2009 Toyota Venza AWD V6

The Venza's face isn't as repulsive as it looks in photos, but in my opinion it still has too much chrome and is too tall. The rest of the vehicle looks decent, though, and the rear end has a pleasant Volvo-ish look to it.

The 4000-pound Venza handles well for what it is, and it's decently peppy with this six-speed-automatic-backed V-6. I'm extremely skeptical about the chops of the four-cylinder Venza, though, particularly the all-wheel-drive edition. Will any four-banger Venza be quick enough to be safe on modern roads?

I didn't really notice the hard plastics in the interior because I was so impressed with the very nice wood-look materials on the dash and the center console, as well as the soft, grainy dashboard top. The hidden bin beneath the center console (with an auxiliary input) is pretty cool, and there are plenty of other places to stow your sundries. I like how the shifter is offset toward the driver, making it more comfortable to reach and helping give the cabin a cozy, cockpit feel, despite its spaciousness.

What strikes me most about the Venza is this: Why in the heck does it exist? Does Toyota need a wagon version of the best-selling Camry? Maybe, but the Venza's ride height and mass make it far more trucky than a simple Camry wagon. And there are already several crossovers and SUVs in the big T's lineup (RAV4, FJ Cruiser, Highlander, 4Runner, Sequoia, Land Cruiser). Isn't six enough?! Is Toyota building the Venza just because it arrogantly thinks/knows it can sell them (and at a steep $36K a pop, in this spec)? I guess it makes some sense in this age of versatile production facilities that can build multiple models simultaneously.

Rusty Blackwell, Copy Editor

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