2009 Toyota Venza V6 AWD
2009 Toyota Venza V6 AWD
2009 Toyota Venza V6 AWD. Click image to enlarge

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First Drive: 2009 Toyota Venza

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2009 Toyota Venza

Toronto, Ontario – It’s a good thing that Toyota’s Lexus division has redesigned the RX 350 for 2010, because Toyota’s new 2009 Venza crossover practically drives a bargain-priced stake through the heart of the current RX models.

Equipped with the “Touring Package”, as was my Aloe Green Metallic V6 AWD tester, the Venza does a very credible Lexus impersonation – good enough, in fact, that my money would go to the $36,755 (as-tested, plus freight and A/C tax) Venza, rather than a similarly equipped 2009 Lexus RX 350, which lists for $47,950. (Venzas start at $28,270)

The cabin is a handsome one, with an attractive mix of materials, tones, and textures; the centre console is interestingly asymmetric, and places the high-mounted shifter easily at hand and out of the way. All four windows are auto up and down.

The standard dual-zone automatic climate controls are segregated into a small cluster to the right of the shifter, while the system’s functions are displayed on a multi-function dash-top 3.5-inch LCD screen located close to the base of the windshield. The same display screen also provides readouts for trip and fuel consumption, as well as the menus for certain vehicles customization functions, such as interior light delay, automatic locking, and the like.

Almost daring for a conservative company like Toyota, the Venza even eschews the typical elephant-leather graining used in many vehicles’ plastics for a more unusual horizontally striated pattern that vaguely resembles weathered wood. My tester featured a satin-finish woodgrain trim on its doors and centre console that looked rich and convincing (a slightly less realistic, simulated carbon fibre is standard), and I liked the contrast between its interior’s cream primary palette and the black found on the carpets, dash, and door tops.

I particularly like the clever design of the centre console’s large, deep centre console. Two lamps illuminate the inside of the abyss, but also serve to light up the insides of the lid-mounted cupholders when the lid is slid closed. An iPod or cell-phone holder is integrated into the centre stack immediately ahead of the bin, and there is internal accommodation for the device’s cords to plug into the 12 volt power point and audio system input connectors in the cubby without having to drape them over the lid.

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