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2011 Toyota Venza Review

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SEE ALSO: Toyota Buyers Guide

2011 Toyota Venza
A Toyota Just for North America
By Larry Nutson, Senior Editor
Chicago Bureau
The Auto Channel

The Toyota Venza was first introduced as a 2009 model. Now for 2011, the only noteworthy change is a $200 base-price bump. According to Toyota, all aspects of Venza's engineering and design were targeted specifically for the North American market, where it is sold exclusively. Venza was primarily engineered at the Toyota Technical Center in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The design was the creation of Toyota's Calty Design studios in Newport Beach, California, and Ann Arbor, Michigan. Venza is assembled at Toyota Motor Manufacturing Kentucky (TMMK), in Georgetown, Kentucky, also home of the Camry and Avalon. More than 70 percent of Venza’s components come from North American suppliers.

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The Venza is a 5-passenger mid-size Crossover, or crossover SUV if you will, and competes with the likes of the Mazda CX7, Honda Pilot, Ford Edge, Nissan Murano and Chevrolet Equinox, amongst others. Toyota likes to refer to the Venza as a passenger car and some see it as a replacement for the Camry station wagon. It is an upscale, tall-wagon with hatchback practicality --- Americans have come to like hatchbacks via minivans. Larger and heavier than a wagon it does offer a higher seating position and an increased ground clearance of 8.1 inches for the occasional really, really deep snow or unpaved road adventure.

The 2011 Venza offers a choice between four-cylinder and V6 engines and both are available in front-wheel drive and all-wheel drive (AWD) versions. Venza’s standard 2.7-liter four-cylinder engine delivers 182 horsepower and 182 lb.-ft. of torque. The four-cylinder Venza is EPA-rated at 21 MPG city/27 MPG highway for the FWD model. The Venza’s available 3.5-liter V6 produces 268 horsepower and 246 lb.-ft of torque. The V6 FWD model has EPA-estimated fuel economy ratings of 19 MPG city/26 MPG highway.

Both engines are mated to a six-speed sequential-shift electronically controlled automatic transmission with intelligence (ECT-i). Venza's available Active Torque Control AWD System optimizes torque distribution between the front and rear wheels to help ensure stable acceleration and smooth cornering on all road surfaces. AWD offers enhanced traction and helps provide excellent overall handling in inclement weather. With AWD, EPA-estimated fuel economy for the 2.7-liter four-cylinder is 20 MPG city/25 MPG highway and for the 3.5liter V6 is 18 MPG city/25 MPG highway.

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With 34.4 cubic feet of cargo capacity behind the rear seat, that increases to 70.1 cubic feet if folded down, the Venza is well suited for hauling stuff. With 2500 lb. towing capacity with the 4-cylinder and 3500 lb with the V6, the Venza should work well for active-lifestyle folks. The 17.7 gallon fuel tank could get you somewhere between 450 and 500 miles on an all-day road trip.

All Venza models come standard with Toyota’s Star Safety System™ which includes Anti-lock Brake System (ABS), Electronic Brake-force Distribution (EBD) and Brake Assist, Vehicle Stability Control (VSC) and Traction Control (TRAC). Earlier this year, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) had announced that the 2010 Venza has earned “Top Safety Pick” status, the highest safety designation awarded by the IIHS.

The Venza mid-size crossover is also equipped with Smart Stop Technology throttle over-ride.

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The four-cylinder models ride on 10-spoke, 19-inch aluminum alloy wheels while 20-inch five-spoke aluminum alloy wheels are standard for the V6 model. Power-assisted ventilated front/solid rear disc brakes are standard on all models. Electric power steering (EPS) is standard.

Venza only comes in one trim level or model with an extensive roster of standard equipment including dual-zone automatic climate control with air filter and second row seat vents; a tilt/telescopic adjustable steering wheel with integrated audio controls; an overhead console with map lights; rear seat adjustable personal reading lamps and three 12-volt power outlets. Three different audio systems are available. Option packages and stand-alone options include high intensity discharge headlamps with an automatic high beam feature that detects oncoming vehicles and automatically switches the headlamps from high- to low-beam; chrome-accented front door handles that lock and unlock all four doors and the liftgate; panoramic roof with power tilt/slide function and a separate fixed glass panel over the rear seats, and power windows with auto up/down function and jam protection on all four doors.

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A rear seat DVD entertainment system features JBL Synthesis surround sound, nine-inch display, two sets of wireless headphones, a remote control unit, auxiliary mini-jack, a 120-volt outlet and RCA mini-jacks.

Options for Venza include power liftgate; Smart Key System with push button start; leather-trimmed seats; tow hitch; roof rack; carpeted floor mats, and a cargo mat. And since many folks need a “wagon-type” vehicle because they have a pet, a wide range of pet utility accessories, including a rear liftgate pet ramp, booster seat with harness, pet buckles and rear seat zipline-style harnesses are available at Toyota dealerships. Other items include pet carriers and bucket seat, bench seat and hammock-style waterproof seat covers.

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As an added value for customers and further decreasing owner operating costs--or increasing miles per dollar, as I like--Toyota recently announced that new Toyota vehicles will now come standard with Toyota Care. This new plan offers complimentary normal factory-scheduled maintenance and 24-hour roadside assistance for two years or 25,000 miles, whichever comes first. Toyota is the first full-line brand to offer a complimentary maintenance plan standard on new Toyota vehicles within its line-up.

The MSRP ranges from $26,475 for the four-cylinder FWD model, to $29,750 for the V6 AWD.

© Larry Nutson