For those interested in the look and feel of the Lexus ES 300 without the price tag, but don't want to step down to the lower-level Toyota Camry V6, you can opt for the Toyota Vienta. The Vienta is the name Toyota gave to its top-of-the-range Toyota Camry V6, which is essentially the same vehicle as the ES 300, giving you legendary Toyota quality in a slightly different package. The Vienta, though, is a special breed, only coming as a sedan with a 3.0L V6 mated to an automatic transmission. For its time, the 3.0L engine powering the Vienta was one of the most advanced available, packing power and efficiency into a beautiful all-alloy package under the bonnet. Basically, you’re getting an expensive car without the expensive car cost.
The interior is standard Toyota, with comfortable seating and the ubiquitous steering column and centre console. One addition that might put some people off is the addition of wood trimming which, in contrast with the interior plastics, seems somewhat out of place.
Beyond this, though, the Toyota Vienta is packed with features including trip meter, outside temperature sensor, automatic climate control, and an impressive power package. The Toyota Vienta was originally released in 1997 and ran until it was replaced by the Avalon in 2000.
The standard 3.0L V6 engine is one of the most advanced for its time, with dual overhead cams and a waste spark ignition system. One major change was to an all-alloy block and cylinder head design, leading to significant weight savings that improved fuel consumption in the mid-10L/100km range. Power maxes out at 145kW and 279Nm, but is strong throughout the rpm range. The Vienta is just as comfortable at 1,200rpm as it is at redline, pulling 0-100kmh in just nine seconds.
The 5-speed automatic transmission, also new for the Toyota Vienta, benefited from a new electronic transmission controller that did a much better job of matching engine torque and vehicle speed with the proper gear. Most other vehicles, even those in more recent years, still fail to hit the mark when it comes to automatic transmission control. The Toyota Vienta's automatic transmission knows when to hold and when to shift, making for a very comfortable drive experience.
As befitting a top-of-the-range Camry V6, the Toyota Vienta is packed with convenience and safety features. Cloth interior, or course, was standard, but was also available in leather. The stereo system is standard am/fm/cd/cassette with six speakers and good sound. Everything is power, from the driver's seat to the power locks, windows, and mirrors. Power sunroof was also optionally available on the Toyota Vienta.
Cruise control and trip meter are standard kit, as well as digital climate control, which is one of the most advanced and reliable of its time. The Toyota Vienta also comes standard with dual front airbags, anti-lock brakes, power steering, and a very forgiving suspension setup that is softer than sister Camry's suspension – even Camry’s other V6 models.
Probably the best competition for the Toyota Vienta comes from its two sisters, the Lexus ES 300 and lower Toyota Camry V6 models. Essentially the same engine and transmission are to be found in all three of these vehicles, but there are a few subtle differences. You'll find more sound insulation in the ES 300, which will give you a quieter ride than either Vienta or Camry V6. The Camry V6, on the other hand, has a stiffer suspension, which makes for stiffer handling.
Where Vienta comes out on top, though, is middle-of-the-road pricing for high-end quality. It'll be more expensive than the Camry V6, but not nearly as much as the ES 300, while offering all the comforts and power of the premium ES 300. You might be put off by the lack of a manual transmission in the Toyota Vienta, but keep in mind that the 3.0L V6 and automatic transmission may be the most perfectly matched in the industry.
The Ford Falcon is another close contender, and is probably quieter than the Vienta under most conditions. The Falcon, though, doesn't quite cut it when it comes to racking up the kilometres, and as long as you maintain a Toyota Vienta engine and transmission, it'll hit a million kilometres if you let it. The Vienta might be looked at by some as a basic sedan, but under the bonnet it shines.