Toyota’s big reveal for the Detroit Auto Show was the new Venza crossver, a tall Camry wagon exclusively for North America. It has a slab-sided look, not unlike the Prius; the Venza is sleeker than most crossovers, looking more car-like. Indeed, in profile, the Venza looks more like a Dodge Magnum wagon, in proportions, than most SUVs; but it has better headroom and an airier interior. The door sills are fairly high, giving an impression of safety, though visibility is still good. The slanted rear window is stylish and may help aerodynamics, though it cuts into the cargo space.
Overall, the Venza looks quite slippery, which should help to keep noise down and gas mileage up, while the interior looks fairly spacious for four or five people and some cargo; it will be a good replacement for the long-lost and sometimes-lamented Camry wagons, and hopefully will attract some of those who are now driving body-on-frame SUVs (like the “why are people still buying these” Ford Explorer) to a lighter, more comfortable, and more fuel-efficient vehicle. This segment is selling increasingly well, as people try to get better gas mileage without changing the outward appearance of their vehicles too much.
At launch, the five passenger Venza will be equipped with the Camry’s 268 HP V6 and a six speed automatic transmission with sequential shift. Towing capacity of 3,500 lbs is more than double the capacity of the average sedan. All six cylinder Venzas will be fitted with dual exhaust and 20 inch alloy wheels. Later in the year a 2.7 liter four cylinder with 19 inch alloys will join the lineup.
Styling is similar to the Lexus RX, sleeker than other Toyota SUVs. The grille is a bolder design than the usual Toyota grille; Bob Carter, VP and general manager of the Toyota division described it as an "imposing front fascia.”
The interior is an uncluttered design, with the shifter positioned in the vertical portion of the center console, freeing up the floor console for storage. Interior room was described as "making each front seat occupant feel they have 60 percent of the total room.'
Venza was designed by Toyota in California and developed in Ann Arbor Michigan at Toyota's technical center. Production will be at the company's Georgetown, Kentucky complex exclusively for North America.
Venza is aimed at those consumers on the fence between an SUV and a sedan, combining the best of both. Carter says Venza offers "sedan features and the utility of an SUV.” Unlike the recently introduced 2009 Dodge Journey crossover, the Venza will most likely do so without compromising gas mileage or acceleration.
Toyota Venza crossover
All aspects of Venza's engineering and design were targeted specifically for the North American market where it will be sold exclusively. Venza was primarily engineered at Toyota Technical Center in Ann Arbor, Mich., and designed at Toyota's Calty design studios in Newport Beach, Calif. and Ann Arbor, Mich. Venza will be assembled at Toyota Motor Manufacturing Kentucky (TMMK), in Georgetown, Ky.
Calty designers leaned more heavily on a sleek sedan concept with a wide stance that featured a sporty exterior and premium comfort interior but would also be equipped with important SUV attributes such as cargo space, towing capability and all-wheel-drive performance.
On the inside, Calty designers and TTC engineers made comfort, refinement and utility a priority for the five-passenger Venza. A lower rocker design will allow occupants to more easily step in and out of the vehicle than a typical sedan. Venza will also feature a higher ride height and hip points that will help provide significantly better driver visibility than most sedans and easier ingress and egress than most SUVs.
Venza will feature a spacious interior providing ample room for all five passengers and abundant SUV-like cargo space behind the second row of seats. The rear hatch provides a low cargo height that allows for easy loading and unloading of luggage and outdoor gear. Easy-to-use levers, one on each side of the rear cargo area, allow the 60/40 split rear seats to fold flat, providing additional storage space for extra long items such as surf boards, skis, camping gear and gardening equipment. For added passenger comfort, the rear seats recline up to 14 degrees.
A creative interior design complemented with an array of comfort and convenience features provides Venza with a refined look and feel that is commonly reserved for a luxury sedan. The flow of the instrumentation panel (IP) creates a unique 60/60 design that gives both driver and front passenger the look and feeling that 60 percent of the IP is accessible from their seating position.
An extra long center console extends from the instrument panel and slopes down to a center compartment with a unique sliding console cover. Sliding open the compartment lid reveals a large storage well deep enough to hold a large purse. The compartment is also illuminated and equipped with an auxiliary audio jack and 12-volt power point. The upper portion of the center console houses the gear-shift lever for easy and comfortable driver access. Climate control functions are centrally located on the upper center console, providing easy accessibility for both driver and passenger. The center console also contains an iPod/MP3 storage compartment with wire management and illuminated dual cupholders.
All Venza models will be equipped with an array of standard features including auto dual zone air conditioning, AM/FM six-disc CD, tilt/telescopic steering wheel with audio controls, remote keyless entry, electrochromic rearview mirror with compass, a multi-information display, cruise control, optitron gauges, rear wiper, privacy glass, and much more. On V6 models Venza will come standard with dual exhaust tips and will be the first Toyota model to ride on standard 20-inch alloy wheels. Four-cylinder models will come standard with 19-inch alloy wheels.
Chrome accents throughout give Venza a refined look and feel. Models equipped with an optional leather-trimmed interior will feature wood-grain-type trim and seats stitched with dark piping that is tastefully coordinated with Venza's standard linear grain dashboard and steering wheel. An array of storage space will be available throughout the vehicle to accommodate passenger belongings. A large storage compartment with an additional 12-volt power point located on the passenger side of the front center console will be sizeable enough to contain maps and magazines.
A panoramic roof will be offered as an option and will be a first for the Toyota vehicle lineup. The roof will feature separate glass panels over the front and rear seats. The front glass panel will have a power tilt/slide function.
Venza will also offer an Automatic High Beam headlight system, for the first time on a Toyota (a similar system debuted in the 1930s on some Pierce Arrows; and on 1952 Cadillacs). When high beam headlights are in use sensors in the Automatic High Beam system will detect oncoming traffic and automatically switch the headlights to low-beam. When the Automatic High Beam sensors no longer detect oncoming traffic the system will switch the headlights back to high-beam mode.
Additional optional equipment will include a navigation system equipped with a JBL audio system, integrated satellite radio capability and Bluetooth® technology; a premium JBL audio system with AM/FM six-disc CD changer, satellite radio capability and Bluetooth®, rear seat entertainment system, a Smart Key System, back-up camera and a power rear door.
The sleek and sporty styling, refined interior and outstanding utility features are complemented with fun-to-drive performance attributes expected by owners with active lifestyles. Aggressive handling typically found in a performance coupe is well-balanced by the on-road comfort of an upscale sedan.
Venza will be available in front- and all-wheel-drive configurations. It will provide drivers and passengers the best of both worlds by delivering the quiet comfortable ride expected from a full-size sedan along with the peace-of-mind that comes with all-wheel-drive.
Power will be generated by an available 3.5-liter V6 that will produce 268 horsepower at 6,200 rpm and 246 lb.-ft. of torque at 4,700 rpm with a towing capability of 3,500 pounds. Standard power will come from an all-new 2.7-liter four-cylinder engine that will deliver capable performance and provide excellent fuel efficiency and low emissions. Both engines will be mated with a six-speed sequential-shift electronically-controlled automatic transmission.
"Venza will establish an exciting new crossover niche that will combine the finest attributes of Toyota's diverse vehicle lineup," said Carter. "It will cater to buyers who are looking for the value and reliability of a Camry, the comfort and upscale refinement of an Avalon, and the utility and functionality of a Highlander SUV in one very stylish and sporty package."
2009 Toyota Venza crossover dimensions
Length: 189.0 inches
Width: 75.0 inches
Height: 63.4 inches
Wheelbase: 109.3 inches
Ground clearance: 8.1 inches
Wheels: 19-inch alloy wheels (four-cylinder); 20-inch alloy wheels (standard on V6 and available on four-cylinder)
Tire Size: 245/50R20 or 245/55R19 depending on wheel size
Towing Capacity: 3,500 lbs. (V6)
Seating Capacity: 5
Toyota Venza safety features
Venza will be equipped with a comprehensive list of standard safety features. It will provide a total of seven airbags, including a driver’s knee airbag, front seat-mounted side airbags, and side curtain airbags for both rows of seats. Venza will also be the first sedan with Toyota's STAR safety system, featuring anti-lock brakes, traction control, electronic brake-force distribution, brake assist, and vehicle stability control. Venza will also feature active head rests as standard equipment.