2009 Toyota Venza

John Stewart

There is no "base" Venza. Toyota is marketing it as a premium car that comes unusually well equipped in standard form. Highlights include foglamps, projector-beam headlights, chrome exhaust tips, privacy glass on the rear and side windows, and a factory XM antenna. Wheels, either nineteen- or twenty-inch, vary depending upon engine choice, with the V-6 receiving twenty-inch aluminum rolling stock.

The interior is littered with standard features including remote keyless entry, power windows and doors, an auxiliary audio jack, folding rear seats, and other niceties. The standard AM/FM six-disc in-dash CD changer audio system has integrated satellite radio, MP3, and WMA playback capability, and six speakers.

Factory options include a large "panoramic" moonroof and a new, next-generation navigation system. The new navi has improved ability to sync with your cell phone via Bluetooth, improved voice-command functions, and is XM NAVTraffic ready. The Bluetooth interface now permits wireless connections for iPod or other MP3 devices. Most welcome, in our opinion, is the fact that Toyota's "big brother" driver-lockout restrictions have been reduced. Now, while driving, you can enter previous destinations or look up your cell phone call history.

Another option we like is the Smart Key system, which means no fumbling for the key fob. As long as the key is somewhere on your person, just touch the door handle and the car unlocks. Once inside, touch a button and the Venza starts.

Pet owners may appreciate the Venza's line of pet accessories, which goes far beyond the usual cargo barriers. Pet ramps, pet car seats, seat covers, and pet harnesses are but a few of the products available for those who take their dogs everywhere.

It would be speculation to say that one day we'll see a hybrid version of the Venza. But all the key components seem to be in place. The push-button start and electric power steering are key components to enable hybrid conversion. Considering the Venza's relationship to the Camry, which already has a hybrid derivation, we don't think it's a stretch to envision a hybrid Venza somewhere down the line.

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