Since we received word of the second-generation Toyota Venza that will be debuting for the 2021 model year, we decided it would be a good time to reflect on what the first-generation Venza brought to the new-car market during its production cycle.
Just like the forthcoming model, the original Venza slotted right between the RAV4 and the Highlander and it offered up a capable five-seat crossover that provided comfort and luxury that buyers didn’t expect from a Toyota.
Not quite a car, not quite an SUV
The Toyota Venza debuted back in 2008 for the 2009 model year and was based on the same platform as the Camry sedan. Back then, the automotive industry was going through a turning point as automakers were leaning more toward being “green” while still catering to SUV and truck lovers.
Toyota decided to go a different route by producing a crossover that was more wagon-like than anything else. The Venza was able to seat up to five occupants and could carry all their stuff thanks to a generous cargo area and wide tailgate.
Additionally, the Venza could be equipped with either a four- or six-cylinder engine, it had a decent tow capacity, and was available with an interior that looked more futuristic, and luxurious than others in the lineup.
A range of power
During the Toyota Venza’s six-year production cycle, there were two different engines to choose from. The base model was powered by a 2.7-liter, four-cylinder engine that produced 182 horsepower and 182 lb-ft of torque.
While the higher trim levels were powered by a 3.5-liter V6 engine that pushed out 268 horsepower and 246 lb-ft of torque. Both powertrains were offered in either front- or all-wheel-drive configurations and its towing capacity ranged from 1,000 to 3,500 pounds depending on the chosen configuration.
Fuel economy numbers between the two engines were somewhat similar in that the inline-four achieved 21 in the city and 29 mpg on the highway in front-wheel-drive form, while the V6 was rated at 19/26, respectively.
Opting to have the car drive all four wheels resulted in one fewer mile per gallon on each engine.
Unique on the inside and out
One of the best points of the Venza was that it looked different from all the other models in Toyota’s lineup at the time. It’s higher ride height and 19-inch wheels gave the occupants a more-commanding view of the road as well as some off-road capability, while it’s low step-in height made ingress and egress easy for passengers of all sizes.
Once inside, passengers were treated to a spacious interior, thanks to the lack of a third row. With more space for the first and second rows, the Venza’s head and legroom were near the top of the class.
Opting for the higher trim levels also meant a few more luxurious options including leather seats, a panoramic moonroof, and a premium navigation system with an updated JBL premium audio system.
Additionally, the cargo area measured in at an impressive 70.1 cubic feet, which could be fully accessed with the pull of a handle from the cargo area that folded down the second-row seatbacks.
Gone, but coming soon
The first-generation Toyota Venza was eventually discontinued in 2015 due to declining sales and a lack of clear model positioning. Apparently, it’s hodge-podge of crossover characteristics lost its charm and the brand decided to stick to producing SUVs like the three-row Highlander.
But the Toyota Venza will soon be making its return in hybrid form. While the overall shape and utility look to be the same as the last model, we think that it will have a better go this time around since more Americans are looking for a vehicle that’s capable enough for the weekends, but efficient enough for the daily drive.