2009 Toyota Venza AWD

If anyone spots a Venza in my driveway – one actually owned by me, not borrowed – please shoot me. This Toyota has the sex appeal of a turnip and far less sporting character than the little red wagon I admired as a 4-year-old. The high beltline, the é ride motions, and the boring-at-all-costs attitude is more than I can stomach. Also, I detected a few poor trim fits inside which makes me suspicious that Toyota has relaxed its supreme quality standards. I must, however, admit that the Venza is a perfectly suitable transpo-appliance for Joe and Jane Blow who motor through life in a trance. It’s affordable, fairly roomy, probably safe, and capable of mid-20-mpg fuel economy. Since it wears a sombrero badge, durability is practically guaranteed. So if these qualities appeal to you, be my guest, but do me a favor and keep your Venza out of my sight.

Don Sherman, Technical Editor

Wow. I thought I didn’t care for the milquetoast Venza and its further crowding of Toyota‘s lineup, but I don’t feel nearly as negatively about this vehicle as Mr. Don Sherman. I mean, at least this Venza wears an extremely attractive coat of gold umber mica paint. It still resembles an uglified , though, particularly from the front.

Like Sherman, I, too, noticed poor panel fits and cheapish materials in a couple places, particularly in the radio/HVAC center stack, but I’ve noticed occasional slipping quality standards in Toyota products for a couple years now.

I expected the four-cylinder Venza to be interminably slow, but it seems capable of keeping up with grandma-footed traffic, so long as Joe and Jane Blow floor the accelerator frequently (which I doubt they will). When I first tried some acceleration runs with the Venza, I was impressed by how quick it felt, considering the low horsepower and high weight. However, upon further review, I think my initial impressions stemmed more from the big four-cylinder’s loudness than the Venza’s actual swiftness.

I know that this vehicle is far from fast, but I was still alarmed by the brakes’ engagement only after the pedal is depressed a couple inches. Also, I found the driver’s seat to be too flat in both padding and in positioning. I guess Toyota just assumes that most Americans bring along plenty of padding in their bottoms.

Rusty Blackwell, Copy Editor

My feelings about the Venza are not nearly as visceral as Don Sherman’s. His reaction to its utter lack of personality is understandable, but for me, that translates into a feeling of indifference rather than hostility. Buyers of the Venza aren’t going to care – or probably even notice – if their vehicle has a four- or six-cylinder engine. And that’ll be all right, because this four-cylinder, while not exactly a powerhouse, has sufficient oomph to merge onto the highway at the proper speed and tootle along to the grocery store, the weekly bridge game, or the garden store to pick up a flat or two of spring flowers. The priorities of the Venza owner will be reliability, ease of operation, and sufficient space for carting things and people – and in all those areas it gets a passing grade. Its higher step-in height and larger carrying capacity make it the logical next vehicle for the current Camry owner.

Amy Skogstrom, Managing Editor

We already drove a six-cylinder Venza a few weeks ago, so my main interest in this four-cylinder model was whether we would feel deprived by the omission of two cylinders. And I didn’t. The four-cylinder Venza comported itself perfectly well in city and freeway driving, and I suspect most owners would be happy enough with the four rather than the V-6. Not only is the four-cylinder cheaper to buy, of course, it gets better fuel economy but doesn’t at all feel like a wheezy, underpowered engine. If you’re considering the Venza, you certainly ought to take both models for a test-drive. Rest assured, you won’t run into our tech editor, Don Sherman, at the Toyota dealership doing the same thing.

Joe DeMatio, Executive Editor


  • Base price (with destination): $27,425
  • Price as tested: $34,284
  • Options:  
  • Comfort Package: $2,100
  • Leather seating surfaces  
  • 4-way Power front passenger front seat with lumbar support  
  • Driver and front passenger seat multi-stage seat heater  
  • Satin mahogany wood-grain-style interior trim  
  • Leather-wrapped steering wheel  
  • Leather-wrapped shift knob with satin  
  • Mahogany wood-grain style inlay  
  • Color-keyed foldable power heated outside mirrors and windshield wiper de-icer  
  • Voice-activated touch screen DVD: $2,590
  • Navigation system with JBL synthesis  
  • Surround sound AM/FM 4 disc in-dash CD changer with integrated satellite radio, MP3/WMA playback capability  
  • Hands free phone capability and music streaming via Bluetooth wireless technology and 13 speakers  
  • Panoramic glass roof with front: $1,050
  • Power tilt/slide moonroof  
  • Floor mats &cargo mat: $269
  • Cargo Net: $49
  • Wheel locks: $81
  • Fuel economy: 20 / 28 / 23 mpg (city/hwy/combined)
  • Engine:  
  • Size: 2.7L 4CYL DOHC w/ Dual VVT-i
  • Horsepower: 182 hp @ 5800 rpm
  • Torque: 182 lb-ft @ 4200 rpm
  • Transmission: 6-speed auto ECT-I w/ sequential shift
  • Weight: 3944 lb
  • Wheels/Tires: 20 x 8-in aluminum wheels

    • P265/65R18 AL2 Tires