The Toyota Venza drives like a car but offers the cargo space of an SUV. It offers more utility than a sedan, yet it's smaller and sits lower than an SUV. Venza seats five and comes with premium equipment and attributes normally associated with SUVs.
For the 2013 model year, Toyota has freshened the styling of the Venza, and has added standard and optional features. The 2013 Venza comes with Toyota's Entune multi-media system. Otherwise unchanged, the Venza is built on the platform of the previous-generation (2007-2011) Camry, and is assembled in the same plant in Georgetown, Kentucky.
But the Venza is more than an upscale, contemporary rendition of a Camry station wagon. The Venza is more original than that, and more functional, loaded with a mix of highly evolved features and fresh design ideas. Venza compares most closely with the Honda Crosstour, which is based on the Accord.
Venza is essentially a tall car, with a roomy, cleverly designed interior, that can handle the hauling tasks that make SUVs a popular choice. It's a family car, a good daily runabout that's easy to drive and park. And it's highly useful, for moving people, pets and grocery-getting. We found it spacious and comfortable. And it's much better looking than the Honda Crosstour.
Venza is available with a 2.7-liter four-cylinder engine or a 3.5-liter V6, both backed by a 6-speed automatic transmission. It's available in all-wheel-drive (AWD) and front-wheel-drive (FWD) configurations.
The 2.7-liter four-cylinder engine makes 181 horsepower and 182 pound-feet of torque and gets an EPA-estimated 21/27 mpg City/Highway. The V6 is rated at 268 horsepower and 246 pound-feet of torque and is rated at 18/25 mpg with all-wheel drive.
On the road, the Venza feels like a car. It rides smoothly and quietly and steers easily. We were impressed with its stability on slippery roads, whether equipped with all-wheel drive or not. Although there are some SUV attributes, such as the higher seat height and a high degree of cargo versatility, from the driver's seat you'd swear you were in a four-door sedan.
A facelift can ruin a car when stylists exchange a good, original design for one that's merely different. Fortunately, that hasn't happened here. Instead everything the Toyota designers have done with the 2013 Venza has made a good design even better.
The 2013 Toyota Venza is offered in three trim levels: LE, XLE, and Limited. Venza LE and Venza XLE offer a choice of four-cylinder or V6 power, while Venza Limited comes only with the V6. All four-cylinder models roll on 245/55R19 tires, while V6s upgrade to 245/50R20. All three grades come with front-wheel drive or optional all-wheel drive ($1450). All Venzas come with a 6-speed automatic transmission.
Venza LE ($27,700) and LE V6 ($29,520) come well equipped with cloth upholstery; dual-zone automatic climate control with air filter and second-row vents; eight-way power-adjustable driver's seat; power windows, power locks, power mirrors, cruise control; 3.5-inch LCD multi-information display; tilt/telescopic steering wheel with audio controls; dual vanity mirrors; overhead console with map lights; rear-seat reading lamps; cargo cover; three 12-volt power outlets; multi-projector-beam headlamps with auto on-off; fog lamps; UV reduction windshield; privacy glass; and aluminum-alloy wheels. Standard audio is a six-speaker AM/FM/CD/MP3/WMA system with 6.1-inch touch-screen control, Bluetooth hands-free phone and music streaming, USB port with iPod connectivity, auxiliary audio jack, and auto sound leveling. An LE Convenience Package ($750) adds a power liftgate and a rearview camera, and upgrades the information display to a Thin Film Transistor (TFT) unit that can be customized to adjust the font size and content. The Preferred Package ($2850) includes the Convenience Package plus a panoramic glass roof that incorporates a power moonroof up front and the Entune multi-media system.
Venza XLE ($31,360) and XLE V6 ($33,180) upgrade with leather seating surfaces, steering wheel and shift knob; a four-way power passenger seat; multi-stage heated front seats; satin mahogany wood-grain interior trim; anti-theft system with alarm and engine immobilizer; Smart Key with pushbutton start and illuminated entry; power rear liftgate and a back-up camera; reverse-tilt outside mirrors; and the upgraded TFT information display. The audio system retains all the input options and connectivity features of the standard setup, while adding its SiriusXM satellite radio (with three-month trial subscription), Navigation, Entune, and advanced voice recognition. The XLE Premium Package ($1,850) adds the panoramic glass roof with power front moonroof; and a 13-speaker JBL Synthesis surround-sound system that includes all of the audio features already mentioned, plus Premium HDD Navigation; XM NavTraffic, NavWeather, Fuel, Sports & Stocks (with three-month trial subscription); HD Radio with iTunes Tagging; and other features.
Venza Limited ($37,420) comes with all of the above, including HDD Navigation, JBL audio, Entune, and the panoramic glass roof with power front moonroof: plus high-intensity discharge (HID) headlamps with automatic high beams; and new LED daytime running lights.
All V6 models are available with a Tow Prep Package ($220) that includes an engine oil cooler, larger radiator fan and heavy-duty alternator. (All listed prices are Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Prices, which do not include destination charge and may change at any time without notice.)
Venza also offers an array of pet-friendly, dealer-installed accessories, including a rear liftgate pet ramp; booster seat with harness; rear seat zipline-style harnesses; pet carriers; and bucket seat, bench seat and hammock style waterproof seat covers.
Safety features on all models include seven air bags and active headrests (front); Hill-Start Assist Control. Toyota's Star Safety System comes standard and includes Vehicle Stability Control (VSC) and Traction Control (TRAC) systems with a cutoff switch, plus Antilock Brake System (ABS) with Electronic Brake-force Distribution (EBD) and Brake Assist. A tire-pressure monitor system and child protector rear door locks are standard.