By Peter Perrotta
Once someone finds out that I review cars, they usually hit me with, “Well, what’s the best car to buy?”
That’s not an easy question to answer.
There are so many variables that go into a car or truck buying decision, like, how much do you intend on spending? What is it that you plan on using this vehicle for? What do you expect from this vehicle? Are you looking for performance and excitement, or practicality?
Those are just a few of the variables to consider.
At the end of the day, even after you consider all the variables, car or truck buying boils down to a very personal decision. It is you that has to spend a good portion of several years sitting behind the wheel of what you buy or lease.
A simple thing like an uncomfortable driver’s seat could make your car owning experience miserable and regrettable. So like I tell most of my friends, make sure you drive the car you buy and not just for a few minutes, but take it on a good long drive under various road conditions to make sure this is the car you want.
I always looked for a good combination of practicality, comfort and excitement to ring my bell.
For sheer car driving excitement, I always liked the feel of the BMWs. For a car maker that usually puts out a good, quality product that doesn’t have a tremendous amount of sizzle and pop, but is high on the practicality scale, I always thought Toyota did a good all around job for that.
For 2021, Toyota reintroduced the Venza nameplate on a brand new mid-sized crossover model. Toyota sold a previous generation Venza from 2008-17; however, that SUV was based on a Camry platform.
For 2021 the Venza is back, but on a totally different platform and with a totally different look. I recently jumped behind the wheel of the all new Venza to see if it carries on in the same vein as the rest of the vehicles in this Japanese importer’s lineup.
Sandwiched between Toyota’s compact RAV4 and the mid-sized Highlander in Toyota’s lineup, the five-seat, two-row crossover Venza enters a crowded and very competitive field.
It has to compete with Kia’s very popular Telluride, Hyundai’s equally as popular Palisade, the Jeep Grand Cherokee and the Mazda CX-9.
The new Venza is based on the Harrier SUV, a crossover model Toyota sells abroad. The Venza sold now in the United States only comes available as a very practical hybrid model with standard electronic on-demand all-wheel drive.
The 2.5 liter hybrid Venza is powered by a set up consisting of a 2.5 liter four cylinder gas engine and three electric motors, which combined produce 219 horsepower. One of the electric motors powers the rear wheels while the gas engine and the other two motors work to spin the front wheels.
I found this complex system worked rather smoothly like most of Toyota’s hybrid models do. This engine combination with the electric motors isn’t overly aggressive but it gets you where you need to go in most traffic conditions.
The all wheel drive system is stable and efficient and the drive is smooth in all types of driving situations – but not with a lot of excitement. It offers more of a very practical approach to the driving scene, like most Toyotas do.
There is ample room in this five-seat, two-row crossover, and the rear cargo space is adequate as well. The overall feel of the ride is comfortable and stable.
The test model I drove for one week is the 2021 Toyota Venza XLE. It carries a base sticker price of $36,000. With destination and delivery charges and added options, my test vehicle had a bottom line sticker price of $40,160.
Added options included: $2,050 for a premium audio package that included an upgraded sound system and an impressive 12.3-inch touch screen infotainment system with navigation; $425 for premium paint; and $510 for heated and ventilated seats, heated steering wheel and power seats.
As with most Toyota hybrid vehicles, the gas mileage is superb. The EPA fuel consumption ratings on the new Venza are 39 miles per gallon overall, with 40 mpg in city driving and 37 on the highway.
The EPA estimates that it will cost you a meager $1,050 per year in fuel costs on average as it uses 2.6 gallons of gas per every 100 miles you drive.
Moreover, on the government’s crash test ratings, it scored an impressive five stars overall: with five stars on the side crash tests, four on the rollover test and five on the frontal crash tests.
My overall opinion on the new Venza is that it seems to be a good value for the price. It checks a lot of the right boxes but doesn’t overwhelm you with its athletic performance.
The editors at Car and Driver give the Venza high marks for its styling and efficient hybrid powertrain. They gave it low marks for its driving dynamics.
Peter Perrotta’s On The Road column appears weekly. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org with comments or questions.