Review of: 2016 Toyota Venza 4dr Wgn V6 AWD
2016 Toyota Venza XLE AWD: One foot out the door
By Chris Chase
Jul. 12, 2016
Rumours of the Toyota Venza’s death are not at all exaggerated. This mid-size crossover was discontinued in the U.S. last year, so the Kentucky factory that builds it continues to do so for Canada and select export markets.
Venza was one of the slowest-selling vehicles in its class in 2015, a stat you can blame on Toyota’s SUV-dense lineup: on either side of the Venza, size-wise, are the popular RAV4 compact and the seven-seat Highlander. You would think sticking a Toyota badge on a mid-range crossover would be an easy ticket to success, but apparently not.
New to the Venza for 2016 is a Redwood Edition package that builds on the mid-range XLE trim and adds “redwood” leather seats to the interior.
Pros & Cons
- + Acceleration
- + Rear seat space
- + Attention-getting styling
- - Ride comfort
- - Value for money
- - No cutting-edge technology
The Venza appears sleeker than you’d expect, looking more like a big wagon than a crossover. This design was notable at its 2009 introduction for wrapping its bodywork around big 18- and 20-inch wheels; that’s less so now as big wheels are more common on crossovers, but it still contributes to the Venza’s imposing appearance.
Venza looks bulky from the outside and feels it, inside. From the driver’s seat, it feels wide, which may be down to the low seating position (relative to most crossovers) and tall dash, and that sensation of width makes the Venza feel larger than it is in crowded urban environments.
The “Redwood” seats are nice, but look a bit out place in an otherwise black interior. Some matching accents in the door panels would have created a more cohesive appearance. But the seats are comfortable and rear-seat legroom is excellent. However, without breaking out the tape measure, the cargo area seems less practically-shaped than that in the Ford Edge, one of Venza’s direct — and popular — competitors.
Neat touches include a centre console whose top slides back, cupholders and all, to reveal a storage compartment beneath. The stereo’s USB and auxiliary connections are in a different spot, but there’s a way to run the wire so it stays hidden.
On the negative side, some of the materials don’t feel good enough for a $38,000 vehicle, and the dashboard panel fitment was only so-so.
A sign Toyota is no longer terribly invested in the Venza is its lack of advanced safety equipment. The Toyota Safety Sense suite (it bundles stuff like pre-collision detection, lane departure alert and dynamic cruise control) isn’t even mentioned in the specs, and relatively common safety items like blind spot monitoring is available even as an option, while it’s standard, along with rear cross-traffic monitoring, in a sub-$30,000 RAV4.
Inside, the Venza shows its age through the tiny in-dash touchscreen that displays radio and navigation functions, and the even tinier combination climate control and trip information display perched atop the dash like an afterthought.
My tester had the optional 3.5-litre V6 engine which, as it does in other Toyota models, turns the Venza into a speedy machine. It’s a very strong motor with a sonorous mechanical soundtrack that is a pleasant surprise in such a mainstream vehicle. It comes hooked to a six-speed automatic transmission that works well with the V6 to create a responsive powertrain.
Venza rides on a firm suspension I figure is meant to lend the car a sporty feel, but it feels out of place here. Toyota figured that out with the latest RAV4, whose ride is more compliant than past versions, but a lack of similar evolution in the Venza is yet another clue Toyota doesn’t plan to keep this model around much longer.
At its $38,505 price, my XLE AWD V6 tester lacks too many niceties to be considered a strong value: you don’t get stuff like HID headlights, intelligent keyless entry, backup parking sensors or a powered front passenger seat until you ante up for the $41,000-plus Limited trim. However, XLE trim does include a power tailgate, navigation and panoramic sunroof.
Still, if you’re going to have to live without stuff, I’d be inclined to suggest living without more of it in the $34,000 V6 AWD model.
As a Toyota crossover, the Venza should have been an easy sell. However, it was conceived when Toyota was convinced it could survive on its reputation for dependability against Korean models that felt of higher quality and offered better value. That complacency shows in the Venza, a decent crossover that could have been a lot better.