Here's the news we've all been on pins and needles waiting for: the return of the Toyota Venza. The Venza is back for 2021, this time as a two-row, all-wheel drive hybrid midsize crossover. This one's more stylish than the last one, and Toyota wants it to be an upmarket option in the middle of its crossover lineup.
I know you're as excited as I am. Let's jump right in.
The previous Venza is, frankly, something I hadn't thought about in a while. It was discontinued after the 2015 model year and hasn't been especially mourned in the years since. However, Toyota saw the demand for something more luxurious in between the sizes of its popular RAV4 and Highlander, and this is it. It's definitely sharper-looking than the old car, although maybe a bit too Mazda-ish; we did a double-take between this and the CX-9.
Like the new Sienna, the Venza rides on the familiar TNGA-K platform along with the RAV4 and Highlander, plus traditional cars like the Avalon and Camry. That's a surprisingly versatile platform! It features the Toyota Hybrid System II drivetrain, mating a 2.5-liter DOHC inline-4 engine with three electric motors for 219 horsepower and a combined 40 MPG.
You can select Normal, Eco and Sport driving modes for it depending on how aggressively or efficiently you'd like to drive, plus there's an EV-only mode if you only want to use electric power. It also allows you to "downshift" using simulated gear ratios to increase the level of regenerative braking, which is especially handy on downhills.
The standard Electronic On-Demand AWD system places one of the Venza's three electric motors on the rear axle, eliminating the need for a bulky transfer case but enabling the Venza to send power to its rear wheels when needed. Up to 80 percent of the Venza's power can be sent to the rear wheels for quick starts to eliminate front wheel spin.
The interior is a big upgrade over some of Toyota's other vehicles, though, featuring an available 12.3-inch touchscreen, nine-speaker JBL sound system, digital rear-view mirror that can "see through" heads or cargo obscuring the rear, 19-inch wheels and 10-inch heads-up display. You can get Toyota's first-ever fixed panoramic glass roof (called Star-Gaze) as well as heated and ventilated front seats. The Star-Gaze roof is pretty neat, as its electrochromic glass goes from frosted to clear with the press of a button. Finally, you can use Apple CarPlay, Amazon Alexa and Android Auto in all trims.
The Toyota Safety Suite 2.0 suite of safety features comes standard, too, which includes a pre-collision detection system with automatic emergency braking, dynamic radar cruise control, lane departure assist, lane tracing assist, automatic high beams, and road sign assist. It's even set up to detect bicycles and pedestrians. Blind-spot monitoring comes standard and front and rear parking assists are optional upgrades.
As to why there was no third passenger row, Toyota representatives explained that they have an existing three-row model in the Highlander. Toyota's best-selling RAV4s and Highlanders are the hybrid models nowadays, so we'll see if the style-over-seats approach for the new Venza works for them. Instead of a third row, you get 36.3 cubic feet of cargo area behind the second row, although it's still strange not to see an option for another row of seats on a midsize crossover nowadays.
Anyway, are you excited yet? The Venza's back, baby. Finally some good news for a change.
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