2021 Toyota Venza Limited hybrid - Review by David Colman +VIDEO
Admirable and Commendable
Story And Photos By David Colman
Special Correspondent to THE AUTO CHANNEL
In terms of size and amenities, the newly reconstituted Venza slots into Toyota's crossover lineup between the compact RAV4 and the full size Highlander. While the Venza is new to the US model lineup this year, it has been sold for years under the Harrier nameplate in Japan and Great Britain. But unlike its Toyota crossover stable mates, the Venza will be offered only as a Hybrid. Prop the hood open and you will find a gas dueled 2.5 liter inline 4 that drives the front wheels. Three permanent-magnet synchronous AC motors link up to power the rear wheels. This combined Hybrid all-wheel drive system makes 219hp and 163lb.-ft. of torque and posts an overall EPA Fuel Economy rating of 39MPG.
Drive is distributed to all four Bridgestone Ecopia H/L 422 radials (225/55R19) through a CVT transmission. This unit can be manually shifted through the gear lever, but lacks paddles at the steering wheel. Acceleration is stout, with 60 miles per hour coming up in just 7.6 seconds from rest and the quarter mile zipping by in 15.8 seconds at 89mph. Top Speed is limited by governor to 118mph. The most notable performance feature of the Venza drivetrain is its production of immediate thrust when you floor the accelerator. You can thank the instant torque production of the electric motors for this useful power surge.
Toyota offers three echelons of Venza. The least expensive LE retails for $33,885, with the XLE going for $37,415. Our test vehicle, the Limited, carried a base of $39,800 and a total tariff of $43,100. The Limited's level of fit and finish did not seem commensurate with its lofty asking price. so you might do better selecting an LE or XLE version of this model. We had reservations about the finish of interior surfaces which were almost uniformly done in shiny black plastic that was visually unappealing and uninviting to touch. Complicating the issue is the fact that Toyota has created a completely knob and button free instrument panel so every input must be made on the slippery black faceplate of the center fascia or the 12.3 inch infotainment screen. It's difficult enough to deal with that slick surface when you're parked, even more problematic when you're underway.
The Venza is best driven with the rear split seats folded semi-flat, because in that configuration, you get a clear visual shot out the small back window. When the rear seats are erect, the triple row of headrests virtually eliminate rear vision. Our test Venza sported a Digital Rear View Mirror which in theory should have alleviated the problems caused by the limited view through the backlight. However, the e-mirror, which televises a wide angle rear camera image, is so distorted that you would be best advised to ignore its doctored picture altogether and stick with the information provided by the standard rear mirrors. You can manually swap from digital to real view with a switch on the mirror frame.
The driver's seat is easy to tailor for comfort. There's electric assist for vertical and horizontal adjustment, plus lumbar support and a 2 position memory assist for saving your favorite settings. Unfortunately, the front seat passenger gets none of this attention. Particularly glaring is the lack of any height adjustment. If you are taller than 5'6" you will find it impossible to slide into the passenger seat without cracking your head on the sweepingly low roofline. On the plus side, our test Venza was equipped with a photo- chromic roof which Toyota calls the Star Gaze Fixed Panoramic Roof. This pricey $1,400 option provides a fixed glass plane with a retractable interior cover panel. The glass roof does not open or slide, but rather changes tint from clear to smoke, providing quite a show for you and your passengers.
We found the backroad behavior of the Venza to be commendable. It offers a drive mode selector we usually left in Sport. This quickened throttle response and stiffened ride quality to a level that was never jarring, but still informative about road surface condition. Toyota has done an admirable job of making the Venza a convincing driver's car, though its typically spongy Hybrid brake pedal periodically wakes you from your sport sedan reverie.
2021 TOYOTA VENZA LIMITED
ENGINE: 2.5 liter inline 4, DOHC 16-Valve + 3 electric motors
HORSEPOWER: 219hp (Combined)
TORQUE: 163lb.-ft. (Combined)
FUEL CONSUMPTION: 40MPG City/37MPG Highway
PRICE AS TESTED: $43,100
HYPES: Great Handler, Gutsy Power
GRIPES: Knob-Free Shiny Dash, Passenger Duck For Entry
STAR RATING: 8 Stars out of 10