If you’re the kind of person who likes to dress well, but doesn’t want to pay for designer clothes, I may have just the car you’ve been looking for.
It’s the Toyota Avalon.
The old Avalon was really just a stretched Camry. Redesigned last year, the latest generation Avalon shares the same platform as the Lexus ES. And in fact, it’s the Lexus ES that some buyers may be considering along with the Avalon. The base price of the ES ($36,620) is slightly below the $42,635 sticker on the fully loaded Avalon Limited I had for a test car, but I’m going to guess that the ES will ultimately cost a little more by the time you’ve tacked on a few options. Of course, you don’t have to max out the Avalon to enjoy the same ride, room and styling as a fully loaded version. Base price on the Toyota flagship is $31,340.
So what don’t you get with the Avalon? You don’t lose out in the looks department. The styling was updated last year and looks much better. It left behind the bulky luxury look for a sleeker shape. I’m not saying it’s going to stand out in a crowd, but it’s not going to scream that you shop only at discount stores. Toyota brags about the Quadrabeam headlights.
One thing that really impressed me was the mileage. You’ll get 21 mpg in the city and 31 mpg on the highway. I averaged 26 mpg during my week with the Avalon. That’s impressive for a sedan this sized. Even better, it only needs regular gas so you won’t pay extra at the pump. Great mileage often means less power. Not so with the Avalon. Its 3.5 liter V6 delivers 268 horsepower (same as the ES). Push the accelerator and you won’t feel the Avalon lets you down.
Inside, the Avalon delivers an upscale performance. Even the base model XLE gets leather seats. Bump up to the Limited, however, and you get the kind of seats that really impress people. I have a feeling that the dash is going to be one of those things that people either love or hate. It has a large flat face with a slight curve but no buttons. It uses tap touch technology for the controls. I thought they worked especially well. Some cars leaving you wondering whether you should push harder, or if you hit the right spot. The Avalon’s sensor points have stylish indentations around the bottom that make it clear exactly where you need to touch.
If the back seat is important to you, the Avalon is a great choice. You get 39.2 inches of leg room in rear. That’s bigger than a Lexus GS, Hyundai Azera or a Kia Cadenza. We took a friend out to dinner, and he gave the back seat a great review. You also get a power sunshade that will raise up to shield your passenger’s necks. And if you get the Limited model, the rear seat passengers can have their own climate zone. The bottom line is that you won’t have to apologize to anyone for tossing them in the back.
The center display on the dash worked great. I didn’t get a chance to try out Toyota’s Entune system. It allows you to connect to your smart phone and run apps like Pandora. The only question is how long it will take to get outdated in the world of changing technology. The Avalon also has an eBin. At the front of the center console is a little space with plenty of connections. On my test car the top of the eBin was also wireless charger. If you have a Qi compatible device it can charge automatically. No more wires. Of course, I don’t have one of those yet, but when I finally get one, the Avalon will be ready. Ultimately, the Lexus has more built-in technology, but the Avalon will deliver more than most folks need.
Driving the Avalon delivered just the kind of experience you should expect from a nice upscale sedan. The Avalon offers two driving modes. You can choose normal for daily driving, or sport for… well… those sporty moments. I can’t say that making switch gave me sudden urges to race to work. In fact, I really didn’t notice much difference at all, although Toyota says sport will increase throttle response and quicken the power steering. You also get paddle shifters. I can’t imagine many Avalon owners are actually going to use them. My test car had radar cruise control. When the cruise control is on, it will slow you down if you get too close to the car ahead of you. You choose how close you want to get with three zones. Overall it worked well, although a few times it seemed to get spooked by a car stopped in the left turn lane.
So the Toyota Avalon delivers just about everything you could want from an upscale sedan. The only thing you don’t get is an upscale logo on the grill. Of course you could pay more to impress your neighbors. Or you could just take all that money you’re saving and go buy more clothes.