It is quite common to even expect a particular car model to grow and grow as it ages through subsequent redesigns and updates. Like many of us, cars get bigger as we age. But it’s not every day that a particular model really moves up.Market, offers the same level of feature and function but in a nicer package. In this way, the new Venza is a rare bird. With its restart in the 2021 model year, this machine is transformed from a grumpy family haulier into a clean, sharp, and truly top-notch SUV.
- Sharp new look
- Good efficiency and drivability
- The crazy roof
I do not like it
- Entune needs a similar upgrade
And that’s important because there are so many crossovers and SUVs to choose from these days. Damn it just stay with the family that you have, RAV4, Highlander, 4Runner, Sequoia and Land Cruiser to choose from. How then does a product like the Venza break out of the den of anonymity?
Well, it starts with a fresh new look that is sharp and distinctive while still incorporating Toyota DNA, particularly the gaping lower grille and aggressively pronounced rear fenders. Compared to its van-like, family-friendly predecessor, it’s a revelation.
The interior reboot is just as drastic, especially when it comes with the 12.3-inch touchscreen that is standard on the limited-trim model shown here, optional on the specs below. Below that, the Limited has a sleek control panel with capacitive touch buttons that looks great, though the lack of a volume control is a bummer as always.
Keep moving down to find an inducible Qi charger that you can use to wirelessly charge your phone. It’s located in a spacious room where Toyota engineers curiously hid the engine start button. The storage compartment and the rest of the interior are framed with subtle, colored lighting – helpful as it is otherwise terribly dark.
The panoramic glass ceiling is also helpful, as it not only lets in plenty of light, but also hides the Venza’s best party trick. This glass is (optionally) electrochromic, which means that at the push of a button it clicks on a foggy, opaque surface. This is guaranteed to get a whoa from your most jaded passengers, and when was the last time a practical SUV did that?
Unfortunately, the software running here is unlikely to get such an answer. This large, distinctive touchscreen is where you’ll find Toyota’s tried and true Entune System. That’s a polite way of saying that it looks low-resolution and out of date, especially the navigation interface. Fortunately with both and on board you can at least hide it all pretty quickly.
What’s going on under the bonnet is far more modern: each version of the Venza rotates the same 2.5-liter in-line four-cylinder engine with the Atkinson cycle, paired with not one, not two, but three electric motors. The two in front help the gasoline engine while the rear provides all-wheel drive to this SUV.
Together with the 0.9 kWh lithium-ion batteries, this system delivers 219 horsepower, according to Toyota, with 176 horsepower and 163 pound-feet of torque coming from the gasoline engine alone. That means a very frontally biased power output. Interestingly, despite the tiny battery and no plug-in, the Venza can run in a fully electric mode … kind of. The maximum speed here is around 32 km / h. If you press the throttle with just the touch of a kitten, the engine will turn and you will be roughly thrown out of the zero-emission country. Still, it’s nice for quiet cruises through parking lots or quiet early morning escapes from ninjas.
When the Venza is pushed harder, it accelerates smoothly and smoothly. The CVT eliminates gear shifts, but results in a typical motorized drone. Still, it’s not a huge problem, and whether you’re in Eco or Sport mode, the Venza has more than enough panache to get you moving in traffic. With that in mind, I spent most of my week in eco mode, getting a respectable 40.5 mph. That’s only half a tick off the EPA-rated 40-MPG highway from Venza, 37 cities and 39 combined.
On the driver handling side, the Venza is definitely geared towards comfort, gliding through turns rather than carving curves, and absorbing the worst of asphalt imperfections without transferring them to the cabin. Whether in the front or in the back, there is a lot of comfort, plenty of headroom. My only (minor) complaint is the “wait, are they actually on?” Ventilated seats. Diversity.
The 2021 Toyota Venza starts at $ 32,470 plus $ 860 shipping, while the Limited version that I tested increases the starting price to $ 39,800. Limited offers tidbits like a 360-degree overhead camera, niceties like the interior lighting, heated and ventilated front seats, and access to the Star Gaze roof – but that’s an additional $ 1,400.
The good news is that Toyota’s ADAS Safety Sense 2.0 system comes standard at the lowest trim, including lane departure warnings, adaptive cruise and blind spot monitoring with rear cross traffic warnings. Given the drivetrain also stays the same, it’s really just luxury you pay a premium for, but given the pampering at the Limited, it still seems like good value. This is especially true when you compare it to its cousin Lexus NX Hybrid, which starts at $ 40,060 plus $ 1,025 shipping.
See this rebirth as a success. The 2021 Toyota Venza impresses on several levels. It looks great, drives well, and does a remarkably good job of playing the luxury game. It’s a highlight in an ever-growing sea of SUVs, which I am too.