Two of the more than 50 debuts originally planned for the Covid-cancelled 2020 New York International Automobile Show were unveiled digitally by Toyota. The 2021 Sienna and an all-new 2021 Venza were shown for the first time online.
All Venza’s will be hybrids – supporting Toyota’s stated goal of selling 25% of its product line as hybrids by 2025 – and all will be AWD. More pertinent to buyers, the 219 horsepower, 5-seat Venza is projected to have an EPA combined mileage of 40 mpg (LE trim and Electronic On-Demand All-Wheel Drive) when it goes on sale this summer.
Pricing is not released yet and could be critical to Venza’s success in the salesroom or as is likely online as the U.S. is far, far behind in social distancing and a national response. It does however lead the world in Covid plague deaths.
With the Venza, Toyota focused on (marketing babble alert) “developing an intuitive driving experience with smooth acceleration, predictable handling, and low noise, vibration, and harshness (NVH), all wrapped in a sophisticated design.” The hatchback is agreat move because there is room in the market for a crossover between a compact SUV (Rav-4) and the much bigger Highlander.
Venza has 36.3 cu. ft. of carrying space behind the second row. The lithium-ion battery pack is small enough to be installed under the rear seats, so it does not take up any cargo or passenger space. The standard tonneau cover can be stored in the storage space beneath the deck board when not in use.
The 2021 Venza will be assembled at the Takaoka Plant in Japan. Let us hope that Toyota finally gets ahead of the Corona Curve that is seeing its factory workers getting infected and infecting others despite precautions. Venza is built around a version of the Toyota New Global Architecture K platform (TNGA-K) that underpins the company’s newest sedans and crossovers. As such, Venza looks to be a good bet to deliver the stated goals: sedan-like driving comfort and CUV versatility.
Toyota made “hybrid” tantamount with high fuel efficiency more than 20 years ago with the first Prius. The Venza brings the number of Toyota Hybrids available to 10 – Mirai fuel cell makes it 11 electrified vehicles – for 2021, more than any other brand.
The new-generation Toyota Hybrid System in the Venza combines a 2.5-liter DOHC four-cylinder engine with three electric motors. The gas engine has Variable Valve Timing-intelligent system by Electric motor (VVT-iE) on the intake camshaft, and VVT-i on the exhaust camshaft. A variable cooling system (electric water pump, electric thermostat) and a fully variable oil pump further help improve engine efficiency.
Toyota claims the system “seamlessly delivers” 219 total system horsepower and a projected preliminary manufacturer-estimated 40 combined MPG in LE trim. The hybrid system optimizes the level of electric motor assistance and gas engine RPM without the engine running at high revs. Engine speed is synchronized with vehicle speed, yielding effortless and quiet acceleration. Venza’s hybrid system adopts a newly developed lithium-ion battery to enhance performance and size and weight.
Selectable NORMAL, ECO and SPORT driving modes let the driver tailor the Venza’s performance personality.
- SPORT mode improves and sharpens throttle response, making fuel efficiency more fun.
- ECO mode changes the throttle and environmental logic to help the driver focus on maximizing mileage from the fuel and battery, while
- NORMAL mode is ideal for everyday driving. Additionally, EV mode allows electric-only driving at low speeds for short distances.
Using sequential shifting, a driver can “downshift” to increase the regenerative braking in steps, which promotes greater control when driving in hilly areas, for example. The hybrid system “enhances ride comfort by finely controlling the drive torque to suppress pitch under acceleration and deceleration.”
Max MPG by Reading the Road
Venza’s Predictive Efficient Drive (PED) uses the navigation system operation to analyze driving habits and memorize road and traffic conditions to help optimize hybrid battery charging. When the driver selects PED, the system learns repeating routes and is designed to predict when and where the vehicle is likely to slow down or stop. Then, through optimum accelerator pedal release timing guidance, it can help reduce energy consumption.
PED can also help optimize battery charging and discharge ahead of hills or traffic congestion. When approaching a downhill section, for example, the system is designed to apply additional engine braking force to charge the hybrid battery more efficiently after the accelerator pedal is released.
As is needed for the mere ante in the global auto sales video game, there are optional tech-focused items including a 12.3-inch touchscreen display with nine JBL speakers, 7-inch multi-information display (MID), digital rear-view mirror, and 10-inch color Head-Up Display. Other options include a “Star Gaze” fixed panoramic glass roof that changes from clear to frosted electronically, a first-ever for Toyota, and heated and ventilated front seats.
In addition to good collision protection provided by the TNGA-K platform (projected to achieve top NHTSA safety ratings), the 2021 Venza comes standard with Toyota Safety Sense (TSS 2.0), with active safety systems including:
- Pre-Collision System with Daytime/Low-Light Vehicle and Pedestrian Detection, plus Daytime Bicycle Detection (PCS)
- Full-Speed Range Dynamic Radar Cruise Control (DRCC)
- Lane Departure Alert with Steering Assist (LDA w/SA)
- Automatic High Beams (AHB)
- Lane Tracing Assist (LTA)
- Road Sign Assist (RSA)
The Pre-Collision with Daytime/Low-Light Vehicle and Pedestrian Detection, plus Daytime Bicycle Detection, offers automatic braking capability should the driver not react in time in an emergency. Blind Spot Monitor (BSM) with Rear Cross Traffic Alert (RCTA) is standard on all grades, while XLE and Limited add Front and Rear Parking Assist with Automated Braking (PA w/AB).
Audio Plus is standard on LE and XLE and includes an 8-inch touchscreen. Premium Audio with Dynamic Navigation and JBL is optional on XLE and standard on Limited and has a 12.3-inch touchscreen display with controls that can be switched between driver or front passenger operation.
In addition to AM/FM radio, Toyota audio systems are connectivity capable, including Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and Amazon Alexa compatibility, and Bluetooth wireless technology. Apple CarPlay includes access to Siri, while Android Auto users can access Google Assistant.
All Venza grades come with SiriusXM All Access 3-month trial Satellite Radio and HD Radio along with Toyota Remote Services trial subscriptions. Available dynamic navigation has a 2D landmark display, land guidance display, and freeway exit display. All Venza models will come equipped with Toyota Safety Connect with a one-year trial subscription.
The standard 6-speaker audio has a 4-channel amplifier provides powerful sound for all types of music. Fervent music lovers could opt for the JBL Premium Audio System with 9 speakers, including a rear subwoofer, powered by a 12-channel, 1,200-watt amp – the most powerful system launched in a Toyota to date. It was designed exclusively for Venza with unique speaker architecture and tuned to the specific cabin space.
*Star Gaze electrochromic glass technology allows drivers to switch from transparent to frosted modes within one second using the ON/OFF button. In the frosted mode, Star Gaze brightens the interior while reducing direct sunlight, giving the cabin an even more open, airy, and inviting feeling.