In some respects, the Venza feels designed from the inside out. The Venza has a little more ground clearance than most sedans, but it also has a taller roofline, which makes getting in and out a cinch. The interior, with twin bucket seats in front and a 60/40-split bench seat in back, seats five comfortably with plenty of cargo space in back--expandable if you fold the back seat forward.
Also inside there's a gently curved design theme to the instrument panel, and Toyota's so-called 60/60 cockpit design doesn't isolate the driver. Subtle patterned-and-grained plastics and trim surfaces make the interior appealing, and the seats are upholstered in corduroy or textured leather with contrasting piping.
Powering the new Venza is a new 2.7-liter four-cylinder engine, making a respectable 182 horsepower, while a 268-horsepower, 3.5-liter V-6 engine is available. With the V-6 the Venza can accelerate to 60 mph in just 6.7 seconds, while the four-cylinder rewards with strong fuel economy of up to 29 mpg highway.
Both engines are offered in a single trim, with a choice of either front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive. The all-wheel-drive version has Toyota's Active Torque Control system, which sends more torque to the rear wheels when needed for better traction. The Venza has a MacPherson strut front suspension and dual-link rear suspension. An electronic power steering system helps improve steering feel while also aiding fuel economy, and four-wheel anti-lock disc brakes are standard across the line. The Venza can tow up to 3500 pounds.
Driving the Venza is much like driving a sedan, but with a higher seating position. Although the rearward view can be obscured due to the roofline, the view outward in front is good, with a nice, upright driving perch.
As the Venza comes in a single trim level, quite a few safety features that are typically optional are standard. Examples include dual-zone climate control, fog lamps, keyless entry, a universal garage-door opener and cruise control. Front side and full-length side-curtain airbags are standard, as are electronic stability control and anti-lock brakes.
The options list is extensive, with most items grouped into rather expensive packages. Top options grouped in packages include leather upholstery, HID headlamps, a Smart Key system and a backup camera system, while standalone items include a panoramic roof, a DVD rear entertainment, a navigation system, and a JBL Synthesis sound system with Bluetooth interface.