2009 Toyota Venza Crossover

DETROIT — If you’re wondering just who the audience is for the new 2009 Venza, Toyota spells it out. The new crossover vehicle, patterned after the company’s 2005 FT-SX concept and built on the Avalon chassis, is “ideal for active boomers and young couples with small families.”

Designed and built in the U.S. and slated to hit dealers in late 2008, the five-passenger Venza will slot below the Highlander and above the RAV4 in Toyota’s growing portfolio of car-based crossovers. Toyota hasn’t announced prices, but it likely will be aimed at such mid-priced domestic models as the Ford Edge and the Chevrolet Equinox.

Toyota dropped its new Venza crossover sedan on the automotive world today, at the 2008 Detroit Auto Show. You could be excused for not knowing what a “crossover sedan” is exactly — we didn’t either. Turns out, Toyota’s definition is a vehicle that combines SUV-like utility with the driving dynamics of a sports sedan. Fair enough. In any case, the Venza was engineered in Michigan, designed in California, and will be built in Kentucky. A smart move, considering the U.S. is the Venza’s primary market.

With four doors and seating for five adults, the Toyota Venza is admittedly a pretty sleek package, considering its size. The front fascia is bold and imposing, if not the most sensual looking front end we’ve seen, but the rest of the car is fairly crisp with subtle bulges and a gently arcing roofline. Toyota says the Venza’s ride height is high for better visibility, while the overall height and ground clearance are both still less than on a typical crossover. Particular attention was paid to ease of ingress and egress, with a lower rocker design designed to aid in both areas.

Inside the Venza, an innovative 60/60 philosophy was applied to the instrumentation panel, essentially meaning that both driver and front passenger should feel that 60 percent of the panel is reachable from their seating position. The Venza’s center console extends down from the instrumentation panel in a sloping manner and incorporates a covered compartment large enough to hold a purse. An MP3 storage compartment and wire manager are also built in — important in the age of the iPod. Automatic dual-zone air conditioning, a six-disc CD player, multifunction steering wheel, multi-information display, and an electrochromic rearview mirror are all included as standard features.

Optional interior trim packages line the Venza’s cabin in leather and simulated wood, and a panoramic roof consisting of separate glass panels over both front and rear seats, will also be available. A premium JBL audio system, rear seat entertainment system, satellite radio, Smart Key System, back-up camera, power rear door, and Bluetooth connectivity beef up the option list to rival premium automakers.

The Venza’s power will be sourced from a choice of two engines; a standard 2.7-liter, four-cylinder motor with undisclosed horsepower figures, or an optional 3.5 liter V-6 with 268 horsepower and 246 lb-ft of torque available. Both engines will be mated to a six-speed automatic transmission with a manual sequential shift option, while front- and all-wheel drive will both be available on the Venza.

Toyota has also paid attention to safety concerns by featuring its STAR safety system on the Venza, incorporating anti-lock brakes, traction control, electronic brake-force distribution, brake assist, and vehicle stability control. Active head rests will also be incorporated to reduce the risk of head and neck injury in collisions, and seven airbags come standard.

The Toyota Venza is slated to hit showrooms beginning in late 2008 at an undisclosed price. When it does, it looks as if the Mazda CX-7 may finally have a little friendly competition.

Scribbled on August 3rd 2008 in Toyota
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