Hybrids & Electrics

Is the 2021 Toyota Venza Just a 2021 Lexus RX For Toyota Money?

As the historically cheaper models get more expensive and more equipped, what does that mean for the Luxury models? Nearly every SUV has a certain level of sophistication and comfort these days, except maybe the line of off-road Toyotas, they are still in the dark ages. But everything else is steadily nicer. With that being said, how close is the fully-loaded 2021 Toyota Venza Limited AWD getting to the 2021 Lexus RX?

Is the 2021 Lexus RX better than the 2021 Toyota Venza?

Let’s start with money. The fully-loaded Venza costs $43,100, and the base-model Lexus RX starts at $45,170 and goes up to $57,210. But why does the Lexus cost so much more? 

For starters, the 2021 Lexus RX scored an impressive 80 overall on Consumer reports. The Lexus RX 450H is the most comparable due to its hybrid powertrain, a 3.5-liter V6 paired with an electric motor. It has a bit more punch than the Venza, but ultimately still not a quick car. In fairness, that is not what it is meant to be. Both the RX and Venza are supremely efficient on fuel, with 29 mpg and 30 mpg, respectively. 

The Venza, on the other hand, earned a close second on CR with a 78 overall. The Venza sports a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine paired with an electric motor that recharges from coasting and regenerative braking. Even though the Venza has a much smaller engine, the 0-60 mph only slightly trails the RX’s time of 7.5 seconds. It also gets a touch better mpg, as previously noted. 

Which hybrid is better on the curvy parts?

The up-scale Lexus makes its place in the market very clear at this point. CR mentions that the Lexus is clumsy and prone to plenty of body lean. The steering is also mushy and provides very little feedback. CR also says that the Lexus was clearly far outside its comfort zone when they tested it on the track. It never felt unsafe, but it’s reported to have met its cornering limits very early. 

2021 Toyota Venza Limited
2021 Toyota Venza Limited | Peter Corn

I haven’t driven the Lexus, but the Venza was surprisingly nimble and flat in the corners of the Blue Ridge Mountains. However, the steering was a bit mushy as well and gave very little feedback from the road. Although CR says they noticed a lot of body-roll, I can’t say that I felt more than I expected. It had some motion but could still take a corner with relative confidence. 

The 2021 Lexus RX beats the 2021 Toyota Venza on the interior and ride comfort

According to CR, what the Lexus lacks in handling it more than makes up for it with its smooth ride and soft suspension. The RX eats up road imperfections with little fuss and even less noise. The ride is quiet and peaceful, even at highway speeds. The interior fit and finish is another page from the same story; everything is soft, plush, and intentional. The higher trim levels will provide wood and metal accents, plush soft leather, and decorative stitching. This is luxury, not an attempt at it.

2021 Lexus RX in the middle of the road
2021 Lexus RX | Lexus

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The Toyota Venza isn’t a harsh ride by any means, but a pothole can jostle you more than you might expect from an otherwise luxurious ride. The ride is fairly quiet, but the 2.5-liter can make a bit of rasping noise when under power. However, at lower speeds, the very slight whir of the electric motor is a peaceful sound. 

The interior seems well-built. There are plenty of soft surfaces, and the two-tone leatherette is a nice touch. The large infotainment screen, Star Gaze roof with Frost Control, and vented seats all hold your attention for a while, but the further you go, the less fancy it becomes. It does feel like it’s trying to be upscale, but that is different from simply being upscale. 

The final verdict

The real difference between the two is, one feels upscale, and the other is upscale. The Lexus just is nicer, and you’ll have to pay for that added luxury accordingly. The Toyota Venza is boring, but most luxury is. If you want a Lexus but want to save a few thousand dollars, the Venza will likely scratch that itch.