Retrospective

The original Toyota Venza was a crossover ahead of its time

The Toyota Venza crossover was ahead of its time when it debuted in 2009.

Photo courtesy of Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A., Inc.

You may see one heading down the street now and think to yourself, "Oh yeah, they made that." When the Toyota Venza debuted at the 2008 North American International Auto Show, it was ahead of its time. That was both its blessing ad its curse.

The Venza was based on the Toyota FT-SX Concept, which debuted at the 2005 iteration of the Detroit auto show three years earlier. The concept car had the telltale signs of a modern crossover. It featured an extended height body that rode slightly higher than a traditional wagon and a sloped back end gracefully ended at the hatchback.

2009 Toyota Venza The interior of the Toyota Venza was very much of its time.Photo courtesy of Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A., Inc.

The project was the design child of Ian Cartabiano who had just come off a successful redesign of the third-generation 2005 Toyota Avalon. Today Cartabiano is the President at ED2 design center, Toyota Europe Design Development.

The concept and production model that followed were the same size as the Subaru Outback was in 2005. The 2020 Outback is around 10 inches longer than it was then.

First Generation (2009-2015)

The 2009 Toyota Venza was built on the Toyota Camry platform, giving the model its official crossover stance. Like the Camry, the Venza was a front-wheel drive model with available all-wheel drive.

Toyota gave the base model Venza a 2.7-liter four-cylinder engine. Buyers could upgrade to the available 3.5-liter V6. Both were paired with a six-speed automatic transmission. The four-cylinder achieved reasonable fuel economy for its time - an EPA-estimated 21 mpg in the city and 29 mpg on the highway.

2013 Toyota Venza The original Toyota Venza was ahead of its time. It only lasted one generation and was refreshed in 2013. Photo courtesy of Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A., Inc.

Unlike other models in the Toyota lineup, the crossover was originally sold in just one trim level. Buyers could add to their model utilizing several packages and options. The list of standard features included fog lamps, 19-inch alloy wheels, satellite radio, a six-disc CD changer, dual-zone climate control, auto-dimming rearview mirror, an 8-way power-adjustable drivers seat, Hill Start Assist, steering wheel-mounted audio controls, and the Toyota Star Safety System suite of safety equipment and technology.

Options including automatic high beams, a power lift gate, leather upholstery, a panoramic moonroof, 13-speaker JBL sound system, Bluetooth, navigation, push button start, and rearview camera were available.

Toyota priced the 2009 model starting at $25,975. It topped out at $29,250. Those prices rose by about $200 per model year through the 2013 Venza mid-cycle refresh.

The 2013 Venza was a thoroughly modern vehicle. It got Toyota's Etune infotainment system that allowed smartphones to connect and interact with the display as well as hands-free Bluetooth phone calls and text functionality. Also, drivers could stream Pandora by linking the system with their phone.

Discontinuation

Citing slacking sales and changes in customer preferences, Toyota killed the model in the U.S. in 2015 and ended global production in 2017.

The New Venza

Rumors are rampant that Toyota is revving the Venza as a thoroughly modern crossover. It may just be one of the new models Toyota showed during a dealer meeting that was leaked. Stay tuned!

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Nuts & Bolts

 
 

The Toyota Highlander is currently the only three-row SUV that Toyota sells.

Photo courtesy of Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc.

On December 28, 2020, Toyota Motor Corporation filed a trademark request for the words "Grand Highlander" with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). Does this mean that a larger Highlander is on the way? A more elegant one? Here's what we know.

The trademark of "Grand Highlander" was applied for under the "Automobiles and structural parts thereof" section of the application for a word mark as a standard character mark. This is identical to how the RAV4 Prime application was filed in November 2019.

It is different than other automaker trademark requests. For example, Ford Motor Company applied for the "Bronco Sport" work mark with a much broader specified area of commitment for the words:

"Land motor vehicles, namely, passenger automobiles, pick-up trucks, sport utility vehicles; land motor vehicle parts for passenger automobiles, pick-up trucks, sport utility vehicles, namely, shock absorbers, shock absorbing springs, vehicle anti-roll bars, braces for suspension struts, exterior metal decorative and protective trim, exterior plastic extruded decorative and protective trim, differentials, gear shifts, hoods, fascia, steering wheels, seat trim, parking brakes, wheels, brake discs, brake calipers, brake pads, engines, engine or motor mufflers, exhaust pipes, exhaust headers, air intakes, oil fill caps, coolant fill caps, engine valve covers, ignition coil covers, radiators, and exterior insignia badges"

The "Grand Highlander" mark is currently in the 1B stage of the trademark process.Following the initial filing the USPTO reviews the application. From there, it is decided whether or not the application will be approved. Upon approval, the mark is published for opposition reaction. If it passes without opposition, a Notice of Allowance is issued. From there, a statement of use needs to be filed, then reviewed before the trademark is officially filed.

If the mark is not initially approved, there is a rebuttal process and subsequent amendments to the initial filing are allowed. After that process is complete, the Notice of Allowance can be issued, or the trademark request can be rejected outright.

For the "RAV4 Prime" mark, the entire process took about a year with the mark published for opposition in February 2020 and the registration was completed in December 2020. The "Bronco Sport" mark was published for opposition in April 2020 and has yet to reach the final approval stage.

That's a lot to say, that the Grand Highlander mark may mean that something is in the pipeline, or it may not. We know for sure that the Land Cruiser is leaving the U.S. lineup soon. Toyota doesn't use the "Grand" name in any of its North American vehicles. But, it also doesn't mean that it won't.

But, what about a concept car? Toyota has been using alphanumeric names for their concept vehicles lately. The Lexus LF-1 Limitless, Lexus LF-30 Electrified, and the Toyota FT-4X Concept debuted a few years ago.

Could the filing allude to a new, super fancy Highlander? Maybe? It's hard to see how a super fancy Highlander would work to improve the differentiation between the Lexus and Toyota brands though. That's a line that the recent Venza arrival made even blurrier.

Will the Grand Highlander replace the Land Cruiser? Theoretically, a big three-row version of the Highlander that rides on the Tundra platform could be something Americans would buy. Is it something that Toyota would produce? They really do love to have a vehicle for every segment.

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The Aston Martin Vanquish was first produced for the 2001 model year.

Photo courtesy of Aston Martin Lagonda

The turn from 2020 to 2021 was just a few days ago but the changeover from 2000 to 2001 was 20, even though it might seem like "just yesterday". The second year of the 21st century was ripe with iconic model debuts, though some less iconic found their way in there. Let's take a look back at the cars, trucks, and SUVs that were introduced in 2001.

2001 Aston Martin Vanquish

Photo courtesy of Aston Martin Lagonda

The Aston Martin V12 Vanquish was launched at the Geneva Motor Show in March 2001, but that wasn't the first time it was seen. The company hinted at the model in January 1998 with the Project Vantage at the New York Motor Show. The car was designed by famed artist Ian Callum.

The Vantage had a carbon fiber and aluminum platform, a 5.9-liter V12 engine, and a six-speed gearbox with paddle shift capability. Its carbon/steel/aluminum subframe carried the engine and front suspension.

Vanquish shared its engine with the CB7 Vantage. Its exterior panels were hot-formed by a process called 'superforming', which was pioneered by the automaker in the late 1970s.

2001 BMW 7 Series

2001 BMW 7 Series

Photo courtesy of BMW

The E65 generation of the BMW 7 Series was in production from 2001 to 2008. Development of the car started in 1996 and it wasn't until 2001 at the Frankfurt Auto Show that the car was revealed. It launched in Europe just eight short weeks later.

At the time it debuted, the new look of the model was a departure from the visual identity many BMWs were sporting at the time. Its kidney grille and similarly sized headlights, as well as squared off back end, created a design trend whose lineage clearly exists today in the company's lineup.

2002 Buick Rendezvous

2001 Buick Rendezvous

Photo courtesy of Buick

The Buick Rendezvous may have had most of its success because it was the SUV that Tiger Woods was billed to endorse. The corporate cousin of the Pontiac Aztek debuted in 2001 as a 2002 model. The Redezvous was the first truck Buick brought to market since 1923 and they did all they could to market it as having the comforts of an SUV with the handling of a truck.

The Rendezvous was the shot in the arm Buick needed at the right time. It served as the launching point for the brand's modern North American presence before its run ended with the 2007 model.

2002 Chevrolet Avalanche

2001 Chevrolet Avalanche

Photo courtesy of Chevrolet

With Chevrolet Suburban and Cadillac Escalade underpinnings, the Chevrolet Avalanche seemed like it had the right stuff to make a lasting impact - and it did. The four-door, five- or six-passenger truck was part SUV with more comfortable appointments and styling. It also had a second row of seats that could be folded down in combination with the Convert-a-Cab system to make a bed.

The product's first buyers could get their Avalanche with either a 5.2-liter V8 or an 8.1-liter V8, making 285 or 340 horsepower, respectively.

Production of the Avalanche started in autumn 2001 and ended in April 2013, spanning two generations.

2002 Chevrolet Trailblazer

2002 Chevrolet Trailblazer

Photo courtesy of Chevrolet

From 1999 to 2001, the TrailBlazer was a Chevrolet Blazer trim level. Then, in time for the 2002 model year, the General Motors company gave North America its own Chevrolet TrailBlazer model. It came standard with a 4.2-liter inline-six-cylinder engine that produced 273 horsepower and 277 pound-feet of torque. Buyers could upgrade to a 5.3-liter V8 that achieved 302 horsepower and 330 pound-feet of torque. All models had four-wheel drive.

Today, the Chevrolet Trailblazer is a small crossover that retains little, if any, of the heritage of its namesake.

2003 Honda Civic Hybrid

2001 Honda Civic Hybrid

Photo courtesy of American Honda Motor Mfg. Inc

The Honda Civic Hybrid squeaks in as one of the last models introduced in 2001. It debuted arrived in the Japanese market in December of that year. At that time, it was the most fuel-efficient five-passenger gasoline-powered production vehicle in the world.

This first-generation Honda Civic Hybrid is based on the seventh-generation Civic. It came to the U.S. in the spring of 2002 as a 2003 model year vehicle.

Today, the Civic Hybrid has been replaced by the fuel-efficient Honda Insight in the company's North American lineup.

2008 Honda Fit

2008 Honda Fit

Photo courtesy of American Honda Motor Mfg. Inc

The Honda Fit, known as the Honda Jazz in international markets, was introduced in Japan in 2001. It would slowly make its way into Europe, Australia, South American, South Africa, Southeast Asia, China, and Mexico before arriving on U.S. shores the better part of a decade later (as shown above).

The small and versatile car is known today for its fuel efficiency, numerous cargo configurations, flat-fold front seat, and easy maneuverability. Honda recently announced that the Fit is leaving the North American market.

2003 Infiniti G35

2002 Infiniti G35

​Photo courtesy of Infiniti 

The Infiniti G35 was unveiled in June 2001, sharing a platform with the Nissan 350Z. It made its North American dealership debut in 2002 as a 2003 model year vehicle. The rear-wheel drive sedan had little in common with its G-Series predecessor, the G20, instead taking a note from the BMW M vehicles.

The car was available with a five-speed automatic transmission or a six-speed manual when it was new. Its V6 achieved 260 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque, and had 48-52 weight distribution. The AWD model of the G35 sedan is called the G35x.

2002 Jeep Liberty

2002 Jeep Liberty

Photo courtesy of FCA US LLC

The Jeep Liberty was introduced as a stepping stone model in the company's lineup. When it debuted as a 2002 model in 2001, it was slotted between the Jeep Wrangler and Jeep Grand Cherokee, and the smallest four-door SUV the automaker offered.

Seen as a replacement for the Jeep Cherokee nameplate, the Liberty had a Renegade trim level, which would eventually inspired the name of an even smaller four-door Jeep SUV.

2001 Jaguar X-Type

2002 Jaguar X-Type

Photo courtesy of Jaguar

The Jaguar X-Type was a front-engine compact executive car designed during the period when Ford owned Jaguar. It shared a platform with the Ford Mondero and was available with all-wheel drive.

The model filled a lucrative hole in the Jaguar lineup and Ford hoped that it would help double the company's sales. That didn't happen. Though it was projected to sell 100,000 units per year, just 350,000 total X-Types were produced during the car's eight-year manufacturing run.

2001 Lamborghini Murciélago

Photo courtesy of Lamborghini Automobili

The Lamborghini Murcielago succeeded the Diablo in the company's lineup. Manufacturing of the flagship sports car commenced in 2001 with the first models coming to North America wearing 2002 model year VINs.

The car marked an important moment for Lamborghini as it was the first new design in 11 years and the first model under Audi ownership. The Murcielago was designed by current Chief Creative Officer at Hyundai Motor Group, Luc Donckerwolke.

Just 65 were produced in 2001 but production picked up with 442 coupes coming off the line in 2002.

2002 Lincoln Blackwood

2022 Lincoln Blackwood

Photo courtesy of Lincoln Motor Company

Ford made the Lincoln Blackwood exclusively for the U.S. and Mexico markets from 2002 to 2003. It was the first pickup truck Lincoln ever sold, and was initially met with enthusiasm when it debut at the North American International Auto Show in January 1999.

The luxury truck was a bit before its time offering more glitz and glam than practicality. The features list included a power tonneau, plush carpeting, a box lined with stainless steel, and a navigation system.

Lincoln made just 3,356 Blackwoods at its Kansas City Assembly plant from August 2001 to December 2002.

2002 Maserati Spyder

2002 Maserati Spyder

Photo courtesy of Maserati

By 2001, Ferrari was well into its ownership of Maserati, having purchased the brand from Fiat in 1999. A series of new vehicles were developed including Quattroporte Evoluzione and 3200 GT. The Maserati Coupé and Spyder replaced the 3200 GT in the company's lineup for the 2002 model year. Those two would eventually be replaced in the company's lineup by the GranTurismo and GranCabrio.

The Spyder was unveiled at the 2001 Frankfurt Auto Show and sales of the model started in March 2002. The Spyder marked Maserati's long-awaited re-emergence in the U.S. market.

Maserati gave the Spyder an electronically operated soft top that took 30 seconds to deploy/stow. The Coupé and Spyder were both powered by a Ferrari 4.2-liter V8 engine that delivered 385 horsepower and 332 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed manual transmission was available, as were paddle shifters. The Spyder version of the car had a 176 mph top speed and could get from zero to 60 mph in 5.0 seconds.

2002 Mercedes-Benz SL-Class

2003 Mercedes-Benz SL

Photo courtesy of Mercedes-Benz

Design work that began in 1996 to resulted in the Mercedes-Benz SL (R230) debuting in July 2001. It was first presented to the public at the 2001 Frankfurt Auto Show with production beginning the following month. The car was designed using what at the time was state-of-the-art super computer referred to as the "CAVE" (Computer Aided Virtual Environment). The computer used five projectors to create the virtual image.

Mercedes sold the SL in two variants for the 2002 model year: SL350 and SL500. For the 2003 model year (shown above), the SL 55 AMG and SL 600 were added to the company's lineup.

2003 Mitsubishi Outlander

2003 Mitsubishi Outlander

​Photo courtesy of Mitsubishi Motors

The Mitsubishi Outlander was introduced to the Japanese market in 2001 but wouldn't make its way to the U.S. until 2003. In Japan, the model was known as the Airtrek and came with either a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine or a 2.4-liter diesel engine. Both engines were paired with a four-speed automatic transmission.

When it arrived on U.S. lots looking like the model in the photo above, it replaced the Mitsubishi Montero Sport and featured a modified grille and headlights. In the U.S., Mitsubishi sold the Outlander with a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine that produced 157 horsepower and 160 pound-feet of torque. It was available with either front- or four-wheel drive.

The Outlander is still sold in the U.S. It is set for a redesign for the 2022 model year, which will debut in February 2021.

2002 Toyota Camry

Photo courtesy of Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc.

The fifth-generation Toyota Camry was introduced in 2001 as a 2002 model. In the U.S., the new generation marked the end the Camry CE trim level and the reintroduction of the Camry SE grade. Toyota sold the 2002 with the buyer's choice of a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine (157 brake horsepower and 162 pound-feet of torque) or a 3.0-liter V6 (190 brake horsepower and 197 pound-feet of torque). The Camry LE and SE were available with a manual transmission when equipped with the inline-four.

Opting for the top-tier Camry XLE gave owners a model equipped with alloy wheels, a JBL premium audio system, and leather upholstery. Side airbags and vehicle stability control were available as add-ons.

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