Although Toyota has offered the midsize Venza without trim levels since the crossover's 2009 debut, the automaker recently announced it will discontinue the practice for the 2012 model year. Instead, the Camry-based Venza will be available in LE, XLE and Limited trims, dropping last year's complex option packages and putting it in line with Toyota's other models.
While Toyota has not announced pricing for the 2012 Venza, it did release details on each trim level's standard equipment. According to the automaker, base-level LE models, expected to start around $27,000, include keyless entry, alloy wheels and dual-zone climate controls along with more upscale items like Bluetooth, an in-dash six-disc CD changer, XM satellite radio and a USB port with iPod connectivity. The Venza LE comes standard with front-wheel drive and the automaker's 182-horsepower 2.7-liter four-cylinder, while all-wheel drive and a 268-horsepower V6 are optional.
Moving up to the mid-level XLE model adds a host of new luxury features including leather upholstery, heated front seats, a power rear liftgate, a rear backup camera and Toyota's SmartKey system, which includes a pushbutton starter. Like the less-expensive LE trim, Venza XLE models also offer a choice between front- and all-wheel drive and a standard 2.7-liter four-cylinder or optional V6.
The upscale Limited model offers the highest level of equipment. In addition to including the powerful V6 engine as standard equipment, the Venza Limited features a voice-activated navigation system, a power sunroof and high-intensity Xenon headlights with automatic high beams. Toyota says the automatic high beams automatically detect oncoming vehicles and switch off temporarily to let them pass.
Expected to reach dealers by the end of the year, the 2012 Venza's streamlined trim levels will likely simplify the buying process. Toyota hopes that will spark an increase in the crossover's sales, which totaled just 3,725 units last month - a 2.2 percent increase over August 2010, but still far below sales figures of competitors like the Ford Edge and Chevy Equinox.