2009 Toyota Venza

John Stewart

Numerous safety and security features are standard on each Venza. These include seven standard air bags. In keeping with the latest technology, the seats use weight sensors to detect the size of an occupant. In the passenger seat, for example, the sensor can tell the difference between a passenger and a lightweight handbag - if it's a handbag less than a certain weight, it spares the driver of incessant reminder lights and chiming and blocks deployment of that seating position's inflators.

The tire-pressure monitoring system, a required safety device, uses a sensor on each wheel to identify the tire in question. The result is fewer spurious alarms and a better sense of how to address any legitimate low-tire situations.

The Star Safety System, standard for the first time in a Toyota vehicle, is a combination of ABS, traction control, stability control, brake assist, electronic brake force distribution, and hill-start control. These cooperative systems function to help the driver overcome slippery surfaces, skidding of any kind, and stability issues that might arise from panic braking or overcompensating in an emergency situation. They can be switched off, should you prefer, in case of heavy snow or loose surfaces. Active headrests and side-impact door beams are other highlights in a list of twelve standard safety features.

With the Venza, the interior is the best part, designed from scratch to take advantage of wider-than-Camry dimensions. The more you sit in it, the more you like it.

From the driver's seat, the Venza suggests open, uncluttered personal space. And from the passenger's seat, the sensation is the same. In fact, Toyota designers created the subtle suggestion of extra space via a "60/60" design that makes 60 percent of the space accessible from either front seating position. It's accomplished partly by the use of a fluid interior design with sweeping dash lines, and partly by making sure both sides share visibility to key instruments and controls, such as audio, climate, and navigation switchgear. Because the cabin is wider and taller than that of a Camry sedan, there's more hip room, more shoulder room, more headroom, and more overall interior volume.

Taking advantage of greater headroom, the Camry wagon ... sorry ... Venza, has a high seating position, allowing for better visibility and greater command of the road. Its seats are comfortably supportive, longer and wider than usual, with ample range of adjustment - at least for our average frame. The decor is decidedly neoclassical, with wood-grain accents and tasteful use of leather, cloth, and textured plastic in a clean, modern design. The cloth interior is more technical, with carbon-fiber accents. There are two color schemes, ivory and light gray. Both are inoffensive yet somewhat innocuous in character.

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