Is this a car, an SUV, a station wagon, or what? Toyota says the Venza “is 70 percent car,” though the Environmental Protection Agency calls it a truck. The basic 2.7-liter, 182-hp, inline-four engine delivers plenty of power despite tipping the scales at a curb weight of 3,750 pounds when fully fueled. Standard features include ABS, a six-disc CD changer, stability control, dual-zone climate control, and seven air bags.
The Venza’s name is a combination of the Venture (suggesting “an active lifestyle”) and the sportier Monza. Whatever it is,
it’s no “styling stunner.” Yet the AWD edition, for an extra $1,450, proved “surprisingly capable” when climbing mountain grades at 75 mph. The optional V6 producing 268 hp is the same used in the Camry and Highlander.
Drawbacks on our test drive included a lack of “precision and accuracy” in the front-wheel-drive version, and a console “too clever for its own good.” The 2.7-liter engine “sounded coarse and felt unpleasant.” Toyota also brags that its panorama roof and automatic high beams are “Toyota firsts.” So what? Nissan, Volkswagen, and others offered that two-row roof years ago, and automatic high beams debuted on the 2005 Jeep Grand Cherokee.