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2009 Toyota Venza-Heels on Wheels Review


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2009 Toyota Venza

HEELS ON WHEELS: 2009 TOYOTA VENZA REVIEW


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HEELS ON WHEELS
By Katrina Ramser
San Francisco Bureau
The Auto Channel

INTRO TO THE VENZA VEHICLE Ford Flex. Honda Ridgeline. And now the Toyota Venza. All examples of new car shapes ready to push beyond what consumers know and love (and often get bored with). In case you're wondering if the Venza is right for you, Toyota states the vehicle "caters to buyers who are looking for value and the reliability of a Camry, the comfort and upscale refinement of an Avalon, and the utility and flexibility of a Highlander."

I drove a 5-door, 5-passenger 2009 Toyota Venza with all-wheel drive and the 268-horsepower 3.5-liter V6 engine. My test drive was pretty decked out – starting price for a Venza is around $29,250, but with the optional packages my ride came to $37,394. This included the $4,345 Premium Package (leather, heated and power seating; mahogany wood accents throughout interior; Smart Key with push-button start; back-up camera), the $2,590 voice-activated navigation system (plus CD player; Bluetooth capability), the $220 Tow-Prep Package, and $269 floor mats.

What makes the Venza standout – aside of taking a chance on a new shape – is unlike a sedan, the Venza has a rear hatchback that opens and closes with he click of the key fob for easily accessible cargo space. The drivetrain components are pretty impressive, too.

HEELS ON WHEELS REVIEW CRITERIA

Stylish But Comfortable Results: You might feel a little claustrophobic upon first seating: headspace is rather short and as one passenger put it to me "you feel like you're sitting in a kayak." The center console has flow but takes up a lot of space. But there's no doubt modern luxury reigns supreme in this vehicle, from the leather-trimmed wheel to multi-color Optitron speedometer and tachometer instrument panel. I'm always looking for hatchbacks or rear liftgates that open and close with the click of a key fob, and the Venza has this. The cargo space is as generous as any mid-size crossover or SUV. Passengers will love the second row which is one of the most comfiest I've had the pleasure of sitting on in a long time.

Reliability & Safety Factor: Venza is the first Toyota passenger car to offer Star Safety as standard equipment for all models. This features ABS with Electronic Brake Distribution (EBD), enhanced Vehicle Stability Control (VSC) and Traction Control (TRAC) and Brake Assist. This is a great step for Toyota – too many models, not subject to this maker alone, charge extra for VSC when it really should be standard. Toyota offers a basic 36-month/36,000 mile warranty.

Cost Issues: I'll throw out some other some similar 2009 vehicle prices at you (and their higher-end trims): Subaru Outback Limited ($34,927); Mazda CX-9 Grand Touring ($38,260); Ford Flex Limited ($42,390). That puts the decked-out Venza's $37,394 price slightly on the less expensive end.

Activity & Performance Ability: Not sure if I felt like I was driving a sedan (too big for car-like driving) or an SUV (but still lowered to the ground). The Venza also has an uphill and downhill "shift logic control" that helps select the proper gear for driving conditions – great for mountain driving. The Active Torque Control System lowers the torque between the front and rear wheels for steady acceleration during turning. Overall, the car has some serious ability to calm nerves in challenging driving situations.

The Green Concern: Gas consumption gets an average of 21-mpg with the 3.5-liter all-wheel drive V6 engine. Subaru's 3.0-liter V6 gets an average of 20-mpg; it also does better than the Mazda CX-9's 3.7-liter V6 at 19-mpg (front wheel drive only) and Ford Flex's 3.5-liter all-wheel drive V6 at 20-mpg.

FINAL PARTING WORDS
I think the Venza is right for consumers wanting something both different and with a reliably name – certainly if you want to stick with a sedan but are looking for larger rear cargo space and the ability to handle inclement weather. And compared to other competitors with its engine, luxury features and price, it comes slightly ahead.

©2009 Katrina Ramser