WHY WAGONS AREN’T WANTED IN THE U.S.: Unless a station wagon strikes a ruggedized adventurous pose or is a sleeper euro luxury super car, it emits an air of public transport.
NO FOOLIN’: They used to make a Camry station wagon, before adventure lifestyle became a thing. The last Toyota Venture + Monza portmanteau-ed raised wagon didn’t fool consumers into thinking it was anything but.
NITPICKING NICHE: The new 2021 Toyota Venza Hybrid AWD fits the bill for a legitimate crossover SUV, more stylized, premium, less useful and more costly than the boxier, roomier and more value oriented RAV4 Hybrid AWD it is derived from.
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WHAT: 2021 Toyota Venza Hybrid AWD-i 2 Row, full-sized hybrid crossover sport utility vehicle.
Standard Power: 2487 cc Atkinson cycle, dual VVT-i DOHC 24V start-stop idle I-4 cylinder gasoline engine: 186 hp/ 175 lb-ft; 220 kW (243 hp) net hybrid , arranged parallel to
- 1 x 650V synchronous AC traction / regenerative charging motor, front wheels: 123 kW, coaxially mounted with
- 1 x 650V synchronous AC Hybrid Starter Generator: 8 kW
- 1 x 650V synchronous AC traction / regenerative charging motor, rear wheels : 50 kW
- Battery electric supply: Ni-MH, 288V, 45 kW
Continuously Variable Transaxle, parallel shaft gearset coupled, rear electromagnetic differential; 100:0 – 20:80 torque split
WHAT (A) STYLING DIFFERENCE: Venza appears resurrected at Toyota in name only, as the previous rendition was a wagon trying hard not to be. As another recruit to modular TNGA-K roots, the new 2021 Venza Hybrid, is seated on the Toyota hybrid crossover throne between the 2 Row RAV4 hybrid and the 3 Row Highlander hybrid. Unlike its brethren though, Venza it’s strictly available with gas-electric hybrid all-wheel drive power.
Where the RAV4 is trying to look the truck part and Highlander a ruggedized family van, Venza Mk. II does a better imitation of a raised stretched sporty coupe. In the mold of the youthful CH-R a slim piano black grille panel is flanked by tapered dual lens LEDs with amber DRL brows. Below is a version of the corporate horizontally straked, inverted trapezoid lower grille. Folded corners create a fashion model’s high cheek bone. For more elegance body and air dam cladding does not extend to the wheel arches. Sister marque Lexus ought be paying attention.
The beltline rises casually, terminating into an acute D-panel kink, while the top of the greenhouse slopes down to meet it, for an overall effect of a floating roof. A lower rear door scoop adds character. However, the styling piece d’ resistance is the rising cheatline crease which flares at the quarter panel and then wraps around mid liftgate, traced by a full spanning raceway red LED bar. A prominent roof spoiler and beveled lower liftgate lip complete the markings of a Jaguar F-Pace. Wide power folding mirrors are door mounted for improved view ahead. A punched out bumper cover has two slim directionals banded in chrome. The dark clad lower rear valance has exhaust outlets at each corner.
WHY: Elegance in a personal compact crossover beats any lifted hum drum wagon.
WHEN: On-Sale (in the U.S.) since Summer 2020
WHERE: Toyota new vehicle dealers
WHERE MADE: Toyota City, Aichi Prefecture, Japan
WHERE TO: dual traction electric motor all-wheel drive, e-varies front/ rear traction from nominal 100/0% to maximum 20/80%, ABS torque vectoring; -1 No Off-Road or torque split lock modes; 8″-inches clearance = Inclement weather beater & dirt road, light mud treader
HOW ROADWORTHY: This evolution of the Toyota’s Synergy Hybrid powertrain is marked by refinement. The electric motor to ICE handoff goes un-noticed save for hard launches. Gas engine noise is buried until penetrating the upper legal limits posted on American highways. The continuously variable transaxle multiplies sufficient torque for getting this two ton crossover to pass with surprising verve.
Not many volume vehicles exhibit the ingot sensation which the 2021 Venza does. Aiming for potholes and frost heaves meets without success in producing any flex or jarring seat or panel impacts. Taut enough springing and optional 20″-inch rubber yield confidently sharp turn. About the right amount of steering rapidity deserves more road feel, though most won’t terribly mind it. However, such chassis poise deserves livelier stopping response. It is hard to discern whether the lazy brake pedal is the result of a weak booster or regenerative activity.
HOW FAR: 35 combined miles per gallon rated, 520 miles maximum range
- -1 EV Mode ≈ < 2 miles, @ < 25 mph, @ very light throttle
2021 Toyota Venza Hybrid vs. Ford Escape Hybrid:
- -6% urban / suburban fuel economy mix
- -2% observed combined fuel economy
HOW BIG/ LITTLE: √ 5 Occupant seating, snug 2nd Row headroom & foot space; +1 Panoramic moonroof actually boosts cabin headroom;
2021 Toyota Venza Cargo Volume (nominal / maximum)
= -22% / -22% vs. Toyota RAV4 Hybrid; -16% / -10% vs. Ford Escape Hybrid
HOW USEFUL: √ 60:40 split flat folding 2nd Row tilting seatbacks; √ Cargo floor raising hooked strap; Cargo bay bag hooks x 2; √ Proximity open + close power liftgate; +1 Deep center armrest w/ sliding then tilt to open function; +1 Deep lower center stack wireless device tray; -1 Distant reach to glove box; -1 No remote cargo bay 2nd row seatback fold releases; -1 Tow Rating: Not Rated for Towing
HOW SAFE: √ 8 airbags; √ IIHS Top Safety Pick; √ Rear camera w/ spray washer; √ STANDARD Toyota SafetySense P = Pedestrian detection braking; Forward collision avoidance braking; Lane Departure Warning, Tracing Assist; Full adaptive cruise control, Automatic High Beam headlamps; ♦ Rear seat occupant minder.
- View Outwards: +1 FORE sloping hood, door mount wing mirrors; -1 SIDE looming over shoulder blindspots; +/- REAR: short backlight mitigated by digital rearview mirror.
LIMITED trim adds: ♦ Blind spot & Rear Cross-traffic warning, ♦ Sonar front & rear park assist w/ automatic braking; ♦ 360° Bird’s Eye View camera w/ Pre-drive perimeter scan; ♦ Heads Up Display; ♦ Rain sensing windshield wipers
HOW PEOPLE FRIENDLY: At least 8/10ths the craftmanship found in Lexus showroom inventory results in a 2021 Toyota Venza displaying tight seams, a rich glossy exterior finish and sound insulation. The replacement of center dashboard switches and dials with a soft touch control panel is space saving artful. Soft panel contrast stitching is genuinely premium.
√ Perforated Softex seating – heated Rows 1 + 2, cooled Row 1; √ Power 8-way driver’s seat, w/ 2 position memory & 4-way front passenger; √ Driver’s easy access seat slide & steering wheel retract; √ Power folding heated wing mirrors; √ Heated Leather power tilt/ telescoping steering wheel with spoke integrated redundant controls; √ Keyless entry, ignition; √ Full express power windows x 4; √ 2nd Row privacy glass; Cupholders x 4, Door bottle holders x 4
- +1 Wide center armrest; +1 Generous steering wheel reach adjustment; +1 Adequate seat torso, lumbar support + cushioning; +1 Adjacent front center console dual cupholders; +1 Softex seat covering = soft & smooth as leather.
Cool Gizmo(s): √ Star Gaze electrochromic clear to opaque panoramic moon roof w/ power shade; √ Digital rear view mirror switches from optical to rear camera view.
Details Done Right: √ Dual satin metallic ringed ELD analog instrument panel gauges w/ 7.0″ color MFD; √ Contrasting saddle door panel & center console soft-material and accents; √ Satin metallic center stack, console, middle dashboard and door panel accents; √ Fine pebbled soft and hard plastics; √ Carpeted rigid ABS cargo load floor panel with adjacent brushed aluminum scuff plates; √ Front door puddle lamp displaying “Venza”; √ Piano black infotainment climate soft touch switch panel; √ Soothing blue foot well & door panel ambient lighting;
Nearly Non-Descript: -1 Faintness of grey ash wood grain appliques; -1 Hidden odometer reset, steering wheel heat (near driver’s right knee) and seat climate (by center armrest) switches; -1 Stargaze moonroof is fixed.
HOW “APP” -LICABLE: √ 12.3″ tri-pane capacitive touch LCD 3-pane infotainment screen flanked by large soft-touch button switches; √ Adaptive voice command hands-free communications; √ GPS cloud-based HDD Navigation; √ Siri Eyes, Android Auto / Apple Car Play smart phone app projection; √ Entune wireless device apps: Doppler weather, Traffic Updates, Amazon Alexa; √ Boomy 9 speaker, 1200 Watt JBL streaming audio, HD-Radio; √ USB x 4 (rows 1 & 2), 12V x 2 (row 1 + cargo).
- √ Sirius XM (90 day trial); Safety & remote connect (1 year trial); AT&T 4G LTE Wi-Fi (2GB trial)
-1 Exclusively soft touch climate / infotainment switches could benefit from absent haptics feedback.
HOW MUCH: $43,190 = 2021 Toyota Venza Hybrid AWD-i Limited
WHAT’S MISSING: Less tepid brake reaction; Tachometer for Sport mode.
ANY COMPETITION: Ford Escape FHEV: the handler; Honda Civic CR-V Hybrid : the capacious one; Toyota RAV4 Hybrid: the rugged -ized one.