You won't be reading this review if you're looking for a performance vehicle, so it won't come as a surprise to find the Venza's a competent performer, not exciting in the way it steers or accelerates. That said, it's perfectly poised and positioned for the drivers that pick it out of the big crossover pack.
Toyota offers a choice of four- or six-cylinder engines in the Venza. For any driver not needing moderate towing ability, we'd suggest the four-cylinder. It's a 2.7-liter four with 182 horsepower, found in many other vehicles in the Toyota lineup. It putters about almost anonymously, and can feel a little coarse and strained once you fill the cabin or press it up steep hills--but in most situations, it's an eminently reasonable choice, and gets the best fuel economy of the lineup, too. Toyota also offers a 3.5-liter V-6 with 268 horsepower, and it feels smoother and stronger, though not truly quick, and gas mileage falls below some seven-seat crossovers we've admired.
Off-roading simply isn't part of the 2011 Venza vocabulary. All-wheel drive is available, but for the weight and cost it brings, we'd recommend it only for those who need all-weather traction for more than a few weeks at a time.