This is the just-unveiled 2021 Toyota Venza for the US market. If it looks familiar, you’re right, it’s the all-new fourth-generation Toyota Harrier that made its debut last month, just with a different badge.

Toyota USA says that the 2021 Venza “breaks the sameness barrier in the midsize two-row crossover utility vehicle category”. The Venza has always been different – the first-gen that surfaced in 2008 in the US was more like a giant “Camry wagon” than a proper SUV (think Mark X ZiO vs the sedan), and those car-like qualities should continue with this rebadged Harrier, even if it looks like a normal SUV now.

Sitting on the latest TNGA-K platform, the Venza is projected to achieve top NHTSA safety ratings. The five-seater SUV measures 4,740 mm long, 1,855 mm wide and 1,660 mm tall, and has a wheelbase of 2,690 mm. This makes it larger than the outgoing Harrier.

The suspension set-up consists of front struts and rear multi-links. 18-inch multi-spoke alloys are standard issue, while top XLE and Limited trim levels roll on the 19-inch multi-spoke “super chrome finished” wheels you see here.

In Japan, the new Harrier can be had with a naturally-aspirated 2.0L engine or a 2.5L hybrid (no more 2.0L turbo), but predictably, only the hybrid is available for the Venza. The latest Toyota Hybrid System combines a 2.5L DOHC four-cylinder with front and rear electric motors for total system output of 219 hp. Similar to the top E-Four option in Japan, the rear electric motor provides on-demand all-wheel drive.

The petrol engine employs VVT by electric motor (VVT-iE) on the intake camshaft, and VVT-i on the exhaust camshaft. A variable cooling system (electric water pump, electric thermostat) and a fully variable oil pump further help improve efficiency. This non-plug-in hybrid uses a new lithium-ion battery and has Normal, Eco and Sport modes for the CVT, on top of an EV mode for short distance, low-speed electric-only driving.

The Venza’s Predictive Efficient Drive (PED) uses the navigation system to analyse driving habits and memorise road and traffic conditions to help optimise hybrid battery charging. When the driver selects PED, the system learns repeating routes and is designed to predict when and where the vehicle is likely to slow down or stop. Then, through optimum accelerator pedal release timing guidance, it can help reduce energy consumption.

PED can help optimise battery charging and discharge ahead of hills or traffic congestion. When approaching a downhill section, for example, the system is designed to apply additional engine braking force to more efficiently charge the hybrid battery after the accelerator pedal is released.

Toyota claims a “surprisingly quiet cabin experience” as a Venza unique point. Besides the new TNGA-K platform (described as the first defense against NVH), there are things like an acoustic windscreen, a one-piece floor silencer pad with 92% surface coverage, and the placement of two special resonance chambers under the hood that help minimise air intake noise in the 530 Hz and 650 Hz ranges, among other measures.

It’s not just sleek design that will elevate the Venza from the RAV4, but premium features as well. Toyota touts a 12.3-inch touchscreen display with nine JBL speakers (including a rear subwoofer and 12-channel, 1,200-watt amp), seven-inch multi-info display, a digital rear-view mirror and 10-inch colour head-up display.

Other available features include a “Star Gaze” fixed panoramic glass roof, a first-ever for Toyota, and heated/ventilated front seats for “true, graceful grand touring”. The roof’s electrochromic glass tech allows one to switch from transparent to frosted modes within one second via a button. In the frosted mode, Star Gaze brightens the interior while reducing direct sunlight.

Safety wise, the Toyota Safety Sense 2.0 suite of active safety systems includes Pre-Collision System with Daytime/Low-Light Vehicle and Pedestrian Detection, plus Daytime Bicycle Detection (PCS), Full-Speed Range Dynamic Radar Cruise Control (DRCC), Lane Departure Alert with Steering Assist (LDA w/SA), Automatic High Beams (AHB), Lane Tracing Assist (LTA) and Road Sign Assist (RSA).

The US-market Venza will roll off the Takaoka Plant in Japan alongside the XU80 Harrier, and will reach American showrooms this summer.

GALLERY: 2021 Toyota Venza


GALLERY: JDM fourth-gen XU80 Toyota Harrier