Having tested a mid-level 2021 Toyota Venza XLE in August, I was curious about whether I'd notice much of a difference with the top-of-the-line Limited version. I was impressed with styling, quality, ride and economy of the new midsize, two-row crossover hybrid, and wondered why anyone would pay around $5,000 more for the most expensive model.
The short answer is, I immediately thought the Limited was more upscale than the XLE, if only because the Coastal Gray Metallic paint and all black leather interior gave it a classy look. But I was also struck by the huge Star Gaze Fixed Panoramic roof, a $1,400 option only available on the Limited. With the flip of a switch, the glass panels go from transparent to opaque, something only offered until now on luxury cars such as the Mercedes-Benz SL-class.
The exclusive optional rain-sensing washer-linked variable intermittent windshield wipers were also welcome in the drizzle that sometimes turned to heavy rain. And I've always appreciated Head Up Displays, another option only available on the Limited.
Fortunately, Toyota offers its advanced Safety Sense 2.0 package on all trim levels, so I was not lacking any safety features when testing the XLE.
After a week of test driving, I was once again impressed with the all-new Venza. Because of the color, the Limited looks even more like a Lexus — Toyota's luxury brand — than the XLE. Although mechanically similar to the RAV4 Hybrid, it has its own character, beginning with the angular exterior styling and fastback rear hatch lines, in contrast to the RAV4's more truck-like appearance.
The different character is reinforced by the Venza's softer ride that makes it more suited for poorly maintained city roads, like those in my hometown of Portland, Oregon. The 219 horsepower provided by the 2.5-liter inline four and dual electric motors is more than adequate, especially in the Sport mode. And because one of the motors powers the rear wheels, it has standard all-wheel-drive, which I always recommend in the wet Pacific Northwest. And, although it looks designed for city diving, the Venza has enough clearance for at least some light off-road driving.
Like with the XLE, my only gripe was the the touch sensitive controls that came with the Premium Audio Package. They give the dash a sleek, ultra modern look, but are harder to find and use than conventional knobs and buttons, which are only offered on the base LE model. Offsetting that was the 12.3-inch display screen that comes standard on the XLE and Limited models. It is wide enough to be configured into thirds to display an array of information at the same time.
Toyota now offers 10 SUVs, counting its hybrid and plug-in hybrid models. That start with the subcompact C-HR crossover and max out with the traditional truck-based Land Cruiser. The all-new Venza slips neatly into the middle of the lineup, offering an appealing package for singles or young families that want a reasonable amount of interior space but don't need the third row of seats offered in the larger vehicles.
You can read the previous review of the 2021 Toyota Venza XLE here.
2021 Toyota Venza Limited
Base price: $39,800
Price as tested: $43,100
Style: Midsize SUV
Powertrain: 2.5-liter engine/electric motors (219 combined)
Transmission: Continuously Variable Transmission
Modes: EV, Eco, Normal, Sport
EPA fuel economy: 40/37
Length: 186 inches
Weight: 3,847 to 3,913 pounds
Final assembly: Aichi, Japan
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