inc: armrest, Center console w/lighted & covered storage-inc: (2) 12V power points, illuminated cup holders, MP3 player holder w/wire management, Tilt/telescoping steering wheel w/audio controls Optitron instrumentation-inc: tachometer, LCD odometer, twin trip meters, Direct tire pressure monitoring system, 3.5" LCD multi-function display-inc: clock, outside temp, trip computer, Cruise control, Anti-theft engine immobilizer, HomeLink universal garage door opener, Power windows w/auto up & down, jam protection, Auto shifter-activated pwr door locks, Remote keyless entry, Rear window electric defogger, Dual-zone climate control w/filter, rear seat vents, Overhead console w/maplights, Rear-seat personal reading lamps, Carbon fiber-style interior trim, Interior chrome accents, Electrochromic rearview mirror w/compass, Dual sun visors w/illuminated vanity mirrors, (1) cargo area 12V power point, Cargo area tonneau cover, Cargo area lamp, Cargo area grocery bag hooks.

Exterior: 20" 5-spoke alloy wheels, P245/50R20 all-season tires, Color-keyed rear spoiler
Privacy glass, Projector-beam headlamps w/auto-off, Fog lamps, Color-keyed foldable power-adjustable mirrors, Washer-linked variable intermittent windshield wipers, Rear intermittent wiper, Anti-lock brake system w/electronic brake-force distribution, brake assist, Vehicle stability control, Traction control, Driver & front passenger airbags, Front seat side-impact airbags, Front & rear side curtain airbags w/roll sensor, Driver knee bolster airbag, 3-point seatbelts for all seating positions-inc: front adjustable shoulder belt anchors, ALR/ELR retractors for passengers, force limiters, LATCH anchors for outboard seating positions, Child-protector rear door locks, Side-impact door beams, Collapsible steering column.

For more standard equipment/option package information, visit:

Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price — $29,250.00

Price As Driven — $37,394.00.

Mileage Estimates — 18 mpg (city), 25 mpg (hwy).

Warranty — Bumper-to-Bumper, 3 years/36,000 miles; Power Train, 5 years/60,000 miles;
Corrosion, 5 years/unlimited miles; Roadside Assistance, Not available.

The Final Words — I like the idea of the name Venza, the mix of the words Venice (city) and Monza (the racetrack). It sounds right. The design is sharp inside and out, the modern body style to the angled position of gear shifter. But the Venza's overall performance doesn't match its keen looks.

James James, a journalist since 1976, is co-author of Tour de France For
Dummies. He owns several websites, contributes to many print and online
publications and is also the editor of A long-distance runner for nearly 30 years, Raia also rides his bike — to nearby coffeehouses. E-mail: