There comes a time in many people’s lives when suddenly they realize that their personal car need not be able to ferry around an entire Little League team and that their next new SUV quite possibly could stand to be a bit more stylish, compact and luxurious. But this isn’t to say that money is no object for this individual as more often than not those same kids who were on that Little League team are now young adults still on the family payroll. So no visits to the Lexus or Mercedes dealer just yet.
This is where top of the line “posh-utes” like the 2014 Honda Accord Crosstour EX-L AWD and 2014 Toyota Venza V6 Limited AWD come in. They are less utilitarian than siblings like the Pilot or Highlander yet they still embody the core values of the Toyota and Honda brands. That means top notch reliability, comfortable seating for up to five, a decent amount of cargo space as well as the option of luxury features one starts to expect when buying a new crossover SUV that can cost just below or right at the magic $40,000 threshold.
Now, both the Crosstour and Venza are available with 4-cylinder engines and front wheel drive starting in the high $20,000 range but we chose instead to test the fully loaded V6 equipped models with all-wheel drive. Having four powered wheels is a must for many people who live in the snow belt or quite simply for those who enjoy skiing and snowboarding. You will only be glad you had all-wheel drive once you have spun out after hitting a patch of black ice, however.
So which of these two evenly matched SUVs would we recommend to you as a buyer? Read on to find out the answer as well as everything good and bad about the 2014 Venza and Crosstour.
Everyone has their own opinions about car styling so we will just give voice to critics who have said that the Venza is a bit bland but has an overwhelmingly chrome-tastic grille that sort of overpowers the front end. And some have just called to Crosstour bizarre because of its fastback hatch shape and unique appearance among the crossover SUV herd. So while the Venza does not in any way offend us, it doesn’t spark our interest much either. We think Honda’s Crosstour looks like the SUV Saab would have built if they were still in business and had the wherewithal to design their own. It marches to its own beat but we dig it. (Advantage: 2014 Honda Crosstour)
Interior and Cargo Space
If you are used to driving an Accord then you will get along with the Crosstour’s interior famously as it uses much of the same dashboard switchgear which works so well and the overall feeling of spaciousness is much the same. The Venza, on the other hand, shares nothing with the Camry or any other Toyota really so its dash features a unique high mounted shift lever meant to be more ergonomic as well as a terrifically handy and incredibly deep covered center console where you could hide all of your junk. There is even a little nook where you could put a pen or perhaps a roll of Mentos candy. Not that we did that.
Both models exemplified the reputations for irrefutable quality that both Honda and Toyota enjoy with all materials including the plastics, leather and wood trim accents all well-chosen and seemingly built to last. Rear seat legroom is about equal for both although the Crosstour has a bit less headroom thanks to its fastback shape as opposed to the Venza which is shaped more like a box. Corgo capacity behind the rear seats in the Toyota is 36.2 cubic feet and 70.2 cubic feet once you fold the second row of perches. In the Crosstour there is 25.7 cubic feet of cargo space behind the second row of seats which grows to 51.3 cubic feet once you fold the seats down. And if you haul a lot of stuff with you, that’s where the Honda loses this section of the test. (Advantage: 2014 Toyota Venza)
Pricing, Features and Fuel Economy
The EPA estimates the Venza V6 to return 18 city/25 highway while the Crosstour 20 city/30 highway both on regular unleaded. During their time with us the Venza averaged a little under 20 miles per gallon while the Honda averaged 23 in both city and highway driving. Both SUVs use 3.5 liter V6 engines with the Honda putting out 276 horsepower/252 lb. feet of torque and the Toyota manages 268 horsepower/246 lb. feet of torque. Oddly, the Crosstour is only rated to tow 1,500 pounds whereas the Venza can tow 3,500 so keep that in mind if you have a boat.
Try as we might, we were hard pressed to find any features that the 2014 Honda Accord Crosstour EX-L V6 AWD lacked that the 2014 Toyota Venza V6 Limited AWD possessed barring one—the Toyota has an automatic high beam headlight system that activates them automatically on dark roads and turns them off as soon as headlights are detected ahead. Otherwise, both have blind spot warning systems, dual zone climate control, in-dash navigation, leather seating, premium audio systems, heated seats, Bluetooth capabilities, back-up cameras, stylish 18-inch alloy wheels, moonroofs and much more. The only difference is the Honda costs $37,240 fully loaded whereas the Toyota easily crosses the $40,000 mark once all-wheel drive and the towing prep package are added. (Advantage: 2014 Honda Crosstour)
Both models are rated as “Top Safety Picks” by the IIHS (Insurance Institute of Highway Safety) and there is little to distinguish these two SUVs when it comes to how reassuringly safe they are. For instance, in a rollover both models can withstand over 18,000 lbs. of weight on their roofs which is an excellent reading. So kudos to both Honda and Toyota here. (Advantage: Tie)
Given the fact that both the Venza and Corsstour tested here boast two of the finest, potent and aurally pleasing V6 engines mixed with examples of the industry’s silkiest of 6-speed gearboxes prove that you don’t need an astronomical number of gears to or a downsized 4-cylinder direct injection turbo motor to get a decent vehicle. The two SUVs manage to truly be on the cutting edge of “fun to drive,” which is a concept that most SUVs know little or nothing about. They are fast, they can reward enthusiastic driving up to about 8/10’s of good sense thanks to good steering feel and excellent suspension control.
One place where the Venza oddly falls down a bit is in road noise that is audible from the back seat. More than one rear seat passenger complained of it, almost as if there wasn’t enough sound deadening used around the rear wheel wells and cargo hold. Maybe you have to buy an RX350 for silence? The Crosstour proved perfectly quiet, even more so than the Toyota with wind noise thanks to its swooping fastback shape as opposed to that giant chrome schnoz on the Venza.
All in all, however, the Crosstour just feels quicker and sportier on the road pretty much because it is to Honda the wagon equivalent of the Accord. The Venza is the wagon version of a V6 Camry. And we all know that, despite leap and bound improvements in recent years with the Camry, which of those family sedans is more fun to drive. And any car you own should be at least a little fun. (Advantage: 2014 Honda Crosstour)
Well, as long as you don’t absolutely need the Venza’s superior cargo carrying ability, there is no reason not to choose the 2014 Honda Crosstour EX-L V6 AWD thanks to its fun to drive nature, refinement, relative affordability, style and bang for the buck. Because you just never know when you might need to take a Little League team out for pizza, again. (Winner: 2014 Honda Accord Crosstour EX-L AWD)