With the introduction of the 2009 Venza, Toyota has set out to establish a whole new auto segment, which it calls the “crossover sedan,” according to Bob Carter, Toyota’s vice president and general manager, who introduced the new five-passenger vehicle at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit on Monday.
Carter notes that many of today’s car buyers are moving away from SUVs to sedans, for a number of reasons – better fuel economy, sleeker styling, and a smoother driving experience, for instance. But in doing so, buyers miss many of the benefits offered by SUVs, including better visibility, roominess, and a large cargo capacity. The Venza “crossover sedan” has been designed exclusively for the North American market to bridge that gap.
In many ways, the Venza resembles many of the crossover vehicles currently rolling off the assembly lines of automakers worldwide, including the RX, the luxury SUV crossover vehicle sold by Lexus, Toyota’s upscale partner. However, the Venza is a tad sleeker and slightly more sedan-like, with a bold grille, a fairly sedan-like front end, and a sweptback roof line and a darkened B-pillar that give the Venza a clean side profile. The back end, however, is distinctly SUV-like.
The Venza offers a roomy, uncluttered interior, according to Toyota, with the shift lever on the center console below the dashboard instead of between the front seats. This frees up the floor console to be used solely for storage. The driver and passenger also sit higher than they would in a typical sedan, providing better visibility, while the rear has a lower cargo floor and split rear seats. In addition, the Venza comes with seven airbags, and is the first Toyota car to come equipped with the Star Safety System, a stability control system found in Toyota’s SUVs and in the Tundra pickup truck.
A 268-horsepower V6 engine will power the Verza when it arrives in showrooms later this year. The V6 will link to a six-speed automatic transmission with sequential shift. A few months after the V6 version appears, Toyota will roll out a more fuel-efficient trim with a 2.7-liter four-cylinder engine.
In another day and age, the Venza might have been called a beefy station wagon, but such terminology has gone the way of cassette tapes and 99-cent gasoline. Whether the Venza really does establish a new automotive segment remains to be seen, but it’s obvious that today’s automakers are continuing to design vehicles that appeal to a wide range of finicky buyers.