The new Camry?

Up front, the Toyota Venza draws heavily from the nose of the Toyota Camry. However, the Venza better integrates the headlamps and the grille. HID headlamps are available as part of a Premium package.

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3.5-liter V-6

Under the hood is Toyota's workhorse 2GR-FE 3.5-liter V-6 engine. This is the same V-6 that can be found under the hood of the current Toyota Camry, the 2010 Lexus RX, and surprisingly, the Lotus Evora.

Surprisingly, the engine still feels peppy despite the Venza's increased weight.

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Exactly how big is this thing?

The Venza does a spectacular job of visually hiding its size, particularly from the front and front-quarter view.

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Low step-in height

Viewed from the side, the Venza's size becomes more apparent. We can also see, from this angle, the Venza's very low step in height. Combined with the tall seating position, the Venza is actually easier to get into than a sedan or an SUV.

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20-inch wheels

Standard on the V-6 Venza are these 20-inch wheels. Wheels this large play tricks on the eye, making the body of the vehicle seem smaller by comparison.

Four-cylinder equipped Venzas step down to 19-inch wheels, which are still massive.

Updated:Caption:Photo:James Martin/CNET

Lexus RX influence

Out back, the Venza is more SUV-esque, showing the heavy influence of the Lexus RX's sloping rear glass and roof spoiler.

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Power rear door

As part of the equipped premium package, our Venza was equipped with a power lift rear door.

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Fold flat seats

On either side of the Venza's rear cargo area are handles that cause the rear seats to flip flat at the touch of a button.

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Huge cargo space

While the Venza has less cargo space than the similarly sized Toyota Highlander, there's still enough space back there for a large flat-screen television.

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Well-designed interior

Comprised of a variety of interesting shapes, colors, and textures that are pleasing to the touch, the Venza's interior is a comforting place to be.

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Multifunction display

At the top of the dash is this full-color multifunction display. Here you'll find climate-control information, fuel economy, and--on vehicles without nav--the backup-camera display.

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Odd shifter placement

While we like that the dash-mounted shifter frees up room for a large storage area in the center console, we dislike the long stalk, which was always in the way when we wanted to adjust the climate controls.

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Cable management

At the base of the center stack is this dedicated phone/MP3 player slot, which features built-in cable management for routing charger and audio cables into the cavernous center console.

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Bluetooth

Bluetooth handsfree calling is available as part of a navigation package, which also includes Bluetooth A2DP stereo audio streaming. Although the set-up process involves pairing a compatible device twice to access both voice and audio, the inclusion of A2DP almost makes up for the curious lack of a digital iPod/mp3 player connection.

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DVD-based nav

The navigation system is Toyota's DVD-based unit, but with a few graphic and functional tweaks.

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JBL Synthesis

The JBL Synthesis audio system sounds as good as the best Bose and Sony systems from the competition.

Available audio sources include AM/FM/Sirius satellite radio, the aforementioned Bluetooth audio streaming, a four-disc CD changer with MP3 capability, and a center console-mounted auxiliary input.

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Handling

Being a Toyota, the Venza boasts the same featherlight power steering that the Japanese automaker is known for. Capable of being directed with a single finger, the Venza's overboosted steering feels a bit squirrelly at speed.

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Electroluminescent gauges

Front and center in the instrument cluster is one of the largest speedometers this side of the Mini Cooper.

Updated:Caption:Photo:James Martin/CNET
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