The Toyota Venza is a midsize crossover SUV based on the Toyota Camry. First released in the 2009 model year, it's based on a concept car introduced at the 2008 North American International Auto Show in Detroit. Its goal is to provide the room of an SUV, but the ride of a car, while avoiding the sharp angles common on SUV styling in favor of the sporty look of a midsize car. It's Toyota's only SUV without a third seat.
In fact, Toyota is so dedicated to the concept that the Venza rides like a car, they declined to enter it in the Motor Trend SUV of the year competition, opting instead for the Car of the Year contest. Unfortunately, that didn't work out either, as the Venza was too high to be considered in the car competition. As a result, Toyota has said that in 2010 they will lower the car slightly.
The Venza is built at the Toyota Manufacturing plant in Georgetown, Kentucky, and is designed for the United States and Canadian markets. It's intended for folks who want to move up slightly from a midsize car or down slightly from a full size SUV.
The Venza really only has a single trim, but you can get it in either front-wheel or all-wheel drive and with either a four cylinder or six cylinder engine. Maximum towing weight is 2500 pounds with the smaller engine, 3500 pounds with the larger.
The four-cylinder engine in the Venza is a 2.7 liter, 182 horsepower I4. The six-cylinder is a 3.5 liter, 268 horsepower V6. The transmission is a six-speed automatic with overdrive. Best mileage is with the front-wheel drive I4, of course, which gets 21 miles per gallon city and 29 miles per gallon on the highway. Worst mileage rating is 18 and 25, respectively, for the all-wheel drive V6.
Fuel economy in the I4 is better than class average, but you pay for it with a lower than class average power to weight ratio. Mileage is worse than class average for the larger engine, though the power is okay.
Front legroom is not so good and towing, with either engine, is below class average. NHTSA crash test ratings are five-star for everything except rollover, which is four-star. I don't know of any SUV that gets a five-star rollover rating. IIHS ratings are unavailable.
Another place the Toyota Venza beats class average is the price. Base for the Venza is just $25,075, which is less than the class average for midsize cars, and much less for SUVs.