The 2021 Toyota Venza is on its way, marking the return of a nameplate that was canceled in 2015 in the US market. But while the resurrected crossover shares a two-row, pseudo-wagon form factor with its predecessor, the 2021 Venza is a wholly different machine under the skin, built on Toyota’s excellent modular architecture and boasting hybrid power and all-wheel drive.

Good Bones

Powering every 2021 Toyota Venza will be a 2.5-liter inline-four mated to three electric motors and a continuously variable transmission. Taken as a whole, the powertrain produces 219 horsepower (163 kilowatts), and Toyota claims the electric motors’ instant torque helps improve response and real-world performance. 

Driver-selectable regenerative braking helps improve energy collection on hills and in city traffic, reducing unnecessary wear on the brakes as well. Meanwhile, Venzas equipped with navigation systems learn the driver’s habits and schedules (commuting, weekly appointments, and the like), optimizing the hybrid system’s operation and coaching the driver for maximum efficiency. For example, if a particular intersection or stretch of highway tends to bottleneck, the Venza will recommend the driver prepare to slow down in advance, improving fuel economy.

2021 Toyota Venza Debut

Like the Highlander and RAV4 hybrids, the Venza uses a pair of electric motors to power the rear axle through the company’s Electronic On-Demand all-wheel drive. Toyota is projecting a combined fuel economy rating of 40 miles per gallon for the base model, a number that would match the electrified RAV4. Unlike the previous-generation Venza, a V6 will not be offered.

The company’s sophisticated TNGA-K platform underpins the 2021 Venza, shared with the Camry, Avalon, RAV4, Highlander, and recently revealed Sienna. Lighter and stiffer than previous Toyota platforms, TNGA has yielded better driving dynamics and improved safety for each model it anchors, and we predict the Venza to follow suit. 

Skin Deep

Keen-eyed readers will notice the Venza is all-but-identical to the 2021 Harrier sold in other markets. The front end bears a strong resemblance to the new-for-2021 Mirai fuel-cell vehicle, which is to say it gets a large, though stylish, lower grille opening and sleek headlights. Sharp hood creases and an unusual faux grille surrounding the Toyota badge demand a closer look.

2021 Toyota Venza Debut
2021 Toyota Venza Debut
2021 Toyota Venza Debut

The editorial staff almost unanimously loves the rear of the Venza, with a full-width taillight, sloping hatch glass, and pinched quarter windows reminding us of the Aston Martin DBX and Jaguar F-Pace. The rear fenders and hatch have a strong and sharp character line that originates as a convex curve just above the front door handles, while flared rear haunches remind us a bit of the Highlander. An attractive pair of polished tailpipes are a surprise to see on this hybrid – electrified vehicles tend to hide their internal combustion bits.

There are several interesting styling elements on the Venza, but long front and rear overhangs and a featureless silhouette let it down somewhat. In a class with such extroverted designs as the Nissan Murano and the Chevy Blazer, the Venza is a wee bit anonymous. Still, it’s handsome and inoffensive, the latter of which cannot always be said about Toyota’s current designs.

Inner Beauty

The Venza’s interior takes lots of inspiration from other Toyota SUVs like the RAV4, with a wing-shaped dash topper and monolithic center stack. A standard 8.0-inch touchscreen display is standard on the LE and XLE, while a 12.3-inch screen (seen in the photos) is standard on the Limited and optional on the XLE. Further information is found in the 4.2-inch (LE) or 7-inch (XLE and Limited) reconfigurable instrument cluster display.

2021 Toyota Venza Debut

The crossover is available with a nine-speaker, 1,200-watt JBL audio system, the most powerful ever offered by the company. Standard on the Limited and available on the XLE, it takes aural commands from Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, Bluetooth audio streaming, or AM/FM/satellite radio (likewise the LE and XLE’s standard six-speaker system).

While we haven’t seen the interior in person yet, we wonder if there will be enough nook-and-cranny storage. Both the RAV4 and Highlander boast a wide, shallow slot in front of the passenger (with another slot under the infotainment stack on the Highlander) that’s perfect for stashing a wallet or cell phone. The Venza features neither of these. However, Toyota does claim the center console tray can accommodate the largest current iPhone model, and it looks as though there are two smaller slots astride the gearshift. 

But even if there isn’t much small storage, the Venza can nevertheless accommodate an impressive 36.3 cubic feet of cargo behind the second row, more than the 30.5 cubes offered by the Blazer or the 32.1 found in the Murano. The rear seat splits 60/40 for more room. Other interior measurements have yet to be revealed.

Surprising Luxury

Like most of Toyota’s current products, the Venza will come standard with Toyota Safety Sense 2.0, comprising forward-collision warning and prevention, pedestrian detection, full-range adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning and prevention, automatic high beams, and more. But surprisingly, the Venza will also be available with some interesting premium features. A fixed-panel panoramic roof (called Star Gaze) will be optional, featuring electrochromic glass that can switch between clear and frosted at the touch of a button – a feature rarely seen on even the most expensive luxury cars.

2021 Toyota Venza Debut

The Venza will also get an available 10.0-inch color head-up display and a digital rear view mirror, both of which help maintain the driver’s sightlines and reduce distractions. Meanwhile, S-Flow climate control technology, which first appeared in Lexus vehicles, directs air conditioning and heat only to the seats that are occupied, reducing energy consumption and improving fuel efficiency. And extensive sound deadening, including a single-piece floor liner and under-hood dampers, helps to provide a serene, conversation-friendly cabin.

Coming Soon To A Dealer Near You

Toyota says the 2021 Venza will arrive in dealerships this summer alongside the likewise-new (and likewise hybridized) Sienna. Pricing hasn’t been finalized yet, but splitting the difference between the $28,350 RAV4 Hybrid LE and the $39,800 Highlander Hybrid LE would be a logical starting point. Expect a loaded Venza Limited to top $45,000 at least.

Gallery: 2021 Toyota Venza First Look

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