By on May 18, 2020


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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50 Comments on “Second Chances: Toyota Gives the Venza Another Shot...”

  • avatar

    The Toyota RX!

    • 0 avatar

      Indeed, this does feel like a modernized version of the original RX more than the current RX. That’s a definite win in my book. Not having the Lexus’ annoying touchpad interface is an extra plus.

      I wonder if it will have the embossed harrier logo inside like the Japanese version.

  • avatar

    The original Venza was a nice CUV, just too squat. This is very nice looking and looks very expensive, my guess will be close to $50K nicely loaded

  • avatar

    The 2019HP should really help it merge with fast moving traffic.

    All cars should be hybrids.

  • avatar

    This looks exactly like the 2-row RX, just with the ugly Toyota front end replacing the really-ugly Lexus front end. 2019 horsepower is might intriguing, just wait till the Gazoo Racing version comes out!

  • avatar

    The original Venza wasn’t particularly good looking for something meant to be more stylish, and looked just a little too much like a car. This, while not great looking, is absolutely better and clearly a crossover. It’ll absolutely eat the Nissan Murano’s lunch (finally).

  • avatar

    Looking at the specs on this it makes zero sense. Its the same size as the RAV4 essentially. Between that, the lame powertrain choices, and the price this seems like a big loser.

    The interior does look interesting and the roof panel translucency trick is pretty cool (credit where credit is due)

    • 0 avatar

      The “specs” above only list the area behind the second row, so with that sloped rear end, of course it’s close to the RAV4. But this is literally a segment everyone is in now. Passport, Blazer, Santa Fe, Murano, Edge, these are all ‘tweeners. Of course Toyota would want to get in on this. And don’t you think most Camry owners would want something like this versus a noisy RAV4?

      Standard hybrid is an excellent idea. Glad to see it. Also, this is remarkably un-ugly for a Toyota.

      • 0 avatar

        This is small even for the tweener class. It shares the Rav4’s wheelbase and width, and is about 5″ longer overall. For comparison, the Edge, which is on the smaller end of the class, is two inches longer, but a full three inches wider.

      • 0 avatar

        But unlike the Santa Fe, Sorento, Edge, Murano – Toyota once again took the cheap way out and didn’t develop a separate platform, instead using the same as for the RAV-4, and merely added some length behind the rear axle (like what they did for the RX-L).

        The Passport, otoh, shares its platform w/ the much larger Pilot.

        It really depend on how Toyota prices this (the sloping hatch doesn’t help things).

        There will be hybrid CUVs like the upcoming Sorento
        which offer more space.

        • 0 avatar

          Pretty sure Edge and Murano both share a platform with the midsize care of their brand. The Venza being the runt of the liter isn’t a surprise since the Highlander (which also the same platform as the RAV4 and Venza) is on the smaller side of its competitive set as well.

          • 0 avatar

            If Nissan did what Toyota did w/ the new Venxa, they would have based the Murano on the same platform as the Rogue, but just added some length behind the rear axle.

            But Nissan uses a different platform/WB length for the Rogue (106.5″), Murano (111.2″) and Pathfinder (114.2″).

            Also, the new Highlander is only an inch shorter than the Palisade and yet, the Tucson, Santa Fe and Palisade do not share platforms.

    • 0 avatar

      The two-row mid-size CUVs like the Grand Cherokee, Edge, Blazer, Passport, Murano, Atlas Sport are the modern day equivalent of the personal luxury coupe.

  • avatar

    With an AWD hybrid powertrain as standard, this is pretty compelling. And it’s by far the most upscale looking vehicle Toyota will offer, inside and out. Hopefully they really did fix the noise issue on recent Toyotas, because the Corolla, Camry, and RAV4 all feel terribly under-insulated, especially in the floor area. Drive over a puddle, and it sounds like the water is splashing right into the car.

  • avatar

    Seems like there could be a market for a CUV Avalon. The drivetrain sounds interesting.

  • avatar

    I’ve got a 2011 Venza V6/FWD ‘Limited’ – just over 48K miles and has been w/o issue to date.

    This 2021 version looks a bit like the Lexus NX – not a bad thing. Still, the specs/features on the Toyota Pressroom site state ‘softex’ upholstery instead of real leather and it’s a bit smaller than the 2009-2015 version. If this is available in the low 40’s then it’s a maybe but the V6 is so quick and smooth (average 24mpg) I’d hate to give up the instant power for a more upscale look and 10 more mpg. Since this is based on the current RAV4 then I could at least determine if the interior will suit my tall frame until the 2021 Venza arrives in August.

  • avatar

    Looks great!! I am reserving my deposit $$ until I see it in person. My questions include: How tall is it? Are the front seat head rests (fixed in place in your photo) compatible with my 70+ year old neck? Are there air conditioning vents for the second row??

    • 0 avatar

      It’s a little less than an inch shorter in height than the RAV4.
      If the Japanese model is any indication, yes, you will have AC vents in the second row.
      The head rests, you’ll have to test it person. :)

  • avatar

    OK I get it that not every writer is going to have a high level of knowledge about the mechanics of the car, but is it too much to ask for them to read the entire press release before writing and posting an article.

    ALL Toyota hybrids have 2 motors that make up their transaxle. If they have electric rear drive it is by a single motor.

    From the Toyota press release.

    “The 2021 Venza comes standard with Toyota’s Electronic On-Demand All-Wheel Drive, a highly efficient system that takes maximum advantage of the hybrid powertrain’s benefits. Instead of using a transfer case and driveshaft to the rear wheels, Electronic On-Demand AWD employs a separate rear-mounted electric motor to power the rear wheels when needed.”

    Note the part about “a separate rear-mounted electric motor” it says motor the singular, not plural version.

    Here is the press release about the THS-II mentioned at the top of the press release. Note the pictures showing the two motors that make up the heart of the transaxle.

    The -II part refers to the fact that they have adopted the Ford multi axis design with a spur gear reduction for the traction motor, as used on the original Escape Hybrid way back when, instead of the single axis system with the less efficient planetary reduction for MG2 as used on the second generation THS. Yes -II is the 3rd generation design.

    • 0 avatar

      Good to know, I thought the two rear motors didn’t sound right. I know a lot of guys who still drive the Escape Hybrid and won’t part with them

    • 0 avatar

      After 20 years of Toyota hybrids, to this day, not a lot of automotive writers have really understood the mechanics of Toyota’s hybrid system.

      • 0 avatar

        While I don’t expect them to know the intricacies of exactly how it operates, after 20 years every automotive writer should know that the Toyota (and Ford) hybrid systems have 2 motors in their *transaxle*.

        However I don’t think having them fully read the press release before they write an article based on it is asking too much.

        I do see that the article has now been corrected.

  • avatar

    The original Venza was more of a tall wagon and, like the Ford Taurus X and the original Chrysler Pacifica, confused buyers due to it’s category diffusion…This one should sell well since it fits right within the proportions that buyers expect for a small SUV.

  • avatar

    2019 Horsepower?


  • avatar

    So is this Toyota’s Edge/Murano/Blazer/Passport? The non-3 row crossover that is bigger than the Escape/Rogue/Equinox/CR-V class?

    Looks decent.

    But I’m telling you Toyota’s unique selling point right now is that you can get non-complicated powertrains, including non-turbo V6s. While I know HSD is a very reliable unit, I can’t help but think that they could really be losing something here dropping their V6.

    We’re already staring at 2.0T everything up to $70,000 German cars. Are we now staring at hybrid all the rest in the near future?

    On the other hand, most Toyota buyers won’t care. But I’ve actually come to really enjoy a few Toyotas I’ve driven…that V6 is fantastic.

  • avatar

    To me, the original Venza was a true wagon, not a crossover. And I liked it BECAUSE it was a true wagon. I just didn’t need one at the time and I already had a true SUV.

    This new Venza is obviously a crossover and to be blunt, that’s the one reason–the only reason–I don’t like it.

  • avatar

    After the last Toyota TV ad for the Venza while I was living in New England showed the typical Venza owner couple as neat and sportily dressed, while the people leaving the nearby Outback were Birkenstock-clad and disheveled-looking (the most utterly classless ad I’ve ever seen from Toyota), the model name Venza is dead to me for good- they may as well call it a Trabant or Yugo that image generated by Toyota account creative person has repulsed me so much. And, on the practical front, I have to wonder why Toyota would bother with this project, when it clearly could take sales away from its cash cow, RAV4(I own a 2018).

  • avatar

    I’ve mentioned this before but someone in the work parking lot had a Venza… with a very subtle TRD sticker next to the nameplate.

    Say what now?

  • avatar

    Yeah, looks very Lexus-y. Although the absence of an optional V6 isn’t Lexus-y at all.

  • avatar
    Daniel J

    I hope they do something about the engine noise. My wife and I test drove the Rav 4 Hybrid and when you put your foot down the engine sound is just aweful. We were also disappointed as it really didn’t have any performance benefit over the NA gasser version. I’d prefer that they’d put the same setup in this that they are the Sienna. 212hp isn’t enough.

  • avatar

    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.

  • avatar

    Venza sounds a lot like, “toilet seat” in Japanese, just saying…

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