Friday, April 19, 2013

What is it? A Venza that's likely to please many

Mark Glover’s AutoGlo car reviews also can be seen on the business page of The Sacramento Bee’s website – via the “GALLERY: Reviews of new cars” link at

Sacramento, California – Is it a car?  Is it an SUV?

It’s a Toyota Venza, and while the popular vote seems to favor the SUV tag, I remain unconvinced … sort of like Karl Rove refusing to concede Ohio’s electoral votes on Election Day last November.

Here’s the thing: This newly restyled Venza absolutely convinces as an SUV when viewed in profile.  And it’s a sweet-handling sedan in virtually every other aspect.  Even in profile, the roofline is low enough to make you think this is a passenger sedan with a liftback tail.  Certainly a crossover, in anybody’s book.

But those nice 20-inch alloy wheels make the case for an SUV.

Enough self-inflicted arguing already.  I like this Venza, a very thoughtful compromise for those who want passenger car comfort/handling and just enough cargo-carrying utility to make life easier.

The aerodynamic body cuts through the wind with ease, and the starting price of $38,870 on my 2013 Limited V6 AWD tester was pretty reasonable, considering all the perks that were stuffed into the thing.  A few thousand bucks in extras – all of which I could have done without and still happily enjoyed the ride – put the bottom line at $42,288.

Yes, that’s a bit too pricey for the model, even in Limited form.  Personally, I’d deal hard for as close to $35,000 as I could get, not including tax and title of course.  But that’s just me.

Venza’s exterior look is enhanced by a sharp-looking, triple-tier grille that is simultaneously sporty and classy.  Kudos to Toyota’s Calty Design studios in Newport Beach, California.

From the cockpit, the driver is presented with an easy-to-use, easy-to-reach cluster of controls capable of managing everything from interior climate to on-the-roll entertainment.

Fuel mileage ratings on the tester were, uh, only fair at 18 miles per gallon in the city and 25 mpg on the highway.  Well, that’s kind of SUV-like, right?

Not-so-hot gas mileage can be attributed to a peppy 3.5-liter V-6 rated at 268 horsepower.  What you lose in gas pump savings is compensated by robust performance in virtually all uses.  The Venza muscled along admirably in dicey freeway situations, including those that required the vehicle to snap out of harm’s way in a second.

All-wheel-drive performance came in handy during quick urban maneuvers.  Steering was spot-on with a perfect mix of firmness and easy lock-to-lock capabilities.

Also of note:  Plenty or room for three adult passengers behind the front seats.

Remember that my tester was the primo edition.  There are nine more trim levels of Venza on the market, all of them starting for less than my ride. And you can get a front-drive, four-cylinder basic model starting at less than $28,000.

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