The 2009 Venza. That was the (very good) reason for our visit to Calty. The Venza is launching and it is beautiful. Somewhere between an SUV and a sedan. Literally. It’s taller than a sedan and shorter then an SUV. And from the base, the same is true — higher off the ground than a sedan, but lower to the ground than an SUV. And it has big, 20-inch wheels. Which makes it much more stable and fun to drive.

All that is wonderful. But my favorite part is the trunk.

The trunk was designed around (and I quote), “A trip to Trader Joes, a trip to Costco and a trip to Home Depot.” And right there I was sold. (Plus a little creeped out that Toyota had apparently been following me around while I ran errands.) The trunk on its own is expansive, and it gets even bigger with a little flip of an easily accessible handle, that drops the second row of seats. Take a look:


The other aspect of the Venza that was really appealing to me was the split of the driver/passenger part of the car. In a typical car, the driver has about 60% of the front space and the passenger has 40%.

But in the Venza, the designers used some cool visual and spatial tricks to make both the passenger and driver feel like they have 60% of the space. And it’s true. I tried out both sides and felt like both were equally spacious.

Ian Cartabiano, an Art Center graduate and the designer of the Venza’s exterior, told us about how the Venza came to life. And how it’s lines are inspired by Japanese calligraphy.

Benjamin Jimenez took us through the interior (and promised to send pictures of his furniture designs).

Wendy Lee, covered the colors and materials — which were gorgeous. In her color studio, it was fun it see some of the inspiration sources, like subscriptions to Elle Decor, Interior Design and Metropolis.

It was amazing to see this finished product after feeling like we’d seen it come to life before our eyes. We saw the original sketches. We met the designers responsible for the car. We saw the footage of the Venza concept car being introduced at the auto shows. Saw the whole process.

Stuff like this makes me so happy — I love seeing the creative process happen — it’s the same reason I like watching Project Runway so much.

So there you go. The 2009 Toyota Venza. Watch for it. Three years in the making and remarkably unchanged from the concept to finished product.

[ The first part of this report can be found here. And the 3rd part is here. ]