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The hybrid drive system is appealing for many reasons, but the real appeal of this SUV is in its luxury appointments.

PMG PHOTO: JEFF ZURSCHMEIDE - The 2021 Toyota Venza is an attractive two-row hybrid crossover that competes well against genuine luxury models.'It's easy to overlook the Toyota Venza. After all, the slightly smaller Toyota RAV4 is by far the best-selling SUV in America. But if you take the time to look closely, the Venza has a lot to offer compared to the RAV4 and other brands' crossovers on the market. With an all-new 2021 Venza arriving for the new year, it's time to take a fresh look at Toyota's upscale contender.

"The Venza is back and better than ever," says Erin Winkler, Marketing Manager at Beaverton Toyota. "It's got a ton of standard features, like all-wheel-drive on all trims, and blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert. It's very rich in standard content."

The first thing to note is that all new 2021 Venza models are hybrids. The driveline starts with a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine paired with the Toyota hybrid system II powertrain generates 219 net system horsepower. One advanced feature of this system is advanced electronic on-demand all-wheel drive, in which an electric motor powers the rear wheels when needed for traction or acceleration. The front wheels are driven through an advanced continuously variable transmission.

PMG PHOTO: JEFF ZURSCHMEIDE - The interior of the 2021 Toyota Venza boasts premium touches and plenty of available technologies.

The hybrid drivetrain gives the Venza impressive fuel efficiency, with manufacturer-estimated 40 MPG in city driving, and 37 MPG on the highway, and 39 MPG in combined driving.

"The Venza's all-wheel-drive system is huge," says Mike Lissman, Sales Team Leader at Beaverton Toyota. "It's got all the bells and whistles for less than Lexus money. It's got all the same stuff."

The hybrid drive system is appealing for many reasons, but that's not the best reason to take time to consider the Venza. The real appeal of this SUV is in its luxury appointments. Toyota has delivered an SUV with the quiet cabin, high-tech features, and general ride comfort you would expect from Toyota's upscale Lexus brand, all at a much more affordable price point.

PMG PHOTO: JEFF ZURSCHMEIDE - The front bucket seats in the 2021 Toyota Venza are as upscale as most luxury crossovers.

When you get in the Venza, look for the camera-based rearview mirror. Take a moment to switch it to conventional mirror mode. You'll see the rear seat headrests and the frame around the rear window, just like you see in any other SUV. Then turn it to camera mode and you'll get a wide-angle HD view of the area behind the Venza, with no obstructions. It takes a few minutes to get used to having such a good view, but after your test drive you'll never want another car without this feature. One more benefit: the camera adjusts for low light conditions, giving you more visibility at dusk or dawn hours.

Next, look up. The Venza comes with an optional Star Gaze panoramic glass roof, which uses electrochromic technology to change from clear to frosted. When you select frosted mode, the roof cuts down direct sunlight, while keeping the interior bathed in soft light.

Up high on the dashboard, you'll find a touchscreen display from 8 inches up to 12.3-inches across, depending on trim level. The system supports Apple, Android, and Alexa integration. JBL audio and GPS navigation is also optional.

PMG PHOTO: JEFF ZURSCHMEIDE - The back seats in the 2021 Toyota Venza are large enough for three adults.

Finally, look out the windshield. Top Venza trims offer a new 10-inch color head-up display that's sharp and clear, providing critical driver information without taking your eyes off the road.

As a family SUV, the Venza offers the Toyota Safety Sense 2.0 package as standard equipment on all trim levels. This package includes lane keeping assistance, automatic high beams, road sign assistance, and rear seat reminders. The Venza also includes standard adaptive cruise control to follow prevailing traffic speeds. Every Venza also includes standard blind spot monitoring, and higher trims add front and rear parking assist with automatic braking.

On the road, you'll be impressed with the quiet cabin, comfortable seats, and generally easy driving in the Venza. On a practical note, you will get 28.8 cubic feet of cargo space behind the second-row seats, and up to 55.1 cubic feet with the seats folded down.

PMG PHOTO: JEFF ZURSCHMEIDE - Cargo space is plentiful in the 2021 Toyota Venza.

Portland-area Toyota dealers have plenty of Venzas in stock, but note that the Star Gaze roof is in short supply due to manufacturing limitations caused by the COVID pandemic. If you're planning on a new SUV this year, be sure to take the time to test-drive the 2021 Toyota Venza before you make your final decision.

2021 Toyota Venza

Base price: $32,470

Price as tested: $42,705

Type: Compact crossover SUV

Engine: 2.5-liter hybrid with electronic AWD (219 system hp, 163 lbs-ft)

Transmission: Continuously Variable Transmission

EPA estimated mileage: 40/37

Overall length: 186.6 inches

Curb weight: 3,913 pounds

Final assembly: Kashihara, Japan


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