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The 2009 Toyota Venza is an exception to the crossover vehicle rules. The name combines “venture” and “Monza,” an Italian racetrack.
Venza can be considered as the big, bloated Highlander seven-seater and the sportier five-seat RAV4. It’s like the combination of all Toyotas; part Camry, part Highlander, partly its own creation. Venza looks tightly integrated and pretty interesting from some angles, particularly the side view. It’s a boxy crossover, yes—but the multibar grille and fast silhouette make it far more attractive than the plainer Ford Edge and less controversial than the Nissan Murano. The Venza’s interior takes a middle path as well, with an unconventionally shaped center stack of controls dividing driver and front passenger. Big, clear gauges and optional mahogany-grained trim dress it up better than its competition.
The Toyota parts bin also donates most of the Venza’s running gear. Engines include a 182-horsepower 2.7-liter four-cylinder, teamed to a six-speed automatic and an optional all-wheel-drive system that splits power between front and rear wheels. This base Venza strains a bit to provide uphill and passing performance, but putters anonymously in most other conditions, though with a bit more engine noise than expected. The 268-horsepower, 3.5-liter V-6 is substantially smoother and more powerful, but comes with its own slight penalty: Fuel economy in front-drive V-6 Venzas is 19/26 mpg, compared to the 21/29 mpg delivered by the four-cylinder version.