Toyota launched a new 'crossover sedan' called the Venza at the Detroit motor show.

The Venza, based on the Camry/Altona sedan platform, is said to combine sedan refinement and sport utility vehicle (SUV) functionality and is aimed at North American buyers who want to downsize from larger, gas-guzzling SUVs yet retain the practicality of that type of vehicle.

US consumer sites are suggesting the new Toyota will appeal to potential buyers as a cheaper alternative to the Mercedes R-class. Toyota has yet to announce Venza pricing but the websites are picking four-cylinder models starting around $US25,000 and the V6 from about $30,000.

"The Venza was developed as a vehicle that combines the styling, comfort and fun-to-drive performance elements of a five-passenger sedan with the utility of an SUV," said Toyota division chief Bob Carter, adding that the model was targeted at active baby boomers and young couples with small families."

The Venza was primarily engineered at Toyota's technical centre in Michigan, designed at the Calty design studios in California and Michigan and will be assembled in Georgetown, Kentucky.

Toyota said the Venza's lower rocker design will allow occupants to more easily step in and out of the vehicle than a typical sedan while the higher ride height and hip points will help provide significantly better driver visibility than most sedans and easier entry and exit than most SUVs.

The new model seats five, has a 60/40 split folding rear seat and generous cargo space. The rear seats recline up to 14 degrees.

Toyota US has specified just one trim level which includes a centre console iPod/MP3 storage compartment with wire management and illuminated dual cupholders, automatic dual zone air conditioning, AM/FM six-disc CD audio system, tilt/telescopic steering wheel with audio controls, remote keyless entry, electrochromic rearview mirror with compass, a multi-information display, cruise control, optitron gauges, rear wiper and privacy glass on the four-cylinder models which sit on 19-inch alloy wheels.

V6 versions have dual exhaust tips and ride on 20-inch alloy wheels.

Options include a glass panoramic roof with separate glass panels over the front and rear seats. The panel has a power tilt/slide function.

Venza will also offer an automatic high beam headlight system with sensors to detect oncoming traffic and automatically switch the headlights to low beam.

Other options will include leather upholstery, navigation system with JBL audio system, integrated satellite radio capability and Bluetooth, a JBL audio system on its own, rear seat entertainment system, a smart key system, back-up camera and a power rear door.

The Venza will be sold with two- or four-wheel drive and the choice of a standard new 2.7-litre I4 petrol engine or an optional 268hp 3.5-litre V6. Both engines will come with a six-speed sequential-shift electronically-controlled automatic transmission.

The Venza will also have anti-lock brakes, traction control, electronic brake-force distribution, brake assist, vehicle stability control and active head rests as standard.

Sales start next autumn. It will be built and sold only in North America.