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Venza Performance in Snow and Ice

mrrich1mrrich1 Posts: 1
edited July 2014 in Toyota
I've lived in PA for 25 years and gotten by fine with FWD in the snow. What is the experience Venza owners have had with FWD versions in the snow? I am particularly interested in 6 cyl reports, since it appears they have the better tires. The reports on the 19" tire quality and limited availability, which is the same as that used on the Highlander, scare me, and I was initially interested in a 4 cyl model. It sounds like Highlander owners are downsizing their 19" rims to get access to decent all-weather tires. I realize everyone is driving on new tires, so the problem of what happen as the tires wear is still a mystery, although the Michelins seem to work well enough over time in other vehicles.


  • two weekends ago, we had 6-8 inches snow along I-64 and I-95. Took us 6 hours from Chesapeake to Washington DC because of the snow storm. We made many stops for bathroom breaks and to get food and gas. Many local roads were covered with snow and Venza V6 FWD performed flawlessly.

    Front and back wipers performed great as well.

    Overall, it was fun and joyous drive despite the snow storm.
  • wwestwwest Posts: 10,706
    Fun and joyous.......SIX HOURS...

    Even without kids that seems a bit of a stretch, even doubling up on the paxil.
  • Not a stretch, I drove many cars before and I find Venza is fun and joyous ride everytime I in it.
    i am looking to raise the performance and handling to the brakes on the axis show car and between 325 to 400 hp not supercharger but other aproaches the extreme would be turbo and better springs
  • Hi to all
    I would like to know how your Venza's handle on the snow,and ice.
    Best Regards
  • dave139dave139 Posts: 19
    I have a little more than 1000 miles on my 4 cyl. Venza and am very pleased with the car so far. However, I've read too many bad reviews about the standard Bridgestone Dueler 245/55R 19-inch all-season tires to risk driving on them during our harsh Syracuse winters. Have therefore ordered 4 Blizzak DM-V1 Bridgestone Light Truck/SUV Studless Ice and Snow winter tires. Will let you know how I do.
  • I have only had my Venza for ten days and have not driven on ice and snow yet. It was reassuring to read the positive report from normvenza09 above.
    However, there was a review of the Venza at which reported:
    "The huge wheels made the Venza a handful in the snow, where it often struggled to gain traction. Even mild acceleration would cause the stability-control system to kick in, reducing power and applying single-wheel braking to quell slippage, thus rendering the benefits of all-wheel drive moot. When it comes to winter driving, the Venza is the worst all-wheel-drive vehicle I have ever tested."
    Although the review does not state it, I suspect the test car may have had Goodyear RSA tires which are reported in survey results at to not be as capable in snow as the Michelin Latitude tires that are also available OEM on the Venza. I should have first hand experience with snow and ice in another couple months.
  • Hello Dave,
    Thank you for your reply. Yes please let me know. I will be purchasing this car next year. We also have harsh winters in Quebec.

  • Hello again Michiganmike.
    I thank you again for your great comments. I will be taking a look at those sites. On my end i researched the tires for next year. I will be using 18" tires for winter. Please let me know your first hand experience in snow, and ice.

  • wwestwwest Posts: 10,706
    As a general rule the larger diameter wheel means a lower/short tire sidewall. Short sidewall results in less flex, lower CSA contact patch area, slightly improved FE.

    Lower CSA results in higher propensity for slippage when roadbed conditions are becoming marginal. It also appears to me that the manufacturers of FWD and F/awd vehicles are becoming more safety conscious and therefore the TRAC firmware is being revised to be somewhat more aggressive.

    Turning TRAC off and learning to "feather" the throttle "just so" would be the answer. Especially so if the TC off function doesn't disable the automatic driveline coupling to the rear with low speed acceleration.
  • dave139dave139 Posts: 19
    Will do, Robert.
  • I like the look of the Venza, but I'm interested to learn more about its AWD. From the brochure "Active Torque, "adjusts torque (power) to the right wheels at just the right moment".

    My experience is that I prefer the predictability of permanent 4 wheel drive as in BMW X, VW 4motion and I think Subaru. I have had poor experience with some other "smart" AWD systems (especially with large low profile tire /wheel combos) changing configuration, particularly when going down hill in snow/ice conditions.

    Some AWD drive vehicles allowed you to "lock" the front rear split by a switch or others when you turned off the OD - this seemed to give better driving feel.

    As far as I can tell this AWD is fully automatic and I can't control the front/rear ratios for downhill icy or packed snow motorway conditions. If I'm paying for AWD I prefer to be able to control when its operational, at least in bad weather.

    Can anyone tell me for sure or have experience in icy conditions?

    I have no doubts about acceleration or uphill road performance its what happens going downhill when you take your foot off the the gas that concerns me.

  • wwestwwest Posts: 10,706
    "..going downhill...concerns me..."

    As well it should...!!

    That is only one of the MAJOR safety short-comings of a FWD or a F/awd vehicle, downhill on a slippery slope. Get off the gas, engine braking at the front results in the rear attempting to LEAD.

    Just one of the many good reasons to stay with R/awd or even RWD...SAFETY.

    By the way the 2010 RX350 has this very same F/awd system but also has a manual lock control. But that doesn't change the fact that it is virtually ALWAYS front torque biased system and thus patently UNSAFE for wintertime use.
  • wwestwwest Posts: 10,706
    "..learn more about AWD.."

    Ford makes heavy use of this design for all of the F/awd product, as does Mazda. Porsche now uses the same electro-mechanical linear control clutch technique, R/awd, for the newest 911 model. It has proved to be quite problematic for Ford, early models allowed manual control but had a temperature sensor to warn the driver that the rear drive coupling was beginning to overheat.

    The manual control was dropped as was the temperature sensor and then the next weakest link, the PTO began to fail due to overheating. Mazda solved the problem via cooling of the PTO using engine coolant flow. Apparently Ford chose to detune/derate the F/awd functionality in order to reduce the failure rate.

    It will be interesting to see what the failure rate of the RX350's new F/awd system will be.
  • Sorry but you lost me with F/awd and R/awd .... I understand 4WD and AWD.

    Not sure I agree with you on RWD (rear wheel) being safer, you only need to see the RWD limo drivers (and others) pointing the wrong way in minor ice or snow.

    The worst one I experienced was my wife's FX45 - sure it was great in the dry or even rain, but show it snow or ice and it was a different story. The AWD designed to launch in AWD and revert to RWD if it sensed no traction issues. However with those big wheels and wide tires, traction was horrible. When all 4 wheels slipped on ice it could decide it liked RWD.

    It had a an override for AWD but that would turn off if you went over 25mph - not the best decision.

    For sure we can say a competent driver, with RWD will still do better than a fool in AWD especially if its too smart for its own good and has no manual override mode.
  • wwestwwest Posts: 10,706
    I use F/awd to designate that the AWD system is an "add-on" to a base FWD vehicle. Almost all of these either run in FWD only for most of the time, or are front torque biased. Only the SH-AWD system has the ability to bias engine torque primarily to the rear.

    R/awd...self explanatory.

    RWD and R/awd vehicles have a higher safety factor simply because even if you get to too lead-footed you will still have the front tire traction to maintain control. Get "lead-footed" with a FWD or F/awd and you better hope that TC will be QUICK to intervene, most are.

    "..over 25MPH..."

    Anyone who has any high level of experience with 4WD or 4X4 vehicle driving on adverse roadbeds will tell you that once underway at a reasonable roadspeed the front drive should be disengaged.
  • OK thanks terminology now understood.

    I have no experience of adverse roadbeds, just 20 odd years of driving on NJ roads in varying conditions including deep snow. I'll take full-time AWD or 4WD any day for the few weeks of the year when I need it.

    Thanks for your input.
  • Great explanation. Here's a question:
    My 4cyl AWD Venza has an off button for Trac. Under which circumstances should I turn it off?
  • wwestwwest Posts: 10,706
    To my (meager) knowledge there is no such thing as a "full-time" F/awd system insofar as operation on an adverse condition, low traction, roadbed is concerned. Systems wherein the rear drive capability is always enabled/armed and at the ready, yes.

    Most of these systems, inclusive of the Venza, use TC, Traction Control, to automatically apportion engine torque to the rear after, ONLY after, loss of traction at the front is detected. Basically just like 4WD systems that should NEVER be engaged unless operating on a low traction system, except in the case of F/awd automatic engagement rather than manual.
  • wwestwwest Posts: 10,706

    The only exception would be if stuck, cannot get moving, without (non-excessive) wheelspin and/or have the need to rock the car back and forth to get moving initially.
  • Thanks! Makes sense.
  • Question regarding my 2009 Venza, 4 cylinder AWD 19 inch alloy wheels P245/55R19 tires. Specifically does anyone have any expierance with snow chains/snow claws for their Venza. Traveling to California for holidays from Nebraska thought I should have snow chains/snow claws just in case they are needed/required. Any recommendations regarding tire chains or what they call Snow Claws for my Venza? I would welcome your suggestions/comments regarding where I might purchase as well. Thanks in advance any help would be greatly appreciated!
  • dave139dave139 Posts: 19
    1st time in heavy snow: We're in the midst of a pretty good lake effect storm and the Blizzaks have been well worth the money. Getting great traction on fairly treacherous roads and the trac system rarely kicks in.
  • adk3adk3 Posts: 4
    I had a very scary experience on both Slush and Ice!
    I lost control of the car at 65MPH on the Atlantic City Parkway. I hit a small slush trail left by the front end loaders/plowers and my car's rear swung violently 75degrees from left to right five times before I regained control of the car. Anyone had this experience? I now believe it may be due to the automatic engine breaking system, because the Dealer Wide Mechanic said I should not have kept my foot on the gas petal, despite the fact I never touched the car breaks. I just kept steering into the violent turns and the car finally came under control.

    I am a previous Subaru Owner from 1982 and I realized I had to put my 19 year old Subaru back in service, because the Venza's plastic body panels are flimsy and I already have a crack near the front fog light due to stress. My Subaru has foam filled backing and steel behind its bumpers and the lower fairing has many folds which adds strength. The Venza has nice lines but no reinforcing in the design.

    I used the Subaru to breakthrough into plowed roads for many years without incident, while the Venza, barely three months old, has a crack in the front and some light interior damage near the window due to my entry and exit from the car.

    In slush or wet snow the Venza is poorly balance and it simply can not gain any traction with the 20" tires and V-6 engine.. The Subaru runs on top of the snow compacting it and has only gotten stuck on wet blare ice. So I am rebuilding it again because the Venza is simply too sensitive a vehicle for the weather mentioned in this piece.

    Visibility is horrid on the Venza! I have added large rectangular convex mirrors to both side view mirrors, because I will lose a car for about a car length and a half. I highly recommend this approach. The smaller mirrors work well until it rains, then they have too many rain drops distorting their visibility. You can find the same type of mirrors mounted by the Chevy factory on their little panel wagon - go to dealer showroom - this is where I got the idea! adk3
  • wwestwwest Posts: 10,706
    edited March 2010
    With a FWD or even a F/awd, especially the Venza F/awd, ALL engine compression braking occurs at the FRONT WHEELS, potentially a fairly HAZARDOUS situation as you have just discovered.

    With a FWD, and the clear majority of F/awd, vehicles that aspect represents a very clear and certain danger for wintertime use. The best thing to do if you have one of these equipped with an automatic transmission is to follow the advice of the AAA and quickly shift the transaxle into neutral.

    VW has just announced a new feature for their FWD cars with manual transaxles in that if too much engine compression braking is used for roadbed conditions resulting from an inappropriate downshift the system will automatically "up-rev" the engine to alleviate the wheelslip.

    You might also ask you dealer if there is a C-best option wherein should you fully release the gas pedal and when the OAT is 35F and below the transaxle would shift into neutral automatically. While there may not be a c-best option for this at the moment there may be one soon forth coming.

    The downshifting "extension", fuel cut extension, is a fairly new feature so a follow-on revision to defeat it if conditions warrant might be a reasonable decision by the manufacturers.
  • adk3adk3 Posts: 4
    Thank you for your response. The only problem I would have given that previously described loss of control is that you do not have much time to react! The advantage with the Venza is that the shift lever is very accessible?!

    The Toyota Regional Mechanic said to keep my foot on the gas pedal, but that is not a normal reaction when a car goes through a rapid loss of directional control.
    I know never to use the brakes, so your directions to shift to neutral may be a more reasonable response, because the electric steering gives you no sense of tire-to-road contact. I did not even know about the engine breaking feature until I read the Owner's Manual cover to cover during Canada vs USA final game. adk3
  • wwestwwest Posts: 10,706
    Oftentimes a very slight, judicious, application of a rear wheel implemented e-brake will be of some help in the situation you describe. Sort of like throwing a "drag" anchor out behind a boat.

    And regarding the actual braking, I have long thought that with the modern day commonality of ABS/BA/TC/VSC/etc it would be really easy to have a braking system that used ONLY the rear brakes for light duty braking. Then only enable front braking additionally if a predetermined brake fluid pressure level were reached and/or ABS indicated impending rear wheel lockup.
  • adk3adk3 Posts: 4
    If you applied the rear brakes, say using the emergency brake, you would really set the car into a skid. There is no weight in the rear end.

    Since that skid, and to dampen the jarring of the 20" rims,I actually put 100lbs of steel shot ballast under the front seats and another 100lbs in the rear spare tire well. The ride is much better, but I do not know how this will affect the car in a skid.
    I was on rough sheet ice at 70mph.

    I rather like the idea of having the front engine brake disabled, so you can steer out of it normally. I hope the better weight distribution will help, but the only way to tell is to get back into a skid?!

  • kingfans1kingfans1 Posts: 137
    hello I don't have a venza awd.. but I can tell you 2009 matrix awd do very well in the snow.

    Toyota make good AWD cars.. I am sure Venza AWD well handle snow and ice very easy...
  • adk3adk3 Posts: 4
    My understanding, having only read blogs on the Venza AWD system, is that Toyota has purchased the rights from Subaru to utilize their patented AWD system and that the current electronically activated AWD by Toyota has not proven to be adequate.

    In addition, the Matrix is an extremely small and light vehicle, though quite attractive. I had looked at one for my girlfriend. I will respond to my issues with the Venza by filling out a written Toyota Survey and providing all my supporting information for their review and comment. I love many aspects of the Venza, but then I was an avid 1966 Chevy Corvair enthusiast as well.

    Summarizing my Venza 6 cylinder FWD performance, I am restoring my 1992 Subaru Legacy Wagon in the garage as we speak. The AWD system and tough interior and exterior of the car are hard to match, though it is out of style.
    Please understand, I believe all these cars have their problems.
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