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2009 Toyota Venza 4WD Review

2009 Toyota Venza (select to view enlarged photo)
2009 Toyota Venza

MORE: Toyota Specs, Prices and Comparisons-Toyota Buyers Guide

By John Heilig

MODEL: 2009 Toyota Venza 4WD
ENGINE: 3.5-liter DOHC V6
HORSEPOWER/TORQUE: 268 hp @ 6200 rpm/246 lb.-ft. @ 4700 rpm
TRANSMISSION: 6-speed automatic with sequential shift
WHEELBASE: 109.3 in.
LENGTH X WIDTH X HEIGHT: 189.0 x 75.0 x 63.4 in.
TIRES: P245/50R20
CARGO VOLUME: 30.7/70.1 cubic feet (rear seat up/down)
FUEL ECONOMY: 19 mpg city/26 mpg highway/18.7 mpg test
FUEL CAPACITY: 17.7 gal.
STICKER: $38,493 (includes $720 delivery, processing and handling fee and $8,474 in options)
THE BOTTOM LINE: Toyota calls its new Venza a sedan, but it’s more like a crossover or simply a wagon. Whatever you classify it as, the Venza is versatile as a people mover and as a cargo carrier. Like most Toyota vehicles, it’s user friendly and won’t disappoint you.

The Toyota Venza is a vehicle that’s hard to classify. It looks as if it might be ready to compete with the Nissan Murano or Chrysler Pacifica, to crossover vehicles. With 4-wheel drive, it may lay claim to some SUV DNA as well. Toyota calls it a 5-passenger sedan, but if it’s a sedan it’s one of the biggest Toyota makes. It has the cargo capacity of an SUV. In my eyes, the Venza is simply a station wagon, without a sedan version, but it’s not politically correct to give an “old” definition to a new car.

The first thing you’ll notice about the 2009 Toyota Venza is its un-Toyota-like grille that has a “smile” that’s unique to the brand.

The second thing you’ll notice is the push button start. This isn’t unusual, but with the 2009 Toyota Venza you must push the start button with the key fob. The problem with this is that you then put the fob and keys in someplace convenient, like the cup holder. We did that once, and after shutting off the car simply walked away with the keys still in the cup holder. Eventually we learned to keep them in the door pull, where we’d notice them whenever we exited.

Another thing that will catch your attention is the multitude of storage spaces. There’s one by the driver’s left knee that would be good for cell phones. There’s a center console with a sliding top, and another console in front of it with another sliding top. There’s also a long thin compartment on the driver’s side of the console.

The one that confused me was in the center. Lift up the door and there’s a thingy in there that you push. We checked the owner’s manual and there was no indication of what it was for. In the press release on the 2009 Toyota Venza it is identified as a spring-loaded MP3/iPod holder, that has no bottom so that you can plug the wire into the AUX input below it with no wire clutter.

The 3.8-liter double overhead V6 engine offers good power through a 6-speed automatic transmission that has a sequential manual m ode as well. In my mind the manual shift wasn’t necessary, because it’s doubtful you’d be doing brisk driving in the Venza. The engine is quiet in normal operation. We did notice some tire noise intruding into the cabin, but that appeared to be more of a function of the road surface. Up front the seats are comfortable with some side support. Rear seats have excellent legroom with a low center hump that would make the center passenger not have to ride with his knees tucked up under his chin. The rear seats fold 60/40 relatively easily to create a huge cargo area. We used the 2009 Toyota Venza for our spring gardening errands. We loaded sod in the back and fertilizer to help it grow, while on the other side of the growth cycle we took branches, etc. to the local compost center. You can also carry as many as four golf bags in the back with the four golfers riding comfortably up ahead. In this era of overly fancy controls, it was surprising to see the simple HVAC controls in the Venza. However, they were easy to figure out how to get the temperature and fan speed the way we wanted them.

Venza comes equipped with Toyota’s STAR Safety System. This includes ABS, Electronic Brake Distribution, Vehicle Stability Control, Traction Control and Hill Start Assist Control as well as numerous air bags.

Among the options on our tester were the Premium Package #2 ($4,345) with leather seating surfaces, 4-way power front passenger seat with lumbar support, heated front seats, wood trim, smart key system, power rear hatch, back-up camera and fold able heated outside mirrors. The voice-activated touch-screen navigation system with JBL Synthesis surround sound added another $2,590.

Don’t call the 2009 Toyota Venza a sedan or a crossover; it’s a wagon, pure and simple. But wagons have evolved since my 1970 Ford LTD. You’ll like it.

2009 The Auto Page Syndicate