Toyota invited us out to preview its new for 2009 Venza. Billing the Venza as "car-optimized," Toyota downright refuses to call it a wagon or a crossover. Curiously, Toyota expects the Venza to be compared with the Ford Edge, Mazda CX-7, and Nissan Murano, all of which are crossovers. They say you're judged by the caliber of your enemies, so I guess that makes the Venza a crossover as well.
Whatever you call it, the Venza is an interesting vehicle. It rides almost like a Camry, but with carrying capabilities that are just shy of the Highlander. Sedan/wagon-like proportions and big 20-inch wheels help hide some of the visual mass, but--there's no getting around it--the Venza is a big vehicle. Don't believe me? Ask the entry model's 2.7-liter four-cylinder engine.
Outputting 182 horsepower and 182 pound-feet of torque, the four-cylinder engine feels underpowered for pulling the 5,000 pound Venza around town. The step-up 3.5-liter V-6's 268 ponies and 246 pound-feet of twist feel much better suited for motivational duties.
Inside, the Venza can be equipped with Toyota's sixth-generation DVD navigation system with voice command, Bluetooth for hands-free calling and audio streaming from supported A2DP devices, satellite radio with XM NavTraffic, and a powerful 13-speaker JBL Synthesis audio system that sounds fantastic. The Venza features the requisite 10 cup holders and a clever piece of vehicle interior design that we hope to see more of in future vehicles: cable management.
The Venza's center console features three pockets for MP3 players or cell phones with pass-throughs for routing audio or charging cables to the 12V power or aux-input hidden deep in the console. It's a really neat way to keep the interior from looking like a wiry mess, while keeping the devices visible.