2009 Toyota Venza

John Stewart
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POWERTRAIN CHOICES
Venza buyers will have a choice of two engines, each backed by six-speed automatic transmissions, and front-wheel drive (FWD) or all-wheel-drive (AWD). The V-6's peak torque, 246 lb-ft, comes at 4700 rpm. As a result, it is the engine you'd choose should you need to tow a trailer. This is the same engine as in the Camry, but the Venza is about 400 pounds heavier, which makes it a tad less responsive off the line but more stable and substantial at speed.

We also had the opportunity to drive the Venza with the standard engine, a 2.7-liter four-cylinder. We didn't notice much performance drop-off in ordinary driving, although the four-banger gives up 86 hp to the V-6. Peak torque, 182 lb-ft, arrives at 4200 rpm. With slightly taller gearing, the four-cylinder Venza isn't horribly slow when it comes to acceleration, but the chief advantage of the 2.7 is its fuel economy. In front-wheel-drive trim, the four-cylinder Venza will deliver 21 mpg city and 29 mpg on the highway, according to preliminary estimates, compared with 19/26 mpg for the V-6. The 2.7-liter engine isn't available in the Camry, but it does appear in the Toyota Highlander SUV. It's a PZEV/SULEV-II powerplant, which means it's about as clean as an internal-combustion engine can get.

FWD vs. AWD SYSTEMS
The Venza's "on-demand" all-wheel-drive system is similar to that currently used in Toyota's RAV4 and Matrix. The key point is that it can distribute power in a 50/50 blend, front to rear, which is optimal when road surfaces get seriously slick with ice or mud. Most of the time, the vehicle will operate primarily in front-wheel-drive mode, biasing power to individual wheels when slip is detected. The AWD system adds about 175 pounds to the vehicle, cuts mileage by about 1 mpg, and adds a degree of complexity with an extra driveshaft and CV joint. It also increases the Venza's price by $1450. However, in locales that are subjected to four seasons of weather, we'd consider it worth the investment.

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