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2015 Toyota Venza REVIEW

Edmunds.com logo Edmunds.com 4/6/2017

Con: Disappointing fuel economy with base four-cylinder engine; missing some of the latest safety features; spotty interior quality.

Interior: The Venza's front cabin is both distinctive and functional, highlighted by a daring dashboard design with an integrated shifter that's carved stylishly into the center stack. There's plenty of room below for a large console bin, generously sized cupholders and smaller bins that are perfect for smartphones and other personal items. The materials that Toyota selected are unimpressive, however, comprising a mishmash of textured and smooth plastics along with unconvincing fake wood inserts. The look is pleasing from a distance, but the quality isn't there on a closer inspection.

The Venza's modest 6.1-inch touchscreen is hampered at times by small virtual buttons, but it's easy enough to figure out, if less graphically rich than some rival screens. We appreciate that FM/AM and satellite radio presets can be mixed and matched, and available smartphone app integration (standard on XLE and Limited) enables you to stream Pandora Internet radio, buy movie tickets, reserve a restaurant table, read Yelp reviews or even search the Web with Bing. As for the traditional controls, they're quite user-friendly, consisting mostly of clearly marked buttons and large knobs.

As noted, the Venza's large doors and low step-in height make it an exceptionally convenient crossover for the mobility-challenged. The front seats aren't especially comfortable on long hauls and could use more padding, but the backseat offers ample legroom, with the added benefit of reclining seatbacks. The cargo area measures a healthy 36.2 cubic feet behind the backseat, and flipping down the rear seatbacks with the handy remote lever on the cargo wall reveals 70.2 cubic feet.

Body: The 2015 Toyota Venza is a two-row, five-passenger midsize crossover available in LE, XLE and Limited trim levels.

The LE comes standard with the four-cylinder engine, 19-inch wheels, automatic headlights, foglights, rear privacy glass, a rear spoiler, heated exterior mirrors, cruise control, dual-zone automatic climate control, an eight-way power driver seat (with power lumbar support), a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, an auto-dimming rearview mirror and 60/40-split folding and reclining rear seatbacks. Electronic features include Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, a 6.1-inch touchscreen, a rearview camera and a six-speaker sound system with voice controls, a CD player, an auxiliary audio jack, iPod/USB connectivity, satellite radio and HD radio.

The XLE adds power-folding exterior mirrors, a power liftgate, keyless entry and ignition, driver memory functions, leather upholstery, a four-way power passenger seat, heated front seats, an upgraded trip computer and an upgraded infotainment suite with a navigation system and smartphone app integration (including Bing, Pandora and Yelp).

When equipped with the optional V6, the XLE also comes with 20-inch wheels, dual exhaust tips and a towing prep package.

The V6-only (and all-wheel-drive-only) Limited shares those extras with the XLE V6, and it tacks on xenon headlights, automatic high beam control, LED running lights, a panoramic sunroof, front and rear parking sensors and a 13-speaker JBL audio system.

The XLE can be equipped with the panoramic sunroof and JBL audio via the Premium package. There are otherwise no factory options on any Venza trim level.

Driving: The 2015 Toyota Venza tackles corners with more composure than expected, delivering carlike handling that does its Camry-based chassis proud. That's partly down to the unusually large tires: 19-inchers with the four-cylinder, 20s with the V6. The ride quality is still pretty smooth, though, and it's complemented by low levels of road and wind noise, giving the Venza a relaxed character at speed. The biggest disappointment is the four-cylinder engine, which is much less powerful than the V6 but only a hair more fuel-efficient, and makes a racket during hard acceleration. The familiar V6, of course, is a gem, with gobs of civilized power on tap for passing or merging.

What’s New: All 2015 Venzas come with the same 6.1-inch touchscreen interface (albeit with split-screen, navigation and mobile-app functionality reserved for XLE and Limited), and a rearview camera is also standard across the lineup. Additionally, the towing package is standard on all V6 models, the entry-level LE is now four-cylinder only, and a simplified equipment roster limits options to a single package on the XLE.

The 2015 Toyota Venza LE and XLE start with a 2.7-liter four-cylinder engine rated at 181 horsepower and 182 pound-feet of torque. The transmission is a six-speed automatic. Front-wheel drive is standard, with all-wheel drive available as an option. EPA fuel-economy estimates check in at 23 mpg combined (20 city/26 highway) with front-wheel drive and a nearly identical 22 mpg combined (20 /26) with AWD. Most other four-cylinder crossovers return superior fuel economy.

Optional on XLE and standard on Limited is a 3.5-liter V6 that pumps out 268 hp and 246 lb-ft. The same six-speed automatic transmission is employed, with AWD optional on the XLE V6 and standard on the Limited. Fuel economy is comparable to the four-cylinder at 22 mpg combined (19 city/26 highway) with front-wheel drive and 21 mpg combined (18 /25) with AWD.

In Edmunds performance testing, a four-cylinder Venza with front-wheel drive sauntered from zero to 60 mph in 9.3 seconds, which is competitive with the four-cylinder Outback and better than a four-cylinder Kia Sorento. A V6 front-wheel-drive model was much quicker at 7.1 seconds, while a V6 AWD model needed just 6.9 seconds.

With the standard towing package, the Venza V6 can tow up to 3,500 pounds.

Safety: All 2015 Toyota Venza models are equipped with antilock brakes, traction and stability control, front side airbags, a driver knee airbag and full-length side curtain airbags. A rearview camera and hill start assist are also standard, but parking sensors are included only on the Limited. Increasingly common safety technologies like blind spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert and forward collision mitigation are noticeably absent.

In Edmunds brake testing, a four-cylinder Venza XLE came to a stop from 60 mph in 120 feet. That's a shorter than average distance for a midsize crossover with all-season tires, although a soft-feeling brake pedal was also noted.

In government crash testing, the Venza received an overall rating of five out of five stars, including four stars for frontal impacts and five stars for side impacts. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the Venza its highest rating of "Good" in the moderate-overlap frontal-offset, side-impact and roof strength tests. Likewise, the Venza's seat/head restraint design was rated "Good" for whiplash protection in rear impacts.

Pro: Roomy cabin; superb optional V6 engine; easy ingress and egress.

Edmunds Say: The two-row 2015 Toyota Venza is an intriguing wagonlike alternative to a variety of crossovers, but its dated design has it lagging behind in some respects.

Introduction: The Edmunds "C" rating earned by the 2015 Toyota Venza shows just how competitive the midsize crossover segment has become. A few years ago, the Venza was one of our favorites, winning plaudits for its carlike feel and generous standard equipment. Fast-forward to the present, though, and the Venza's star has dimmed a bit, thanks largely to lackluster four-cylinder fuel economy and a lack of some of the latest safety features. These weaknesses aren't new, but now they're being exploited by fresher rivals that generally have more to offer.

That's not to say that the Toyota Venza is suddenly uncompetitive. On the contrary, its confident V6 engine continues to be a class leader, and its technology offerings have been streamlined for 2015 with a 6.1-inch touchscreen that includes enhanced infotainment features and a rearview camera. As ever, we like how the rear seatbacks fold easily at the pull of a lever to open up a large cargo bay, and passenger space is ample in both seating rows. Moreover, the Venza's tall doors and low step-in height make it a great fit for mobility-challenged shoppers.

But if you're looking for a two-row crossover in this price range, there are others we'd recommend first. Chief among them is the all-new 2015 Subaru Outback, which beats the four-cylinder Venza by a whopping 7 mpg on the highway, provides relatively upscale interior appointments and even throws in one-touch folding rear seatbacks to match the Toyota. Other fresh faces are the redesigned 2015 Ford Edge and the 2015 Nissan Murano, two more conventional crossovers that bring cutting-edge styling and technology to the segment. The Venza still has some things going for it, particularly with that excellent V6 under the hood, but overall it's past its prime by current standards.

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