The Venza, like many new-age crossovers, makes a lot of sense on paper but leaves us scratching our heads trying to figure out its real-world advantages. Toyota says the Venza caters to drivers who want "the value and reliability of a Camry, the comfort and upscale refinement of an Avalon, and the utility and functionality of a Highlander" in one stylish, sporty package. To our eyes, the attempt to combine all these traits results in a rather awkwardly styled Camry wagon with high sills and a jacked-up ride height. Nevertheless, the Venza offers carlike agility and some SUV functionality. Its 268-hp, 3.5-liter V-6 performs the same way it does in Toyota's other vehicles, providing smooth, relatively economical motivation. There's a four-cylinder for about $2000 less, but we'd recommend saving money elsewhere, especially since the four offers only a marginal fuel economy advantage. A power-operated tilting-and-sliding panoramic sunroof is optional, as are a thirteen-speaker JBL sound system and a backup camera. The Venza also has the technological niceties families expect these days, including standard iPod connectivity and Bluetooth. V-6-powered Venzas sport standard twenty-inch wheels (a Toyota first), proving that you don't have to buy a sports car or a big SUV to roll like a late-'90s rapper.
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