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HEELS ON WHEELS: 2011 TOYOTA VENZA REVIEW


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Toyota Specs, Comparisons and Prices - 2012-1997 Toyota Buyers Guide

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

INTRO TO THE VENZA VEHICLE
I wouldn’t quite call it a crossover, because it looks more like a sedan. Or maybe a wagon. The Toyota Venza is part-car, part mid-size utility vehicle, but don’t be confused. The five-door Venza makes perfect sense because it is a go-anywhere, do-anything vehicle for five passengers with a lasting design you can embrace.

I drove a 2011 Toyota Venza with the 268-horsepower 3.5-liter DOHC V6 engine with Dual VVT-i and AWD that was paired to a six-speed automatic transmission. The Venza doesn’t have any trims, but just drivetrain choices along with upgraded options. A Venza with my test drive performance configurations starts at $30,400 has the following standard equipment: Bluetooth, 6-speaker audio system, dual-zone climate control, 3.5-inch multi-information display (temperature, clock, fuel economy stats), 8-way power driver’s seat, steering-wheel mounted controls, and 19-inch wheels. Optional features included a $4,345 Premium Package (leather-trimmed seats and interior with wood grain, push button start, power liftgate), a $2,580 voice-activated navigational touch screen with a backup camera and an upgraded JBL audio system, a $1,050 panoramic moonroof, and a $220 tow package. Total vehicle price came to $39,624.

Toyota took a chance three years ago by presenting to the public this flattened version of a crossover; as did a couple direct competitors like the Honda Crosstour and its more refined sibling, the Acura ZDX. The aforementioned vehicles look a little awkward – call it growing pains – yet the Venza has escaped harsh criticisms because its curves and dimensions seem to have created the perfect design formula.

HEELS ON WHEELS REVIEW CRITERIA

Stylish But Comfortable Results: It’s a snug (but welcomed) fit for the driver with a functional and flowing center console design. The Venza is refined throughout, from the intuitive touch-screen to the roomy second row. The Venza seems to have shrugged off the Crosstour and ZXD and wants to come after segment heavyweights like the Ford Edge and Nissan Murano. I’ve driven both. What the Edge has going for it is unbeatable interior technology and the Murano a reputation of being one of the best-selling mid-size crossovers on the market.

Reliability & Safety Factor: The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) rates the 2011 Venza at 4-stars overall. The vehicle is also a Top Safety Pick with The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). Star Safety is standard equipment for all models. The Venza also features ABS with Electronic Brake Distribution (EBD), enhanced Vehicle Stability Control (VSC) and Traction Control (TRAC) and Brake Assist

Cost Issues: Beginning price for a Venza with the smaller 4-cylinder engine and front-wheel drive is $27,125. A similarly packaged Ford Edge like my Venza test drive – upgrade interior, sound system, backup camera and connectivity features – comes in at $36,700 or roughly $3k cheaper than the Venza.

Activity & Performance Ability: The premium V6 engine has plenty of power and pairs well with the excellent handling – you’ll have more driving ease than if you were behind the wheel of a traditional crossover. Yet it is a lot of weight to whip around if you’re doing quick traffic dodging. You’ll also be reminded of the Venza’s size (steering shortcomings) during parking.

The Green Concern: There is a more fuel-efficient four-cylinder that gets 21 miles-per-gallon city and 27 highway if you don’t like the 21 MPG combined for the V6.

FINAL PARTING WORDS
Calling it an over-sized sedan might not sound like a compliment, but be assured Toyota’s creation, the Venza, just plain works. You’ll experience the performance of a spritely sedan, but also its SUV figure that does cause some pain when parking and at the pump.

©2011 Katrina Ramser