It takes years to develop a car from concept to rollout, so you’ve got to wonder if Toyota was biting its nails over the introduction of the Venza in 2008. Everything had changed so fast. Suddenly soaring gasoline prices had moved Canadians towards smaller fuel-efficient cars; they were introducing a crossover that is nearly five metres long, two metres wide and that gets 11.5 litres per 100km in the city. The economy tanked in weeks. Fewer Canadians were buying cars at all.
So I didn’t know what to expect upon trying this new model. Following a week in Toyota’s 2010 Corolla, I was expecting the Venza to be less luxurious inside. A quick glance at the price corrected my bias. It’s priced appropriately.
My biases continued to show and be shown up.
I had continually evolving impressions. Stocky like a rugby player, it reminded me at first of a London taxi, making me reluctant to push it in corners.
That was at first. Remember that old commercial where a tub of margarine entertains simple-minded viewers, calling itself butter? This substantial crossover drives a lot like a tightly tuned car.
Despite its height, the Venza has a low centre of gravity, gripping the road well, and does admirably in the corners. A beefy fuel-injected six-cylinder engine had me quite excited and I began looking forward to driving it more each day. By the end of my week, I decided it looks like a small version of Audi’s muscular Q7, right down to that aerodynamic classic bullet-train shape.
The six-speed sport transmission added to the excitement and helped improve the fuel consumption on the highway. You know that tightness and whine you listen for when shifting gears? It was almost imperceptible, requiring the radio to be off at first if I wasn’t going to keep my eyes glued to the tachometer.
The Venza seats five and still has plenty of cargo space. I’m not sold on the necessity of the all-wheel drive but found it useful outside the city, climbing a nastily steep bank. It would serve skiers well in winter. An easy-to-use lever flattens the back seats instantly. For the modern gadget-laden commuter, there are loads of caches and hiding spots. Good places to store your biases.
Base price $32,050
As driven $33,540