Although the Avalon is at the apex of Toyota's sedan lineup, it has always been overshadowed by the popular Camry. Competing against the Nissan Maxima, Chevrolet Impala, and Buick LaCrosse, the Avalon is contending for a small slice of a gradually declining segment. Toyota's has now aimed the Avalon as an alternative to the sporty Maxima.
The Avalon is offered in seven variants starting with the XLE ($35,650), XSE ($38,150), Limited ($41,950), and Touring ($42,350). The XLE, XSE, and Limited are also available as hybrids at a $1,000 premium over the gas-only models. We tested an Avalon Touring, lightly optioned with only the Advanced Safety Package ($1,150), Wind Chill Pearl paint ($395), and carpeted mats ($248). The total MSRP plus delivery fee ($920) added up to $44,913. Significant standard equipment included an adaptive variable suspension (AVS), JBL audio system, moonroof, heated and ventilated front seats, heated rear seats, heated steering wheel, navigation, and LED headlights.
Non-hybrid Avalons are powered by a 3.5L V-6 with double-overhead cams, direct and port fuel injection and variable valve-timing (VVT-i). The V-6 is rated at 301-hp @ 6,600 RPM and a torque output of 267 lb.-ft @ 4,700 RPM. An 8-speed automatic sends power to the front wheels. Both seventh (0.800:1) and eighth (0.673:1) gear ratios are overdrive combined with an axle ratio is 2.561:1. Fuel consumption is estimated at 22/31 MPG (city/hwy.). We averaged 24 MPG on most trips combining highway and urban routes.
Based on Toyota's TNGA platform (same as the Camry), the Avalon shares a similar suspension design. In front are MacPherson struts, coil springs and a stabilizer bar. At the rear is a multi-link setup with coil spring and a stabilizer bar. Adaptive dampers are exclusive to the Touring model. Both the XSE and Touring get larger 27 mm diameter front and rear stabilizer bars. Brakes are vented discs (12.0 in. dia. rotors) in front and solid discs (11.06 in. dia. rotors) at the rear. The XSE and Touring are shod with 19-in. diameter alloy wheels with P235/40R19 Michelin all-season tires. Other Avalon models are equipped with 17-in. (XLE) or 18-in. (Limited) diameter alloy wheels. Steering is rack-and-pinion with electric power-assist. Curb weight ranges from 3,560 lbs. (XLE) to 3,704 lbs. (Touring).
Our test vehicle's mostly black interior surfaces had contrasting polished and textured aluminum accents, along with aluminum brake and accelerator pedals. The gauge cluster consists of an analog tachometer and speedometer with smaller dials for fuel and coolant temperature. A multifunction digital display can be configured to show various vehicle settings. The leather-wrapped steering wheel houses secondary audio, phone and cruise control buttons. Paddles behind the steering wheel enable gear shifts on demand. A 7-inch touchscreen controls the infotainment system, along with buttons for frequently used functions. We appreciated the convenient knobs for audio and radio tuning. The climate control also uses pushbuttons for direct control of settings. Behind the console shift lever are drive mode buttons to adjust powertrain and suspension settings.
The Avalon Touring seats are covered in perforated simulated leather and suede; genuine leather trim is standard in the Limited model only. Both driver and front passenger seats have 8-way power adjustment and 4-way lumbar support. We found the front seats to be exceptionally comfortable with excellent lateral support. Front headroom is acceptable, but occupants taller than 6 ft. will need to recline the seat for clearance. Rear passengers benefit from above average legroom, but only occupants shorter than 6 ft. will consider headroom adequate; the center position is best suited for children due to the constricted headroom and rigid seatback. Amenities for rear seat passengers include dual vents, seat heaters, and two USB charging ports. The rear seats fold down for added cargo capacity.
Toyota endowed the Avalon with an impressive balance of ride and handling due to diligent suspension tuning. The adaptive suspension's different modes had noticeable effects on damping and turn-in response. We generally preferred the Normal mode for its combination of supple ride and tight damping, but the Sport and Sport+ modes provided sharper handling and throttle response. We rarely needed to use the paddle shifters, since the transmission downshifts on demand. The all-disc brakes ensure quick, sure stops with a firm, progressive pedal.
Although many other brands have replaced normally-aspirated sixes with turbo inline fours, Toyota continues to use its 3.5L V-6 as the Avalon's powerplant. The V-6 cranks out ample torque at low and midrange RPM, aided by the seamless shifts of the 8-speed automatic. Engine noise is subdued and the V-6 never sounds coarse even near the 6,600 RPM power peak. Active noise control and active engine sound enhancement are standard on the Touring model. At highway speeds, road and tire noise are insignificant, contributing to the Avalon's strength as a superb highway cruiser for extended road trips.
The new Avalon is without question the best sedan in Toyota's model range (excluding Lexus). We do think that the Touring is somewhat expensive, considering that the XSE offers nearly the same driving experience for about $4K less. We drove an Avalon XSE recently, and can recommend the XSE as a superior value. Even though this Toyota is one of the top vehicles in its segment, the market momentum has shifted to SUVs, so the Avalon will likely continue to be a rare sight on American roads.