2011 Toyota Venza Review and Prices
The 2011 Toyota Venza is the best car for you if you believe “family station wagon” means “crossover SUV” and that Toyota still means reliability.
The 2011 Toyota Venza is unchanged from the 2010 Toyota Venza. This is a stylish five-passenger crossover for buyers who want elevated seating and an active-lifestyle image, but cringe at the notion of a minivan and don’t want to wrestle with the mass of an SUV. Venza is built on a version of the structure that underpins the Toyota Camry midsize sedan but has wagon-type cargo volume and is available with all-wheel drive (AWD). All 2011 Venzas include an electronic brake override designed to thwart unintended acceleration, a feature Toyota began phasing in during model-year 2010.
Should you buy a 2011 Toyota Venza or wait for the 2012 Toyota Venza? Wait for the 2012 Venza if you want the freshest styling details. It’s on track for a minor facelift as part of a midcycle update to a crossover that debuted for model-year 2009. Such facelifts typically consist of subtle changes to grille, front bumper, and taillamps, though Toyota may also use the occasion to adjust some features content. Buy a 2011 Venza if such detail changes are lower on your priority list than moving up to – or down to – a sensibly conceived crossover with a long list of virtues.
2011 Toyota Venza Changes back to top
Styling: The 2011 Toyota Venza is visually indistinguishable from the 2010 Venza, which means it continues styling from the 2009 debut of this midsize crossover.
Venza is based on the Toyota Camry sedan and shares the same wheelbase -- the span between front and rear axles that defines passenger-compartment space. Though Venza actually has fractionally less body length than the Camry, it’s significantly taller and wider, and it has SUV-type ground clearance. It rides on huge 19- or 20-inch wheels and tires, and with its swept-back sheetmetal and aggressive stance, this arguably is the handsomest vehicle in the Toyota showroom.
The cabin is modern and stylish. There’s outstanding space and comfort for four adults and decent accommodations for a fifth in the center position of the rear bench seat. The dashboard displays real design flair and doesn’t sacrifice functionality to achieve it. You sit slightly higher than most surrounding traffic, but climbing in or out is no chore.
Luggage room with the 60/40 split rear seatbacks upright is an expansive 34.4 cubic feet; at 70.1 cubic feet with the seatbacks folded, cargo volume is only about average for the midsize-crossover class.
The 2011 Toyota Venza lineup continues to eschew individual trim levels in favor of one basic four-cylinder model and one V-6 model that can be dressed up via options packages. The V-6 version is stylistically identified by its 20-inch wheels and two chrome exhaust tips instead of one.
Mechanical: The 2011 Toyota Venza gets the electronic brake override but is otherwise a mechanical rerun of the 2010 Venza.
About 50 percent of Venzas are ordered with the four-cylinder engine, a 2.7-liter that continues rated at 182 horsepower and 182 pound-feet of torque (consider torque the secret sauce of acceleration and horsepower the prime ingredient in momentum). Availability of a four-cylinder engine in a midsize crossover is a relatively recent development, though it’s becoming a trend as automakers seek to maximize fuel economy. The leading edge of the trend is turbocharged four-cylinder engines of around 2.0-liters. They provide the gas mileage of a four-cylinder with the power of a small V-6 – though at an initial purchase price equivalent to that of a V-6. Venza’s four-cylinder relies on a relatively large displacement to furnish power and torque in the upper range for non-turbo engines its size.
The 2011 Toyota Venza’s available V-6 is a 3.5-liter again rated at 268 horsepower and 248 pound-feet of torque; both are fine numbers for engines this size.
Both Venza engines again mate with one transmission, a fully contemporary six-speed automatic. The gear lever sprouts from the dashboard just right of the steering wheel and can be moved within a separate gate for manual-type shifting. That gives the driver additional control to, for example, harness engine braking in hilly terrain or sharpen throttle response in urban freeway traffic.
Venzas with either engine are available with front-wheel or extra-cost all-wheel-drive (AWD). Venza isn’t intended for off-roading, so the AWD’s main role is to automatically redistribute power front-to-rear to maintain traction on slippery road surfaces. An antiskid system, also known as stability control, is standard and is designed to prevent sideways slides. An optional towing package allows Venza to trailer up to 3,500 pounds, same as most light-duty SUVs.
Venza is by no means a small or lightweight wagon, but the four-cylinder is surprisingly game, furnishing good go around town and adequate punch for hills and highways. The V-6 provides fine all-around performance and is in fact sufficiently muscular that you’ll find AWD a useful antidote to the torque-steer veering that afflicts powerful front-drive vehicles during rapid acceleration from low speeds.
Venzas with the four-cylinder engine come with 19-inch alloy wheels and those with the V-6 have 20s; this was the first Toyota of any sort with wheels that large. In either form, the 2011 Venza corners with reasonable poise. Its steering can feel annoyingly slow, numb, and unnatural in turns, though, oddly, these negatives seem to affect V-6 models more than four-cylinder versions. Sadly, the big wheels and tires that help give Venza its street cred detract from the ride quality, no matter the engine. Nasty bumps thump, sharp tar strips jar, and road noise infiltrates the cabin.
As for Venza’s connection to the sudden-acceleration controversy, model-year 2009 and 2010 Venzas were among Toyotas recalled for a replacement driver-side floormat that wouldn’t interfere with the gas pedal. Venza was not among Toyotas sited for a sticking gas pedal. The automaker did, however, include 2009-2010 Venzas among its first cars recalled to retrofit an electronic system that enables brake-pedal application to override the accelerator.
All model-year 2011 Venzas have the brake-override system and it’s bundled with several other features as part of a marketing effort Toyota calls the Star Safety System. Star Safety also includes the antiskid system as well as traction control for better grip off the line, antilock brakes for more secure stops, and brake assist that automatically applies full stopping power in emergencies even if the driver fails to apply full bake-pedal pressure.
Features: The 2011 Venza continues as a single basic model tailored to your liking through individual or package options. Notable extra-cost features include a panoramic glass roof with a power tilt/slide panel over the front seats and a fixed pane above the rear seats. Leather upholstery and an easy-to-operate voice-activated navigation system that includes a rearview camera are available. So is a rear-seat DVD entertainment system that uses a ceiling-mounted nine-inch screen and includes two wireless headphones and RCA jacks.
A tilt and telescope steering wheel, eight-way power driver’s seat and four-way power passenger’s seat, power windows, locks and mirrors, and dual zone automatic climate control are among standard features. Also included in the base price of every 2011 Venza is a power rear liftgate, cruise control, and a 3.5-inch instrument-panel multi-information display for outside temperature, instant and average fuel economy, distance to empty, average speed, and air conditioning settings. The steering wheel includes auxiliary audio, climate, and multi-information-display controls.
The standard audio system has six speakers and includes a CD player and integrated XM satellite radio (with 90 day trial subscription). The 2011 Venza comes with a USB iPod interface and Bluetooth hands-free mobile-phone connectivity and music streaming. The optional audio system is a JBL Synthesis unit with a 6-disc CD changer and 13 speakers.
The 2011 Venza’s interior continues a sporty and sophisticated air, with a handsome array of clearly marked gauges and controls illuminated in striking shades of blue and white. Though Toyota doesn’t necessarily over-deliver, materials quality is laudable and the fluid, precision-movement of buttons and knobs underlines a feeling of smart engineering. Special credit is due the easy-to-program navigation and Bluetooth systems.
2011 Toyota Venza Prices back to top
The 2011 Toyota Venza base-price range is $27,235-$30,510. That represents a modest $200 increase over the 2010 Venza. (All base prices in this review include the manufacturer’s mandated destination fee. The factory’s fee for the 2011 Venza is $760, Toyotas sold in certain Southeaster and Gulf states are delivered by independent distributors and may carry a different destination charge.)
The 2011 Toyota Venza equipped with the four-cylinder engine has a base price of $27,235 with front-wheel drive and $28,685 with AWD.
The 2011 Toyota Venza equipped with the V-6 engine has a base price of $29,060 with front-wheel drive and $30,510 with AWD.
Among notable options, the panoramic roof costs $1,050, but is not available in combination with the rear DVD entertainment system, itself a $1,680 add-on. The navigation system costs $2,580 but that price includes the upgraded JBL audio; the JBL audio is available alone at $1,080. Replacing the standard fabric upholstery with leather costs $1,600.
Two major options grouping also are available. The $3,845 Premium Package No. 1 includes among its features leather upholstery, xenon headlamps, and the keyless pushbutton start system. The $4,345 Premium Package No. 2 includes that content, plus multi-stage heated front seats, heated power-folding outside mirrors, and a windshield-wiper de-icer.
2011 Toyota Venza Fuel Economy back to top
The 2011 Toyota Venza fuel-economy ratings with the four-cylinder engine decrease slightly, though the decline is due primarily to a change in the way the EPA calculates gas mileage, not to alternations in the vehicle itself. Nonetheless, the decrease brings ratings for the four-cylinder 2011 Venza back to the middle of the pack for like-powered five-passenger crossovers.
Four-cylinder 2011 Venzas have fuel-economy ratings of 21/27 mpg city/highway with front-wheel drive and 20/25 with AWD. These figures compare with model-year 2010 ratings of 21/29 with front-wheel drive and 20/28 with AWD.
Fuel-economy ratings for the 2011 Venza equipped with the V-6 are unchanged from model-year 2010, remaining 19/26 mpg with front-wheel drive and 18/25 with AWD. Both engines use 87-octane gas.
2011 Toyota Venza Release Date back to top
The 2011 Toyota Venza went on sale in September 2010.
What's next for the 2011 Toyota Venza back to top
Venza was introduced for model-year 2009 and Toyota’s product cadence puts it on pace for a full redesign in model year 2015. That positions the 2012 Venza for a midcycle freshening, which typically involves minor appearance changes to nose and tail, maybe some revisions to interior trim, and perhaps a new feature or two. The body will retain today’s basic shape and dimensions.
Look for Toyota to explore ways to eek out a few more miles per gallon without compromising performance. Venza is based on the 2007-2011 Camry platform and the Camry is on pace for a full model-year 2012 redesign. Venza, despite the coming freshening, will continue on the current Camry platform until its 2015 redesign. However, Toyota may introduce a more-fuel-efficient, next-generation V-6 engine with the 2012 Camry and it’s probably the 2012 Venza would adopt it in place of the current 3.5-liter V-6. A gas-electric hybrid version of the Venza is also in the cards, though timing is hazy. Toyota says each of its model lines will include a hybrid by the early 2020s.
In the longer-term, it’s important to note that Venza’s marketing category is still in its infancy. Honda and BMW have jumped in, but history shows some crossovers that aspired to be more than conventional station wagons but less than traditional SUVs have failed. Even Venza’s early sales numbers were below projections. Part of the blame was that it launched into the teeth of the economic downturn. But no manufacturer has yet had a blockbuster hit with this particular sort of car/wagon/SUV blend. So the possibility exists that Venza, in its current formula, could turn out to be a one-generation-and-done experiment.
2011 Toyota Venza Competition back to top
2011 Honda Accord Crosstour: As the Honda Accord sedan is the Toyota Camry’s natural adversary, so the Crosstour lines up opposite the Venza. Introduced for model-year 2010, the Crosstour follows the same formula of a five-seat wagon taffied into a high roof hatchback with available AWD. Crosstour steers and handles better overall than Venza. Passenger room is a draw, but Venza has more cargo room. Honda foregoes the addition of a four-cylinder Crosstour for model-year 2011, staying with a smooth 271-horsepower V-6 and a five-speed automatic transmission. Acceleration is very satisfying, but the V-6-only powertrain elevates Crosstour’s starting price well above Venza’s, to more than $30,000 and to over $34,000 if you want AWD. Fuel economy is 18/27 mpg with front-drive, 17/25 with AWD.
2011 Subaru Outback: It’s more station wagon than crossover, but still rivals Venza for passenger and cargo room while beating anything in this group for bad-road prowess and bad-weather proficiency. AWD is standard and engine choices are a four-cylinder slightly overburdened at 170 horsepower or a six-cylinder with plenty of juice at 256. Four-cylinder models are priced from around $24,000, six-cylinders from around $29,000. Fuel-economy ratings top out at 22/29 mpg with the four-cylinder, 18/25 with the six. Outback was all-new for model-year 2010 and won’t change again for several more years.
2011 Nissan Murano: Freshened styling and an expanded model lineup highlight the 2011 version of this fine-driving midsize crossover. Murano boasts a roomy five-seat cabin, clean styling, and a strong 265-horsepower V-6 mated to a marvelous continuously variable automatic transmission. Fuel economy is 18/23 mpg with both front-wheel drive and all-wheel drive. Base prices start around $29,000 with front-drive, around $31,000 with AWD. Murano isn’t likely to change significantly before its model-year 2015 redesign, though Nissan swallowed a WTF pill in November 2010 and introduced the 2011 Nissan Murano CrossCabriolet. A four-seat, two-door convertible version of the Murano wagon, the CrossCabriolet comes with AWD, a power soft top, and a $47,190 base price.