2021 Toyota Venza Preview

Jack R. Nerad | May 18, 2020
FAST FACTS
  • Completely redesigned midsize crossover SUV
  • Hybrid powertrain with on-demand all-wheel drive
  • Sophisticated upscale exterior design
  • Roomy cabin filled with storage solutions
  • Available 12.3-inch infotainment system display
  • On sale in the U.S. this summer

Introduction

With the debut of the all-new 2021 Toyota Venza, the brand is making it clear that the Venza isn't a Camry station wagon, but instead is a significant player in the midsize two-row crossover category that also includes the Ford Edge, Honda Passport, and Nissan Murano

One big differentiator is the Venza's hybrid powertrain, which is standard and combined with electronic on-demand all-wheel drive. As a hybrid, the Venza is the odds-on favorite to deliver the best fuel economy in the class, and it is clothed in chic new sheetmetal that makes it an immediate contender for "best-looking midsize SUV."

2021 Toyota Venza Limited front and side view in gray

Based on the versatile Toyota New Global Architecture K platform that supports both crossovers and sedans, the Venza is expected to offer car-like handling while at the same time featuring the cargo space and versatility of an SUV. Built at Toyota's Takaoka plant in Japan, the 2021 Venza hasn't yet been officially priced for the U.S. market, but we expect it will start at around $32,000 when it is introduced this summer.

Exterior Features

We've already alluded to the 2021 Toyota Venza's good looks because it is a giant step forward from the previous version, which had some awkwardness to it. The new five-passenger, two-row Venza has an air of sophistication in its design that draws direct comparisons to the Nissan Murano. But in contrast to the Murano's sometimes overwrought details, the Venza delivers a cleaner appearance.

2021 Toyota Venza Limited rear view in gray

Its best angle is the rear end. The whole treatment could easily be fitted to a luxury crossover. It starts with an integral spoiler above the relatively narrow and almost concave rear glass that tops an elegant "light bar" running from corner to corner, interrupted only by a tasteful Toyota logo. 

By contrast, the Venza's front-end treatment isn't quite as dramatic with a chrome bar connecting the headlights over a low-slung grille. In profile, the pointed rear glass in the tapered greenhouse helps achieve a coupe-like look. 

The base-level Venza LE is equipped with 18-inch multi-spoke two-tone alloy wheels, while the Venza XLE and Limited feature 19-inch multi-spoke chrome-finished alloys.

Interior Features

Even in a crossover as stylish as the new Venza, versatility matters. As such, Toyota designers made certain to provide ample interior room and features that reflect how Americans use their vehicles. 

2021 Toyota Venza Limited dashboard interior view

Since keeping hydrated is a national obsession, bottle holders in the Venza's door panels can accommodate 24-ounce bottles, while the vehicle's cupholders can handle large drink sizes. Certainly, mobile phones are another obsession, so the Venza is equipped with a center stack tray that can accept even the largest of the iPhone models.

Since the Venza is a hybrid you might fear the battery pack will intrude and limit the cargo space, but no worry on that front. The lithium-ion battery pack is installed under the rear seats, so its impingement on the interior space is minor. The Venza offers a substantial 36.3 cu.-ft. of cargo space behind the second row, which is more than the Murano and 3 cu.-ft. fewer than the 2020 Ford Edge. The standard interior tonneau cover that hides parcels from prying eyes can be stored beneath the rear deck when not in use. 

Eight-way power driver seats are standard on all Venza grades, and the Limited trim also has a 4-way power adjustable passenger seat.

Optional Features

The 2021 Venza lives up to its new, more sophisticated persona with a wide variety of upscale options. For instance, a bevy of tech features are available, including an infotainment system that includes a 12.3-inch touchscreen display with nine JBL speakers, a 7-inch multi-information display, a camera-based digital rearview mirror, and a 10-inch color head-up display. 

The Venza's available heated front seats are arguably the most technically astute in the segment. Not only can you adjust the heated and ventilated seats in the Limited trim to three levels of effectiveness, but they also draw cooling air from the air conditioning system. Using S-Flow technology pioneered on Lexus models, the mechanically cooled air is directed only to the seats that are occupied, which aids energy efficiency. 

When Limited and XLE models are equipped with the optional 12.3-inch infotainment system display, the climate control system is operated via capacitive controls on the touchscreen. 

Under the Hood

There is no doubt that Toyota has maintained a leadership position in hybrid vehicles for two decades, and the new Venza draws on that expertise. The Toyota Hybrid System in the Venza combines a gasoline-fueled 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine with three electric motors to drive all four wheels.

Combined, these components produce 219 horsepower, and Toyota expects a Venza LE to get 40 mpg in combined driving. The gasoline engine is tuned to run in a very efficient range, while the electric motors add torque when necessary for acceleration and hill-climbing. Unlike many other Toyota hybrids that use nickel-metal hydride batteries, the battery pack in the Venza is lithium-ion.

The Venza offers four driving modes: Normal, Eco, and Sport for general use and an EV mode that provides electric-only propulsion for short distances and at low speeds. Another driver-selectable feature enables an increase or decrease in regenerative braking, which recharges the battery pack. 

Perhaps most remarkable is the Venza's Predictive Efficient Drive that uses the navigation system to memorize road and traffic conditions to help optimize hybrid battery charging. When the driver selects it, the system learns repeated routes and predicts when and where the vehicle is likely to slow down or stop, which in my case would be at every soft-serve ice cream stand.

Safety

Toyota predicts the collision protection provided by the Venza's TNGA-K platform will achieve top safety ratings from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). The crossover is equipped with eight airbags, and every 2021 Venza comes with standard Toyota Safety Sense (TSS 2.0.) 

A comprehensive suite of active safety systems, TSS 2.0 includes forward-collision warning with pedestrian and bicycle detection, automatic emergency braking, lane-keeping and lane-centering assistance, automatic high-beam headlights, full-speed adaptive cruise control, and road sign assistance. 

Additionally, blind-spot warning with rear cross traffic alert is standard on all Venza trim levels, while XLE and Limited trims are also equipped with front and rear parking assistance with automatic braking.

Technology

If you look around the new 2021 Toyota Venza you'll see technology everywhere including over your head. It is the first Toyota available with the company’s new Star Gaze panoramic glass roof. The fixed roof's electrochromic glass technology allows drivers to switch from transparent to frosted modes within one second at the press of a button. In the frosted mode, some exterior light comes through while reducing direct sunlight.

On the entertainment and connectivity front, Toyota's Audio Plus infotainment system is standard on LE and XLE trim levels and includes an 8-inch touchscreen. A premium system with navigation and a JBL premium sound system is optional on the XLE and standard on the Limited, and it features a touchscreen with controls that can be switched between driver or front-passenger operation. The JBL system has nine speakers, including a rear subwoofer powered by a 12-channel, 1,200-watt amp – the most powerful system ever launched in a Toyota.

The Venza's audio systems now deliver a full roster of connectivity tech, including Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, Amazon Alexa compatibility, and Bluetooth calling and music streaming. The multi-information displays incorporate a "Hybrid System Indicator" that shows driver system output and regeneration status to encourage eco-driving habits. It suggests the optimal acceleration for economical and environmentally sustainable driving and provides a game-like scoring function.

Toyota is the source of the information in this article. It was accurate as of May 18, 2020 but may have changed since that date.

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