As Toyota’s flagship sedan, the Avalon has always come under huge scrutiny ever since its North American introduction back in 1994. To most potential buyers, it was nothing more than a luxurious long version of the already popular Camry, but lacked soul. At the time it went on sale American manufacturers had already been dominating the full size sedan market with offerings from Buick, Oldsmobile, and other GM sub-brands. As such, Toyota did not even so much as pinch the nerve of consumers who would be interested in a Japanese vehicle that offered a softer ride, more leg room, and undoubtedly better reliability. Fast forward nearly two decades and the new Avalon (XLE as tested) is something completely different in all regards giving existing rival brands not only a run for their money, but something to make them step up their game. As the 4th generation of the model, it now shares the same platform as its luxury sibling the Lexus ES making one wonder – have the changes made it a no-brainer for those seeking a luxury-infused full size sedan, but without the luxury price tag?
Unlike the dull designed Avalons of the past, this new sedan is striking from every angle. Yes, it does still boast the obvious design cues of being the Camry’s big brother, but does so while wearing a well tailored suit with matching chrome accessories. Design elements from its sibling luxury brand Lexus can be seen throughout including the front fascia which makes it resemble more of the ES than anything else. The added details are truly what makes this Avalon stand apart from not only its processors, but other Toyota offerings such as the corner lights on the mirrors and even the sharp angular headlights. Even the stance of the sedan is spot on riding lower than its luxury sibling adding to the aggressive overall appeal.
Just as the front and side of the Avalon has been tweaked, so has the rear. A fresh and unique set of taillights garnish the back end and wrap around the quarter panel along with dual box-type exhaust tips down below. The sloping rear of the Avalon provides not only more leg room for rear passengers, but also a larger trunk area than even its Lexus ES sibling. In past years, no one under the age of retirement would be caught dead behind the wheel of the Avalon, but things are different now. In fact, you’re bound to step away from it when parked and do a double-take – no joke. The car appeals to anyone (young and old) and is aggressive enough that for those seeking to add a little personalization in way of a wheel / tire package, will find that is all that’s needed to make even more heads turn.
With the dashing bold look of the exterior, Toyota has also taken a leap in the interior of the Avalon. The cockpit of this sedan is truly spectacular in every sense – from material choices such baseball stitched pleather to chrome trim. While sitting in the driver’s seat, one can get a true sense of the hard work put forth in the layout from the infotainment system to the smallest of details such as sunken cup holders and shifter position. The cascading styling of the dashboard gives an open sense to the cockpit and truth be told, makes its Lexus sibling look dated already. The power and heated seats at front are essentially identical to its luxury sibling with enough bolstering to keep one’s body planted, but soft enough for comfort. The usual offerings of memory / power seats are as expected and every switch is within reach without struggle. Even the steering wheel mounted control are perfectly placed with the added bonus of paddle shifters tucked behind. Sitting in the new Avalon be it for a quick trip to the grocery store or hour-long family outing to the country is nothing short of magical. The best way to describe the interior is by stating that the controls leave one stress free and the luxury appeal makes one feel as if they were driving a sub-$90 luxury vehicle.
Features & Infotainment
There are two main version offered currently that include the XLE 6A ($36,800) and Limited ($38,900), with the latter offering the option for a Premium Package ($41,850). The standard XLE is very well equipped with a touchscreen FM/AM/CD head unit, navigation system, 9 speakers, aux input jack, Bluetooth integration, dual-zone climate control, push-start ignition, heated 8-way power seats, moonroof, and moonroof sunshade. The XLE Limited Premium kicks things up a notch with a JBL audio system, 11 speakers, 3-zone climate control, dynamic radar cruise control, power rear window sunshade, automatic high beams, pre-collision system, and heated rear seats. All Avalons come equipped with 18″ alloy wheels running 225/45R18 tires and the usual array of safety aides such as antilock braking system, electronic brake force distribution, and brake assist.
Nowadays, an easy to use infotainment system complete with all the bells and whistles are a must – especially in the tough full sized sedan segment. The center dash houses a 6.1″ display screen that is touch sensitive and also integrates smartphone application. There is a also a dial located on the center console that can be used to make changes in the infotainment system which is easy to use. Setting up one’s Bluetooth or comfort preferences is a simple matter of set it and forget it, unlike other systems which are far more complicated. In way of climate control, the touch sensitive buttons are a great leap forward for the Avalon with enough Lexus-esque appeal to draw a luxury buyer to it, but still easy to use for those not tech-savvy.
Under the hood of the new Avalon is the 3.5-liter V6 staple of Toyota putting out 268 horsepower and 248 lb-ft of torque and paired to a 6-speed automatic transmission. Although not the most powerful engine in its class or of any V6 for the matter, the Avalon’s 3,461 lbs curb weight doesn’t make it a pig by any regard allowing it to propel from 0-60 mph in just 6.25-seconds. The quick launch is thanks to Toyota’s “Super Electronically Controlled Transmission” (Super ECT) that when used with the paddles and revised software, allows for quick shifts through the gear range and throttle blips during downshifts. It may not be a sportscar in comparison, but for spirited driving it does the job albeit in front wheel drive form. Power delivery is smooth throughout the rev counter with enough bottom end to get it going and top end to make highway cruising fun. In way of fuel consumption, the Avalon fares well with 9.2L/100km (city) and 6.4L/100km (highway).
The new Avalon is no slouch and definitely not the retiree car of the past. The squishy soft suspension of previous generations has been tossed aside in favor of stiffer springs and chassis resulting in more aggressive handling, yet not hindering overall ride quality. Turn in is as expected for a front wheel drive full sized sedan with slight understeer through corners, but the smooth power band from the V6 allows for the Avalon to pull out without issue. The seating arrangement is comfortable and has enough bolstering for long spirited driving when the paddle shifts come into play. For stopping power, the vented disk brakes are suffice and having aides such as brake assist / electronic brake force distribution are good for peace of mind. So, the question then remains – how does it stack up against competitors or even its Lexus sibling the ES? Simply put, it does so in the very best way without the added price tag. Surely the Avalon shouldn’t be considered a luxury vehicle because of its sub $40k price tag, but it does feel like one and when compared to the Lexus, it makes for a really good sales pitch. Enough power from the V6 and a transmission that is truly responsive, the new Avalon is a clear choice for anyone looking to live in the lap of luxury without the added expense or headaches.
The new Avalon is amazing! Not much can be said in a negative light about Toyota’s flagship sedan, but a lot can be said about how good it is. The old-man stigma that the model once carried with previous generations has truly been dissolved with the refreshed bold styling both outside and in. It boasts a suitable V6 power plant under the hood, a well appointed luxury interior, large trunk space, and is jam packed with technology goods regardless of the trim level. For an as tested MSRP price tag of $38,500.20 (CAD), it makes the choice for any full sized sedan buyer just that much easier. Rest assured that like any other Toyota product, reliability is a sure shot and without the added price tag of the Lexus ES sibling, this Avalon is one to keep an eye out for.
- A stunning interior with well appointed featured.
- Aggressive styling with cues from its Lexus sibling.
- Comfortable ride quality, yet impressive performance for spirited driving.
- Tough choice for the upgrade to the Limited / Premium Package.
- Low output of 268 horsepower for the 3.5-liter V6 engine.
- No hybrid option for the Canadian market.
For more information, please visit Toyota Canada
To book a test drive, please contact Brimell Toyota at (416) 292-2241
Words & Photos: Giancarlo Pawelec