2010 Toyota Venza Tested: A Dune Buggy?

January 25, 2010

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Dune Buggy?

 

Toyota didn't become a major carmaker building only one model. Instead, it offers a cornucopia of autos and trucks.

 

The Venza, based on Toyotas Camry/Avalon sedan architecture--the foundation for its Highlander SUV--is a Kabuki-faced, fastback crossover with lowered roof and big 20-inch wheels. It's available with all-wheel-drive, a V6 engine and a six-speed automatic transmission.

 

It's similar to Ford's Edge. The result is ample interior seating with generous rear seats that recline. They'd be perfect if their shoulder belts fit better. Stowage also suffers due to high rear floor and chunky, sloped roof pillars. Fold that rear seat and you can pack assembled goods from Crate and Barrel.

 

The Kentucky-built Venza's fit and finish are sub par. Interior and exterior bits are proud, too proud, as in pieces that don't smoothly abut. A persistent right-side rattle also annoyed. Neither is typical of Toyota's nicely-assembled way.

 

Although faux wood and metal-look plastic enwrap you, the effect is organic due to a sand dune-like, low-gloss dashboard and center console. A large luminescent speedometer, crisp info screen deserve kudos but the assortment of buttons with redundant setup labeling mislead. Furthermore, the navigation screen's touch points are too close to a ledge. You'll want to use the handy, compliant voice activation feature.

 

On the road, Goodyear tires announce pavement types more loudly than one expects. They also cause abrupt body tosses. Steering is properly weighted with reassuring off-center effort that corresponds to cornering forces. Feedback, though, is low and cornering grip fair. Brake pedal is mushy.

 

Fuel economy: 23 mpg says the trip computer. The EPA's numbers: 18 city, 25 highway.

 

David Seebach would rate the driveline performance as magical. That coupled with agreeable guidance and elbow-friendly driver's capsule makes the Venza satisfying.

 

Xtras: automatic high beams, keyless start, leather seating surfaces, accurate XM-based traffic alert, panoramic roof, power liftgate and backup camera. These lift the $30,000 base price to $38,224.

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