2021 Toyota Venza XLE Long-Term Test: Can Luxury Be Mainstreamed?12/10/2020
Mainstream luxury is an elusive concept, yet the 2021 Toyota Venza encompasses that and more. The midsize SUV is making a statement with its elegant design and clean cabin, which can undoubtedly be confused for a Lexus. But as a Toyota, the Venza brings the value and accessibility we’ve known from the automaker. For the next year, we will be driving a 2021 Toyota Venza, a hybrid-only SUV that we’ve already praised after naming it a finalist during our most recent SUV of the Year competition.
The Venza competes against a growing group of crossovers like the Chevrolet Blazer and Honda Passport, but instead of offering something sporty or outdoorsy (like Chevy and Honda do), Toyota went the other way and delivered an upscale design with a well-equipped package.
How Is Our Long-Term 2021 Toyota Venza Specified?
Although all Venzas come well equipped from the start, we opted for the XLE, which is sandwiched between the LE and Limited grades. Toyota only offers two packages on the XLE—a premium audio system and the SofTex package. The former replaces the standard 8.0-inch touchscreen with a 12.3-inch touch display with navigation and adds a nine-speaker JBL sound system in place of the base six-speaker stereo. This package is available for $2,050 and gives the interior a clean look, given that it also adds capacitive touch buttons under the infotainment display. The SofTex package adds leatherette seats, heated and ventilated front seats, a heated steering wheel, and powered front seats—all for $510.
Like all Venzas, our XLE is equipped with Toyota Safety Sense, which adds a bunch of safety technologies to take some stress off the driver. Things like lane departure alert with steering assist, lane tracing assist, radar cruise control, and automatic emergency braking are all standard. Recently, the Venza scored the IIHS’ Top Safety Pick award, falling short of the coveted “Plus” recognition due to the Marginal and Acceptable headlight ratings. On the crash tests, however, the hybrid SUV scored Good ratings across the board.
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What Engine Powers the 2021 Toyota Venza?
All Venzas share the same hybrid powertrain, which means it combines a 2.5-liter l-4 engine with three electric motors to provide 219 hp total. One of those three electric motors is placed on the rear axle, making all-wheel drive standard; a CVT is in charge of sending the power to the wheels.
As you’d expect, the Venza offers great fuel economy. All models are rated at 40/37/39 mpg city/highway/combined, which is impressive for a midsize SUV. All in all, you can drive just over 560 miles before having to stop for gas.
Why Go for a Toyota Venza Instead of a RAV4?
Although the Venza slots between the RAV4 and Highlander in Toyota’s SUV lineup, the RAV4 Hybrid has more passenger space and slightly better fuel economy. But the main thing that differentiates the Venza from the RAV4 is its luxury and refinement. Enter the Venza’s cabin, and you’ll be welcomed by soft materials, an upscale design, and tons of features that make you think you’re in a luxury SUV.
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Besides adding the aforementioned options, our XLE comes very well equipped, with four USB ports, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, LED projector headlights, a wireless charger, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, puddle lights, a powered tilt and telescoping steering wheel, and two-zone automatic climate control. What’s more, some of the features that come standard in the Venza XLE are options in some luxury brands.
How Much Is Our Toyota Venza XLE?
The 2021 Toyota Venza XLE starts at $37,175—a really good value for the hybrid powertrain and the laundry list of features. With the two optional packages, our Coastal Gray metallic XLE crosses the check-out counter at $39,735—still a valuable price for a very well-equipped hybrid SUV.
We have a year to see how the Venza treats its driver and passengers, and we’re excited to take several road trips over the next 12 months. We’ll keep you updated.
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