2021 Toyota Venza is a sleek hybrid crossover for RAV4 upsell

Chris Davies - May 18, 2020, 11:58 am CDT
2021 Toyota Venza is a sleek hybrid crossover for RAV4 upsell

Toyota is rebooting the Venza, with the new 2021 Venza morphing from a fairly forgettable “Camry station wagon” into a sleek crossover SUV. Discontinued back in 2015, the old Venza defied classification – and not necessarily in a good way – with its wagon-esque styling. Now, the 2021 Venza promises to be a lot more memorable.

It’s a midsize crossover and a hybrid one at that, based on the automaker’s TNGA-K platform. As we saw today with the new 2021 Sienna, the only drivetrain on offer will be a gas-electric hybrid. It combines a 2.5-liter four-cylinder DOHC gas engine with three electric motors.

The result is 219 horsepower and, Toyota is predicting, 40 mpg combined. A new lithium-ion battery cuts size and weight – it’s mounted under the rear seats so doesn’t eat into trunk capacity – and there’ll be Normal, Eco, EV, and Sport modes that adjust driving dynamics according to whether you want maximum performance, maximum efficiency, or to drive all-electric.

What it doesn’t have is a charging port, though Toyota has included a sequential shifting feature to emulate downshifting through a traditional gearbox. That slows the Venza while simultaneously charging up the battery. A Predictive Efficient Drive (PED) system taps the navigation system – combined with analysis of individual driving habits and road/traffic conditions – to learn the routes drivers’ frequently take and optimize the battery charging according to when the crossover is likely to slow or stop.

An electronically-controlled brake system adds Active Cornering Assist to cut understeer, and there’s electronic all-wheel drive as standard. That dedicates the third electric motor to the rear wheels, and can push up to 80-percent of the power there for better performance pulling away from a standstill, and a cut in understeer.

Where the old Venza was divisive in its design, it’s hard to imagine too many people will find the 2021 Venza offensive. 18-inch wheels are standard on the Venza LE; the XLE and Limited get 19-inch multi-spoke wheels with a chrome finish.

Inside, power front seats are standard, with optional heating; the Limited trim gets ventilated seats too. Toyota Safety Sense 2.0 (TSS 2.0) is standard, with adaptive cruise control, lane departure alerts with steering assist, lane tracing assist, and a pre-collision system with pedestrian and bicycle detection. Blind spot warnings and rear cross traffic alerts are standard; XLE and Limited trims get front and rear parking assist with automated braking.

An 8-inch touchscreen infotainment system is standard on the LE and XLE trims; the Limited gets a 12.3-inch touchscreen with 1,200 watt JBL Premium Audio and navigation. Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and Amazon Alexa are standard, as is SiriusXM. A 10-inch color head-up display is optional, as is a digital rearview mirror, and the 2021 Venza Limited comes with a bird’s eye view camera as standard. The liftgate is powered and hands-free as standard.

As for practicality, there’s 36.3 cubic feet of space behind the second row. In a first for Toyota, the company is offering a Star Gaze roof. That’s a fixed panoramic glass roof above the standard two rows of seats, which can electrochromatically flick from transparent to frosted in a second.

The 2021 Toyota Venza will arrive in US dealerships this summer. Pricing will be announced closer to that point.

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