8.16.2011

2011 Toyota Venza Review

Front 3/4 view of brown 2011 Toyota Venza parked in front of building
The 2011 Toyota Venza. It's like the return of the Camry wagon, but better.

Mysteries abound in the automotive world, and one I've not been able to figure out the past couple of years is why the Toyota Venza isn't an off-the-charts success.

Introduced at the time when the SUV game shifted from trucks to crossovers, the Venza was positioned right in the sweet spot of that group. You can get it with a four-cylinder or six-cylinder engine. It's got clean looks, lots of space....what's not to like?

Rear 3/4 view of brown 2011 Toyota Venza
The 2011 Toyota Venza comes with 20-inch alloy wheels standard.
If you expected that I'd have the answer to that question after our most recent week in a Venza, well...I hate to disappoint you, but I don't. This thing screams "winner" to me.

The test vehicle from the Toyota fleet was a front-wheel drive six-cylinder (you can get both the four and the six in either front-wheel or all-wheel drive) and started with a base price of $28,300. The six in question is a 3.5 liter DOHC 24-valve V6 that makes 268 horsepower. It's coupled fo a six-speed automatic transmission, and as a result, gets more than respectable mileage for something in its size class (EPA estimate: 19 city/26 highway).

20-inch alloy wheels are part of the deal, as are electric power steering, four-wheel disc brakes, four-wheel independent suspension, stability control, traction control, anti-lock brakes with Smart Stop technology, tire pressure monitoring, projector-beam headlamps with integrated fog lights, variable intermittent windshield wipers, dual-zone climate control with air filter, an AM/FM/XM/CD/mp3 6-speaker audio system with USB, Bluetooth and an auxilary jack, a 3.5 inch multi-information display, 8-way power adjustable driver's seat, tilt/telescope steering wheel, auto-dimming rear view mirror, power windows, remote keyless entry and cruise control.

Now let me stop for a second and point something out, because this is the umpteenth car in a row that TireKicker's tested that had a standard equipment list that looks like a car loaded with options from just five years ago. And consider the price again: $28,300. With all that. And 19city/26 highway.  Can you explain to me why Toyota isn't selling at least as many of these as they do RAV4s (the last one of which we tested cost 2 grand more with not much more in the way of amenities and considerably less space)? If so, click the comments button.


Interior shot of 2011 Toyota Venza
The 2011 Toyota Venza interior. Tons of Lexus influence.

Of course, there are options available and the Toyota press fleet folks found $9,179 worth to put on our test vehicle:
  • A rear-seat DVD entertainment system with a 9-inch display and two wireless headphones for $1,680.
  • Premium Package #2 (leather-trimmed seating surfaces, 4-way power adjustable passenger seat with power lumbar support, multi-stage heated front seats, satin mahogany wood-grain style interior trim, leather-trimmed steering wheel and shift knob with satin mahogany wood-grain style inlay, High Intensity Discarhge headlamps with automatic high beams, Smart Key with pushbutton start and remote illuminated entry, power liftgate, chrome-accented door handles, backup camera, anti-theft alarm system, color-keyed power heated outside mirrors with folding feature and windshield wiper de-icer) for $4,345.
  • Voice-activated touch-screen DVD navigation system with an audio system upgrade including JBL amplifiers and 13 speakers, a four-disc CD changer and CD-text display function for $2,580.
  • The  tow prep package, with an engine oil cooler, larger radiator fan and heavy-duty alternator for $220.
  • Floormats and cargo mat for $269.
  • "Courtesy Deliver Veh/TMS/NFS" (huh?) for $85.
That and $760 for delivery add up to $38,239.

Bet you're waiting for me to say "buy the base car", huh?

Well, yes....and no. Absolutely buy the base car. It's loaded and a steal at a price that even with destination charges gives you almost a thousand dollars in change back from your $30,000 bill.

But if you want the luxury and have the money, load it up the way Toyota did ours and you've got a discount Lexus RX350. Which is yet one more market for the Venza, and one more way in which I can't understand why you don't see one at every stoplight every day of the week.

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