2009 Toyota Venza four-cylinder
2009 Toyota Venza four-cylinder
2009 Toyota Venza four-cylinder. Click image to enlarge

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2009 Toyota Venza

North Vancouver, British Columbia – Those of you who can remember when the first Toyota Camrys were sold in Canada may recall that the first-generation model (1982-1987) was available as a four-door hatchback as well as a four-door sedan. The second-generation Camry (1988 -1991) dropped the hatchback bodystyle in favour of a station wagon, which continued briefly with the restyled third generation Camry wagon (1992-1996).

But after that, Toyota discontinued Camry wagons in North America, likely due to the rising popularity of their modern-day replacements: minivans and SUVs.

Today, wagons are making a comeback – but they’ve been re-packaged as “crossover vehicles” with taller bodystyles, bigger wheels, fancier interiors, available all-wheel drive, and a sportier image. While station wagons are seen as boring “soccer Mom” vehicles, crossover vehicles add perceived style and luxury to the basic utility of a four-door wagon.

All-new for 2009, the Toyota Venza is the modern-day evolution of the Camry wagon. It uses the current Camry’s unit body platform and available 4-cylinder and V6 powertrains but adds a distinctive new bodystyle that’s about 155 mm (6.1 in.) taller and 85 mm (3.3 in.) wider, with extra-large wheels and tires, and a completely new interior design.

2009 Toyota Venza four-cylinder
2009 Toyota Venza four-cylinder
2009 Toyota Venza four-cylinder. Click image to enlarge

The base powertrain is a 182-hp 2.7-litre four-cylinder engine mated to a standard six-speed automatic transmission with manual shift mode; optional is Toyota’s powerful 268-hp 3.5-litre V6 engine with the same transmission. Front-wheel drive and all-wheel drive are available with either engine – an advantage over the Camry sedan which is not available with all-wheel drive.

The four-cylinder Venza ($28,900 FWD, $30,350 AWD) comes with a lot of standard equipment, including large 19-inch all-season tires and alloy wheels, rear spoiler, front fog lamps, premium cloth seats, eight-way power driver’s seat, dual-zone automatic climate control, six-CD/MP3/WMA stereo with auxiliary and USB input and XM satellite radio, power windows and door locks with keyless entry, tilt and telescopic wheel with audio controls, information display, cruise control, heated mirrors, rear privacy glass, variable intermittent wipers with windshield de-icer, rear wiper, 60/40 split-folding reclining rear seatbacks, sliding cargo cover, seven airbags including a driver’s knee airbag, and active front head restraints.

2009 Toyota Venza four-cylinder
2009 Toyota Venza four-cylinder
2009 Toyota Venza four-cylinder. Click image to enlarge

The Venza V6 model ($30,600 FWD, $32,050 AWD) adds the 268-hp 3.5-litre V6, standard 20-inch tires and wheels, and dual exhausts, but is otherwise the same as the four-cylinder model. Certain option packages can be added with such niceties as leather upholstery, premium JBL audio system, navigation system and panoramic sunroof, but my four-cylinder tester had no options, and its as-tested price came to $30,490 including freight and excise tax.


I normally leave styling judgements to the reader, but the Venza’s unique design deserves a few comments. Its tires and wheels are enormous – it wasn’t that long ago that 19 and 20-inch wheels and tires were only found on concept cars and blinged-out Hummers. Though large, they do look proportional to the Venza’s tall bodystyle. However, replacement tires and wheels of this size are expensive, and snow tires and winter rims wouldn’t be cheap either – if you can find them. I’d inquire with the dealer before buying the car.

The other distinctive feature of the Venza is its cheese-grater stainless-steel grille and large Toyota logo on the front of the hood – I have to wonder what the designers were thinking. The Venza also has very high window ledges, large doors, a rear roof spoiler, and a sloping rear window more like a hatchback.

Though it’s a mid-sized vehicle, the Venza looks and feels bigger.

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