Second Chances: Toyota Gives the Venza Another Shot

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
second chances toyota gives the venza another shot

The Venza was an interesting product for Toyota. With the benefit of hindsight, we can agree it was a model just slightly ahead of its time.

A car-based, ever-so-mildly upscale crossover with two rows of seating and a choice of powertrains, the Venza offered buyers a more stylish alternative to the smaller RAV4 and midsize Highlander. Alas, the model ended its six-year run in 2015.

Well… it’s back.

Its arrival heralded by rumors, the second-generation Venza debuted in the driveway of Toyota’s U.S. brand boss, Jack Hollis, on Monday morning. Brimming with unbridled enthusiasm and making his neighbors nervous by talking far too much with his hands, Hollis revealed the Venza not just as a white space filler, but also as part of the automaker’s electrification strategy.

Along with the next-generation Sienna minivan (more to come on that), the 2021 Venza will boast a standard hybrid drivetrain, as well as standard all-wheel drive. It’s just one round in a salvo of electrified products launched by Toyota, part of the automaker’s effort to see 25 percent of its sales come from electrified vehicles by 2025.

Positioned where it was before, between the RAV4 and Highlander, the resurrected model retains its two-row interior and sharply raked rear glass. It sits on the TNGA-K platform found beneath the Toyota Avalon and Highlander.

Somewhat conservative up front, with a wide lower air opening (it’s a Toyota, after all) and a plastic-covered upper grille, the Venza’s larger dimensions wear the brand’s corporate styling well. Beneath the hood you’ll find a 2.5-liter four cylinder paired with two electric motors, with one more found out back, powering the rear axle. No need for a mechanical connection between the engine and rear axle.

That rear motor, by the way, can provide up to 80 percent of the vehicle’s torque, depending on driving conditions and the amount of front-end slip.

While Toyota won’t say what speeds you ca attain (and what distances you can travel) in EV mode, like other hybrids, it won’t be much. The aim of the triple-motor hybrid drivetrain is to have the driver walk away from a trip having used less gas. In this respect, the Venza seems to have succeeded. No doubt a heavy vehicle, the Venza nonetheless delivers an estimated 40 mpg in combined driving.

Total system output is a modest 2019 horsepower. Three drive modes are on tap, with each offering different levels of regenerative braking. It’s worth noting that the abundance of electric motors allows boosted regen to act as a “downshift” when the driver takes manual control of the transmission in hilly or wintry conditions.

Inside the Venza, you’ll find 36.3 cubic feet of cargo space behind the second row, which comes close to matching the RAV4’s 37.6 cubes. Careful attention has been provided to sound deadening, Toyota claims, with every nook and cranny filled with decibel-absorbing insulation. Look up, and you might find an optional Star Gaze panoramic roof that turns opaque at the touch of a button.

Offered in LE, XLE, and Limited trims, the Venza goes on sale this summer with standard Toyota Safety Sense 2.0 in tow. That suite of driver assist niceties, as well as a standard backup camera, rounds out a tech roster that includes a standard 8-inch infotainment touchscreen and available 13.3-inch unit, plus a hands-free power liftgate. Buyers can order up a 10-inch head-up display if that sort of thing’s their bag.

In its time, the Venza seemed more popular than its sales figures suggested (maybe there just happened to be a lot of Venza fans in my city). The model’s best sales year was its first full year of sales — the economically challenged year of 2009, in which the Venza found 54,410 homes. By 2015, that annual tally had fallen to just over 21,000. Interestingly, Toyota kept racking up new sales for the Venza ever since, with 2019 sales data showing the automaker unloading nine new Venzas.

Where those vehicles were hiding all this time is unknown.

[Images: Toyota]

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  • Lightspeed Lightspeed on May 21, 2020

    The Venza wasn't quite ahead of its time as the Malibu Maxx beat them to the concept of a (gasp!) station wagon. But, of course Toyota did the "Maxx" concept right, and I bought the cheaper Malibu and had many regrets. The Venza styling has grown better over time and this looks remarkably awkward up on its tippy-toes.

  • 415s30 415s30 on Jun 01, 2020

    Venza sounds a lot like, "toilet seat" in Japanese, just saying...

  • Jeff S Corey--We know but we still want to give our support to you and let TTAC know that your articles are excellent and better than what the typical articles are.
  • Jeff S A sport utility vehicle or SUV is a car classification that combines elements of road-going passenger cars with features from off-road vehicles, such as raised ground clearance and four-wheel drive.There is no commonly agreed-upon definition of an SUV and usage of the term varies between countries. Thus, it is "a loose term that traditionally covers a broad range of vehicles with four-wheel drive." Some definitions claim that an SUV must be built on a light truck chassis; however, broader definitions consider any vehicle with off-road design features to be an SUV. A [url=https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crossover_(automobile)]crossover SUV[/url] is often defined as an SUV built with a unibody construction (as with passenger cars), however, the designations are increasingly blurred because of the capabilities of the vehicles, the labelling by marketers, and electrification of new models.The predecessors to SUVs date back to military and low-volume models from the late 1930s, and the four-wheel drive station wagons and carryalls that began to be introduced in 1949. The 1984 [url=https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jeep_Cherokee_(XJ)]Jeep Cherokee (XJ)[/url] is considered to be the first SUV in the modern style. Some SUVs produced today use unibody construction; however, in the past, more SUVs used body-on-frame construction. During the late 1990s and early 2000s, the popularity of SUVs greatly increased, often at the expense of the popularity of large [url=https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sedan_(automobile)]sedans[/url] and station wagons.More recently, smaller SUVs, mid-size, and crossovers have become increasingly popular. SUVs are currently the world's largest automotive segment and accounted for 45.9% of the world's passenger car market in 2021. SUVs have been criticized for a variety of environmental and safety-related reasons. They generally have poorer fuel efficiency and require more resources to manufacture than smaller vehicles, contributing more to climate change and environmental degradation. Between 2010 and 2018 SUVs were the second largest contributor to the global increase in carbon emissions worldwide. Their higher center of gravity increases their risk of rollovers. Their larger mass increases their stopping distance, reduces visibility, and increases damage to other road users in collisions. Their higher front-end profile makes them at least twice as likely to kill pedestrians they hit. Additionally, the psychological sense of security they provide influences drivers to drive less cautiously. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sport_utility_vehicleWith the above definition of SUV any vehicle that is not a pickup truck if it is enclosed, doesn't have a trunk, and is jacked up with bigger tires. If the green activists adhere to this definition of what an SUV is there will be millions of vehicles with flat tires which include HRVs, Rav4s, CRVs, Ford Escapes, Buick Encores, and many of compact and subcompact vehicles. The green movement is going to have to recruit millions of new followers and will be busy flattening millions of tires in the US and across the globe. Might be easier to protest.
  • Sckid213 I actually do agree that most Nissans are ultimately junk. (I also think many BMWs are also). I was talking challenging the 3 in terms of driving dynamics. Agree all were failures in sales.
  • THX1136 More accurately said, we are seeing exponential growth in the manufacturing capabilities in this market. Unless, of course, all those vehicles are sold with customers waiting until more a produced so they can buy. Indeed, there are certainly more EVs being purchased now than back in 2016. Is demand outstripping manufacturing? Maybe or maybe not. I sincerely don't know which is why I ask.
  • ToolGuy The page here (linked in the writeup) is ridiculously stupid https://www.tyreextinguishers.com/how-to-spot-an-suvLike, seriously stupid, e.g., A) Not sure that particular Volvo is killing the planet as quickly as some other vehicles we might choose. B) A Juke is "huge"??? C) The last picture shows a RAV4 Hybrid?
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