The Venza’s trip computer is a liar.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad that Toyota’s programmers built in a bit of idiot proofing to their system as surely most companies do, and heaven knows I need it; but it still lied and caused me some considerable stress.

There I was, mid-afternoon on a Friday, half way across the top of Toronto en route to Toyota Canada’s headquarters to return my four-cylinder Venza AWD Limited. It’s expected that the loaned press vehicles are returned filled with fuel just as they are handed to us when we pick them up, so I generally endeavour to pick a gas station as close to the drop-off point as I can. Occasionally this requires me to press on into the zone when the fuel light begins to glow ominously.

Highway 401 across Toronto is a black hole of actual mobility or progress; an asphalt strip of despair and misery clogged with an endless stream of trucks, cars and SUVs generally driven by the inept, impatient or distracted. Rush hour on a Friday is the worst. Drivers weary from a long week grumpily putter along between zero and five kilometres per hour in their attempts to get on with their respective weekend plans.

Mired in the heart of traffic hell, I amused myself by singing loudly (and badly) along with the Venza’s powerful 13-speaker JBL sound system fitted as part of the Limited trim level. I also spent 20 minutes or so focusing my attention on both the mind-numbing stop-and-go driving and a lively phone conversation (through the Venza’s hands-free Bluetooth, of course).

It was upon hanging up from my call that I glanced at the gauges again. Yup, still travelling at about four km/h. Just after 4:00 PM. 17 degrees outside. Distance to Empty: six km.

Wait, what?! SIX kilometers?!

It was at about this point I noticed the sign stating that the next exit from the express lanes to the collector lanes was six kilometers away.

Visions of being stopped in the middle of the express lanes with a shiny new, blue Toyota crossover preventing tens of thousands of people from getting home to their loved ones sprang to my mind. I imagined people honking and throwing garbage and lit cigarettes at me as they finally squeezed around my immobilized Venza. News helicopters would be circling overhead to get the scoop – and high definition footage – of the cause of such a sensational traffic snarl in Canada’s largest metropolis.

2015 Toyota Venza AWD Limited2015 Toyota Venza AWD Limited dashboard2015 Toyota Venza AWD Limited HVAC display
2015 Toyota Venza AWD Limited, dashboard, trip computer (incl. range estimate). Click image to enlarge

I adjusted the automatic climate control setting down a degree or two to help alleviate the stress-induced sweat that was now forming on my brow.

Distance to Empty: Four km.

Inching along toward the first opportunity to get off the highway, I began to experience other emotions too.

Like rage.

Why didn’t this thing sound a klaxon to notify me of this impending doom? Why couldn’t the orange low fuel indicator be a strobe light of retina-searing brightness? Why am I such a complete and utter idiot?

Also: why can’t a mid-size crossover like the Venza deliver better than the 9.9 L/100 km average it achieved during a week of almost exclusively highway driving?

This last question made me contemplate the Venza further. Achieving a figure of less than 10 L/100 km in a vehicle the size of this is actually pretty decent, especially considering this all-wheel-drive version weighs in at just under 1,800 kg. Toyota promotes a combined consumption level of 10.5 L/100 km and only 9.2 for the highway, so a 9.9 average is spot on.

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