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2014 Toyota Venza Limited V6 AWD Review by Carey Russ +VIDEO

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)
2014 Toyota Venza


   • SEE ALSO: Toyota Buyers Guide

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)
2014 Toyota Venza

Toyota got it right the first time. Since the Venza crossover's debut for model year 2009, it has had few changes. Keeping up with changes in audio technology, it got USB connectivity in 2010. 2011 saw "Smart Stop Technology" added to the Star Safety System. The original "monospec" marketing strategy, with one basic model customizable with multiple option packages, was replaced by Toyota's standard LE, XLE, and Limited trim levels and fewer options for 2012. There was a minor interior and exterior freshening for 2013, and new convenience and electronic features and options, including Toyota's Entune™ multi-media system. Yes, electronic technology changes quickly…

Continuous incremental improvement is the name of the game, so this year XLE and Limited grades get power-folding outside mirrors, making it easier to squeeze by in a crowded garage and making damage less likely on a crowded street. Limiteds also get front and rear parking sonar.

As ever, Venzas are assembled at Toyota Motor Manufacturing Kentucky (TMMK). Toyota's not-even-a-truck crossover is aimed at the upscale end of the middle market, and so is well-equipped even in LE form. Designed by Toyota's Calty Studios in Newport Beach CA and Ann Arbor MI, it is a North American market exclusive. Miss your old Camry wagon (or Liftback if you're really old…) but don't want a Highlander? This is your Toyota.

Also as it has been since debut, power is from a 181-horsepower, 2.7-liter four-cylinder or a 3.5-liter, 268-hp V6 engine driving either the front or all four wheels. LE and XLE models are offered with either engine, with the Limited being V6-only.

My test car for the past week was a Limited with AWD, floor mats, and the "Tow Prep Package" of engine oil cooler, larger radiator fan, and upgraded alternator -- a good thing if you plan to tow, in which case you can tow up to 3500 pounds, or if you live in a hot part of the world, especially one with mountains.

Looking back in my records at the last Venza I tested -- an AWD V6 exactly five years ago to the week -- I see that the approximately $7000 worth of options on the `09, and then some, are now standard equipment in the 2014 Limited. Which is priced accordingly, as is to be expected. As it was, the Venza at its premium level is a comfortable and roomy upscale transportation solution with all of the cargo-or-people versatility of a midsize SUVish crossover in a lower, more streamlined vehicle. Its design gives it a definite car, not tall crossover, driving experience, and at Limited level it is far more Avalon than Camry in character. I suspect that most of the many Venzas I see on the road have the four-cylinder engine, and that should be more than merely adequate for its mission. With the V6, there is no lack of power, and fuel economy is reasonable for a vehicle of its size at around 20 mpg around town and on secondary roads and high twenties on the highway for 21 mpg overall for my mostly non-highway week. Access, for passengers or cargo, is painless, and there is plenty of space inside on a not-too-big footprint.

Watch The Auto Channel's Toyota Venza promo video

APPEARANCE: You're excused for not noticing any major difference between a new Venza and one from two or more years ago. The difference is in the details. In particular, the chromed grille gets fewer crossbars for a simpler look, and while the overall shape of the headlight covers is the same, the details under those covers are different. Limiteds now have LED running lights. The foglamp inset has changed ever so slightly. And the taillights have been restyled. Overall, though, the Venza is still very much an Americanized version of the European Multi-Purpose-Vehicle (MPV), smaller and more car-like than what a minivan has become, and with no attempt at looking like an SUV.

COMFORT: At Limited level, the Venza is one of the more luxury-oriented of Toyota's offerings. The LE is well-equipped, with Optitron instruments, a power driver's seat, dual-zone automatic climate control, a tilt- and telescope-adjustable steering wheel with audio controls, and storage, cupholders, and power outlets galore. Plus puddle lamps in the outside mirrors and all of the basic connectivity (via Bluetooth) expected today. Option packages exist for more. The XLE exists for even more, including leather seating, Display Audio with Entune, and pushbutton start-stop. And a Premium Package, by which point it's starting to look like a Limited. Which adds that plus a twin-pane moonroof, and even more. In any trim, interior space and useful spaces are strong points. Front seat comfort is good, and small side windows below the windshield pillars help visibility in a critical direction. The center console has two huge compartments and a moveable armrest. Need more storage? The glove box can hold much more than a pair of gloves. There is no attempt at a third row, so second-row space is very good, even in the center position. The seat is split 60/40, with some back angle adjustability. The liftgate here is power-operated.

SAFETY: The Toyota STAR Safety System is standard in all Venzas. It includes four-wheel antilock disc brakes, brake assist, traction control, enhanced vehicle stability control, electronic brake-force distribution, Hill-Start Assist Control, and Smart Stop Technology, which reduces engine power in some situations in which the brake and accelerator pedals are depressed simultaneously. Front, driver's knee, seat-mounted front side, and full-length side curtain airbags and front active headrests are among the further standard safety items.

RIDE AND HANDLING: A strong, rigid unibody structure that makes much use of high-tensile steel and the Venza's lower-than-SUV stance contribute to its low center of gravity. Which, with a fully-independent strut-type suspension that is tuned moderately but with good damping, means the comfortable ride Toyota buyers expect, and handling that is better than expected from a crossover-type vehicle. The Venza AWD is competent and enjoyable on the road. Electric power steering keeps effort light, and the AWD system varies the front/rear power split from pure front-drive most of the time to 50/50.

PERFORMANCE: With 182 horsepower, the Venza's 2.7-liter four-cylinder engine should provide the performance and fuel economy that many buyers want. Want or need more? With 268 horsepower (at 6200 rpm) and 246 lb-ft of torque (at 4700 rpm) driving through a six-speed automatic transmission, the 3.5-liter V6 has no shortage of power. VVT-i variable cam phasing on both intake and exhaust camshafts and other internal improvements compared to earlier versions allow it to be powerful, low in emissions, and reasonably fuel-efficient. In "D", there is plenty of low-end power for effortless driving, and shifting is smooth and uphill/downhill shift logic minimizes shifting on hills and keeps a lower gear for climbing ability or engine braking. Manual-shift mode allows best use of the engine's power if more spirited driving is desired, and the chassis is up to the task.

CONCLUSIONS: The Toyota Venza combines function with stylish form.


2014 Toyota Venza Limited V6 AWD

Base Price $ 39,570

Price As Tested $ 40,940

Engine Type DOHC 24-valve aluminum alloy V6 with Dual VVT-i variable cam phasing and valve lift

Engine Size 3.5 liters / 211 cu. in.

Horsepower 268 @ 6200 rpm

Torque (lb-ft) 246 @ 4700 rpm

Transmission 6-speed automatic with manual-shift mode

Wheelbase / Length 109.3 in. / 189.0 in.

Curb Weight 4045 lbs. Pounds Per Horsepower 15.1 Fuel Capacity 17.7 gal. Fuel Requirement 87 octane unleaded regular gasoline Tires P245/50R20 102H m+s Goodyear Eagle RS-A Brakes, front/rear vented disc / solid disc, ABS standard Suspension, front/rear independent MacPherson strut / independent dual-link MacPherson strut Ground Clearance 8.1 inches Drivetrain transverse front engine, all-wheel drive


EPA Fuel Economy - miles per gallon
city / highway / observed 18 / 25 / 21

0 to 60 mph est 7 sec

Towing Capacity 3500 lbs (V6)


Tow Prep Package -- includes: engine oil cooler, larger radiator fan, heavy-duty alternator $ 220

Floor Mats and Cargo Mat $ 290

Delivery Charge $ 860