The 2013 Toyota Venza is by no means a performance vehicle, so if that's what you're seeking, you should probably stop reading here and move on to something more exciting.
But for everyone else--especially empty -nesters looking for comfort and competent performance, or smaller families--the Venza is a competent performer in nearly every way. In fact, compared to some crossover utility vehicles, it's a step up in this area. And perhaps the best way to describe the way in which the Venza accelerates and handles is that it feels much like a somewhat taller, heavier Camry wagon.
What's under the hood is essentially unchanged, despite the slight refresh that the Venza gets for 2013. There are four-cylinder and V-6 models, and both are offered with a choice of front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive. The base engine makes 182 horsepower from 2.4 liters, while the V-6 makes 268 hp. The mileage difference isn't all that great between the two, with four-cylinder Venzas rating up to an EPA 21 mpg city, 27 highway (or as low as 18/25 for the V-6 AWD). Both engines get the same available all-wheel drive system, configured for on-road tractability, and on V-6 models there's an available Towing Prep Package (to tow up to 3,500 pounds).
In drives of Venza models from previous model years, we've found these wagons to drive a bit more like a minivan than a sportier wagon or an SUV. You sit higher up, but in terms of ride and handling, the Venza is more carlike than most other alternatives. With soft suspension tuning and rather numb steering, it's by no means exciting to drive—and the huge 20-inch wheels add ride harshness with no handling benefit. Four-cylinder models are perfectly adequate but uninspiring, while V-6 models have a stronger, smoother character that makes it feel more like the Lexus RX 350.
And for those wondering about off-roading performance, you're also looking in the wrong place. While some measure of rugged trail ability might be a part of other crossovers with a similar profile, it's not here. And as for all-wheel drive, we'd recommend it in the Venza for those who need winter traction, but it's configured for on-the-road performance only.