Toyota tweaks and tucks set Venza right
"I hate to use the word station-wagon, but Venza is more station wagon than sport ute in all the good ways."
With a nip here, a tuck there, a lift here and a boost there, Toyota has seemingly got it right with the 2013 version of the Venza crossover utility vehicle.
The exterior has been subtly refined making the already sleek profile even smoother. The side mirrors have been modified to include signal light repeaters and available blind spot mirror inserts. The front grille is new, as are the tail lights; and there’s a new set of 19-inch alloy wheels.
Venza comes in four models: Venza, powered by a 182-horsepower 2.7-litre four-cylinder engine; Venza AWD; Venza V6 with a 3.5-litre six-cylinder engine and Venza V6 AWD. The standard, and only, shifter is a six-speed automatic with sequential shift.
My tester from Toyota Canada is a V6 AWD model which is upgraded by a Touring package that brings a long list of convenient items most notably navigation and backup camera ... along with lovely leather to on seats that are heatable and supportive in all the right place.
From the driver seat, visibility is expansive and a new convex blind-spot mirror integrated into the corner of the outside mirror lets me know what’s going on in the lanes beside me.
A panoramic roof, which is also part of the Touring Package, lets in plenty of light and gives a wide open feel to the cabin space. My grandkids love that roof when we take a little trek into the mountains.
I hate to use the word station-wagon, but Venza is more station wagon than sport ute in all the good ways. There’s more than enough room for people and their stuff – at the same time.
The power liftgate (that Touring package again) is convenient when you’re carrying an armload of packages and need to get into the cargo area; and the low lift-over height makes loading bulkier objects easy.
It’s definitely a family (or friend) friendly vehicle.
At the same time, the driver gets to enjoy the ride, too.
Propelling all four wheels is a 3.5L V6 engine rated at 268 horses backed by 246 lb. ft. of torque. Said torque comes on early, moves the Venza to a gallop quickly and maintains enough whip to push the ponies to pass efficiently on the highway.
The automatic transmission goes about its task efficiently and without any fanfare: no gear hunting on long inclines and no shift shock when called upon to participate in a passing situation.
Electric power steering responds to my demands quickly and provides enough feedback to let me know what’s going on under the tires.
The biggest change is in the brakes. I’ve found brake feel on previous models to be somewhat vague which didn’t do much for my confidence in its ability to stop. (They stopped just fine, mind you; it’s just that it seemed to take a lot of push.)
The 2013 model gives me a firm, positive pedal feel that gives me confidence the thing will stop when I ask it to.
While Venza is no sports car in the corners, there’s not enough body lean or dive to cause me any concern if I happen to be a little quick into a bend.
There’s not a lot to dislike about Venza, other than the fact that options packages make the price tag jump in big increments and the packaging has some very desirable options bundled with some I really don’t care if I have. I’d be happier with more stand-alone choices.
2013 Toyota Venza
Trim level: V6 AWD
Price as tested (before taxes): $38,539
Options on test vehicle: Touring Pkg. ($6,055) inc.: power rear hatch, panoramic glass roof, backup camera with tilt side mirrors, anti-theft system, leather interior trim, heated front seats, power passenger seat, audio with navigation, keyless entry with push-button start, auto-levelling HID headlights, LED daytime running lights, reverse auto-tilt exterior mirrors, driver seat memory; block heater ($239)
Configuration: front engine/ all-wheel drive
Engine/transmission: 3.5L V6/ 6-spd auto with sequential shift
Power/torque: 268 hp/ 246 lb.-ft.
Fuel (capacity): regular (67L)
Fuel economy ratings: 11.4 L/100km city; 7.9 L/100km hwy
Observed fuel economy: 10.2 L/100km over 620 km
Warranties: 3 years/ 60,000 km (basic); 5 years/ 100,000 km (powertrain)
Competitors: Chevrolet Equinox; Ford Edge; Honda Crosstour; Subaru Outback
Strengths: looks; comfort; drivetrain
Weaknesses: options come in big packages; blind spot mirror takes getting used to; second row seats don’t lay flat