March 20, 2013 9:45 AM | By Mark Atkinson for MSN Autos

2013 Toyota Venza AWD road test



2013 Toyota Venza AWD (© Photo: Mark Atkinson)
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  • 2013 Toyota Venza AWD (© Photo: Mark Atkinson)
  • 2013 Toyota Venza AWD (© Photo: Mark Atkinson)
  • 2013 Toyota Venza AWD (© Photo: Mark Atkinson)
  • 2013 Toyota Venza AWD (© Photo: Mark Atkinson)
  • 2013 Toyota Venza AWD (© Photo: Mark Atkinson)
  • 2013 Toyota Venza AWD (© Photo: Mark Atkinson)
  • 2013 Toyota Venza AWD (© Photo: Mark Atkinson)
  • 2013 Toyota Venza AWD (© Photo: Mark Atkinson)
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2013 Toyota Venza AWD

Nip and tuck helps Venza stay the course
Toyota used to make Camry station wagons, but got caught up in the public’s swing towards distaste for such practical conveyances. So we get the Venza instead, a just-right-sized five-passenger ‘crossover’ that fits nicely between the smaller RAV4 and larger Highlander. For 2013, the company has given the Venza some timely updates and subtle styling changes.

Subtle really does capture the differences between ‘old’ Venza and ‘new’ Venza; the most obvious being the redesigned front grille that’s chunkier and less fussy to match other recent Toyotas. The taillights are new too, but only in how the lights are positioned under the lens – the general shape hasn’t changed. More – ahem – highlights include side-mirror-mounted turn signals and puddle lamps.

Otherwise, the Venza retains its love-it-hate-it shape. Our feelings change greatly depending on the colour chosen; our test vehicle’s Blizzard Pearl (an extra charge of $255 at that) didn’t wow us as much as other darker and more dramatic shades might. Every Venza also gets updated 19-inch wheels with varying styles depending on packages, and the bigger standard sizes fill out the arches nicely.

New audio system and trim highlight interior

2013 Toyota Venza AWD (© Photo: Mark Atkinson)

Inside, the Venza adopts the same six-inch touch-screen ‘display audio’ as introduced in the latest Camry that combines Bluetooth hands-free phone and streaming audio integration, along with optional navigation and other in-car ‘apps’ into one handy interface. There’s also a new three-spoke steering wheel that incorporates secondary controls for the new radio, and great swaths of ‘simulated’ woodgrain on the centre console and door trim.

The new six-speaker audio system is great, but the carryover heating controls positioned just below can be a little confusing mainly because the biggest control knob on the whole console is the one that adjusts the driver’s-side temperature (the passenger control is much smaller and off to the side). It’s easy to accidentally turn the temperature to full freeze when attempting to turn the stereo down. A minor gripe.

One big plus carried over is the spacious console between the front seats that can be accessed in a couple different ways to store big, bulky items, loads of books, papers – even spare diapers and wipes for parents. It’s easy to keep things out of sight from potential thieves.

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