2008 Detroit Auto Show: 2009 Toyota Venza Crossover Sedan
What it Is
new cars: 2009 Toyota Venza Crossover Sedan Preview – As if having two crossovers already wasn’t enough, and obviously it isn’t for Toyota, the automaker took the wraps off the Venza Crossover Sedan in Detroit. Yes, you read the word “crossover” followed by the word “sedan.” ToMoCo says it “will be a unique blend of sedan and sport utility vehicle, offering seating for five, easy ingress and egress, a car-like ride and functional utility.” Hmm, BMW’s sedan and SUV, Toyota’s sedan and SUV – seems like there’s a trend here. The Venza was designed and engineered in the U.S., and will be built at the Georgetown, Ky., plant, which is where Camry, Solara and Avalon are built.Why it Matters
Toyota is a company that can and will make a vehicle in any segment that it sees as an opportunity. With two crossovers that are styled more like SUVs than the newer crop o’ CUVs, the company decided to fill what it felt was a void in its lineup. Lexus has had the RX model for several years with good sales success. The Venza is very much in that vein and offers buyers a vehicle that is closer in execution to the RX than the Highlander or RAV4.
What’s Under the Hood
The Venza has two engine options: a 3.5-liter V-6 and a 2.7-liter inline four cylinder. Toyota hasn’t released performance figures for the standard 2.7-liter engine. The V-6 produces 268 horsepower and 246 lb.-ft. of torque. Both engines will be mated to a six-speed, sequential-shift automatic transmission, which will drive the front wheels or all four. Toyota is also mum about suspension configuration, but it could be exactly what’s found in its Camry sibling. The automaker says the handling will be aggressive with the ride of a sedan. That’s not impossible, but we’ll see.
What It Looks Like
Toyota says it doesn’t look like anything else in the company’s lineup. Well, it doesn’t look like another Toyota, but the resemblance to the Lexus RX is there in size and shape. The Venza has enough of its own character to not qualify as a clone-mobile, but it’s not terribly adventurous. There’s an optional panoramic roof, which is a first for a Toyota.
Reclining rear seats, a bevy of storage options, along with several standard features including dual climate control, tilt/telescoping steering wheel, an illuminated center console bin and cupholders, automatic high-beam headlights, and a self-dimming mirror. On the safety side of things, there are seven air bags, including one for the driver’s knees.
What Toyota Says
“Venza will establish an exciting new crossover niche that will combine the finest attributes of Toyota's diverse vehicle lineup. It will cater to buyers who are looking for the value and reliability of a Camry, the comfort and upscale refinement of an Avalon, and the utility and functionality of a Highlander SUV in one very stylish and sporty package.”
What We Think
It seems rather strange that the company would have taken this long to bring out a Toyota-badged crossover that’s very much like the Lexus RX. The Nissan Murano is a very similarly styled vehicle, although the company doesn’t tout luxury, but the two are natural competitors. So, what took so long? It’s not like Toyota worried about the Avalon stealing sales from the ES. Could be the beginning of the end of the Highlander, but Toyota doesn’t seem very worried about having a large range of vehicles. They’d like everyone to think the Venza is somehow a new segment and a unique vehicle, but that’s hardly the case. A fine vehicle perhaps, but not exactly alone the marketplace.
By Bob Beamesderfer
MyRide Road Test Editor
Photo Credit: Staff