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2021 Toyota Venza Static Preview By Thom Cannell and Larry Nutson

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DataPoints 2021 Toyota Venza: We’ve seen it, not driven yet.

By Thom Cannell and Larry Nutson
Michigan Bureau and Chicago Bureau

Toyota has brought back the Venza name, this time in a distinctive five-passenger midsize crossover that’s not based on a Camry. Slotted between the RAV4 and 3-row Highlander, Venza is just what most North Americans want, a roomy hatchback sedan, and the 2021 Venza delivers that, with no allusions to off-road prowess.

Available “soon” in three models—LE, XLE and LTD, every 2021 Venza will be a hybrid (only) and equipped with electronic on-demand All-Wheel Drive (only). Designed with “urban cool” in mind, the four-cylinder gas engine and three e-motors combined to deliver 219 combined net horsepower, quietness (low Noise, Vibration, Harshness), a minimalist interior, many surprise-and-delight features and a starting price of $32,470. In keeping with the design brief of “Graceful Life”, exteriors are mostly dark neutrals with one red; gray and black interiors with one black/Java for top-of-line Limited models: LED daylight running lights and LED headlamps and a single graceful and distinctive cross-body tail lamp.

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While models are harmonious across the line, you can divide them by looking at the headlamps with Limited models showing a projector LED or by the Star Gaze photochromic phase-change fixed sunroof available on Limited models. That $1,400 option varies between frosted and clear at the touch of a switch. Once the engine is off the Star Gaze roof returns to frosted to lessen solar gain and end power consumption (it takes power to turn the roof clear).

Whether you call it technology or safety, Venza fills that niche as well with a multitude of standard features, like blind spot monitoring with cross-traffic alert, hands-free power liftgate, Toyota Safety Sense 2.0, pre-collision warning (including pedestrians and daytime bicycles), dynamic radar cruise control, lane departure warning with steering assist, automatic high beams, optional digital rear view mirror, birds-eye view, 8-inch or 12.3-inch touch screen multimedia (the later with capacitive touch), available 10-inch Heads Up display, of course the full Apple CarPlay-Android Auto-Alexa hookup, and a 1,200-Watt JBL sound system.

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Downplayed in the presentation we received is Predictive Efficient Drive, which “uses the navigation system operation to analyze driving habits and memorize road and traffic conditions to help optimize hybrid battery charging. When the driver selects PED, the system learns repeating routes and is designed to predict when and where the vehicle is likely to slow down or stop. Then, through optimum accelerator pedal release timing guidance, it can help reduce energy consumption.” The system can, for instance, recognize an approaching downhill and prepare for regenerative charging, even adding power in stop-and-go urban driving.

There’s room in this five-person crossover, with nearly 29 cubic feet of storage behind the seats, around 55 cu.ft. with the second seat folded and it’s all done cleanly, using piping, stitching and hints of bright work to project its minimalist ethos.

Toyota’s Hybrid System delivers 40 Highway mpg / 37 City mpg / 39 Combined mpg EPA ratings from a 2.5-liter in-line four cylinder motor that’s coupled with a modest 3.0 Ah lithium-ion battery that can move you a few miles electric-only, but wants to be an assistant. The full-time all-wheel drive system will use rear wheel drive to launch the vehicle to around 10kmh (6 mph), thereafter assisting, and using braking to accomplish any needed torque vectoring. Which means the system is proactive and doesn’t require wheel slip to kick in.

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Toyota says the Venza has passenger car-like driving dynamics, which is actually what most everyone wants in a crossover. Referred to as savvy, classy and comfortable Toyota expects older Millennials and Gen-Xers to the core of Venza buyers. The 2021 Toyota Venza is planned to be in dealer showrooms this September.

As is the “new” practice in today’s COVID-19 pandemic world, new vehicles are being introduced in virtual web-based briefings. Sooner or later we’ll get to drive the new Venza and share our impressions and thoughts on its overall driving dynamics.

© 2020