2009 Toyota Venza Preview

FAST FACTS
  • All-new midsize crossover vehicle

  • First Toyota with automatic high-beam headlamp dimming system

  • First Toyota with standard 20-inch wheels

  • First Toyota with panoramic roof option

  • Unique 60/60 dashboard design

  • Rear seats recline 14 degrees

  • Seven air bags standard

  • First sedan with Toyota's Star Safety System

  • Four- and 6-cylinder engines available

  • Designed, engineered and built in the United States

Introduction

Toyota says its all-new, 2009 Venza model was designed to look less like a traditional, boxy SUV and more like a sporty sedan with an angled rear hatch instead of the usual trunk lid. But unlike most sedans, the Venza will provide room for cargo behind second-row seats equipped with backs that can be reclined as much as 14 degrees.

Venza will be the first Toyota sedan equipped with the same Star Safety System as Toyota SUVs and will be the first Toyota model of any kind to offer automatic high-beam headlamp dimmers, a panoramic roof option, and standard 20-inch wheels.

Venza was developed specifically for the American market with design by Toyota's Calty studio in Newport Beach, Calif., engineering led by the Toyota Technical Center in Ann Arbor, Mich., and with assembly taking place in the same plant in Georgetown, Ky., where the Camry and Avalon sedans are built.

Model Lineup

Toyota won't announce complete details until closer to the model's on-sale date late in 2008, but has revealed that all Venza models will be equipped with standard features including automatic dual zone climate controls, an AM/FM audio system with a 6-disc CD changer, tilt and telescoping steering column with steering wheel-mounted audio controls, remote keyless entry, electrochromic rearview mirror with compass, cruise control, rear wiper, privacy glass and a multi-information display screen.

Venza will be available with either a 4- or 6-cylinder engine. Those with the V-6 engine will get standard dual exhaust tips and will be the first Toyota model of any kind to ride on standard 20-inch wheels. Four-cylinder models also get larger-than-usual wheels with 19-inch alloys as standard equipment.

Venza is designed with lower rocker panels to make entry and exit easier, but also with the higher seating position that crossover owners appreciate, according to Toyota. The base of the rear hatch opening also is lower to ease loading and unloading of cargo, the maker adds. To easily expand the cargo floor, levers are located on either side of the cargo area so the 60/40 split sections of the rear seatback can be folded flat.

Toyota says it designed the Venza's instrument panel with what it calls a "60/60" design, meaning that both the driver and the front-seat passenger should have easy access to 60 percent of the dashboard and controls. Many of those controls are located on an elongated center console that features a sliding console cover that reveals a storage well deep enough to hold a large purse. The compartment is lighted and equipped with an auxiliary audio jack and 12-volt power outlet, as well as an iPod/MP3 storage area with a wire management system.

Leather seating will be an option and will include wood grain-style interior trim as well as dark piping trim on the seats themselves. Another option will be the first panoramic roof on any Toyota model. The roof features separate glass panels over the front and rear seats. The front panel will have power tilt/slide capability for open-air driving.

Also offered will be Toyota's first Automatic High Beam headlight system, which detects oncoming traffic and automatically switches high-beam headlamps to low-beam, then automatically return to high-beam when traffic passes.

Other options include a navigation system, JBL audio with integrated satellite radio and Bluetooth hands-free telephone capability, a rear-seat entertainment system, back-up camera and a power-opening rear hatch.

Hardware

The 2009 Toyota Venza will be powered by either a 2.7-liter 4-cylinder engine or a 3.5-liter V-6 engine. Power from either engine will go to a 6-speed automatic transmission. The 4-cylinder is an all-new engine. Toyota will reveal specific details at a later date. The V-6 engine already is used in the Camry and Avalon. It pumps out 268 hp and 246 lb.-ft. of torque, and provides up to 3500 pounds of towing capacity. Venza will be available with front- or all-wheel drive. Venza rides on the same 109.3-inch wheelbase as the Camry sedan, but is 0.2 inches shorter overall, yet more than four inches wider and more than five inches taller, and provides 8.1 inches of ground clearance compared to 5.3 for the Camry.

Safety

In recent years, all Toyota sport utility vehicles have been equipped with what the company calls its Star Safety System-enhanced Vehicle Stability Control (VSC) and Traction Control (TRAC) and anti-lock brakes (ABS) with electronic brake-force distribution (EBD) and Brake Assist (BA). The 2009 Venza becomes the first sedan to carry this same array of features. In addition, the Venza will be equipped with seven air bags as standard equipment. These will include front and seat-mounted side air bags for the driver and front-seat passenger, side curtain air bags that will cover both rows, and a knee air bag for the driver. Venza also will have active headrests designed to minimize whiplash forces.