Monday, December 22, 2008

What I drove: Toyota Venza

I recently drove the all-new Toyota Venza, and it's one snazzy crossover. It's sleek and refined and priced well out of my range. But that's what's great about doing test drives. I get to drive luxury and near-luxury vehicles without paying the price -- or having to come up with the extra insurance money.

The Venza is loaded with standard equipment like an eight-way power driver’s seat with lumbar support, power windows with auto up and auto down on all four windows, chrome exhaust tips and an auto-dimming rearview mirror with compass. The V-6 version comes standard with 20-inch alloy wheels, while the four-cylinder version’s standard wheels are 19-inch alloy.

The Toyota Venza is something of a cross between a Toyota Highlander and a Camry, the sales consultant said. It has as much ground clearance as a Highlander but with the agility and comfort of a sedan. With it’s sleek, up-scale design, the Venza should appeal to both the Toyota and the Lexus crowds.

Although the Venza has similar attributes to its Toyota stable mates and its Lexus cousins, it shares no platform with any other model. Toyota built this vehicle from the ground up, putting a lot of thought into ergonomics and ease of use, I was told.

If I had $39,000 burning a hole in my pocket, I might consider driving the Venza. It's a really nice car. But considering the Subaru Forester rings up at nearly $14,000 less and offers many of the same amenities. I'd probably have to go with the Forester.

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