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Monday, May 27, 2013

Toyota Avalon


2013 Toyota Avalon Hybrid, Catskill Mountains, NY, May 2013

The Toyota Avalon is the brand's large flagship sedan, and it's a companion for the popular mid-size Camry model. The Avalon shares much of its running gear with the Camry, but it's actually more closely related to the Lexus ES–both are mid-size sedans that flirt with the official edge of the "large sedan" designated, and both are powered by a V-6. See our full review of the 2013 Toyota...

The Toyota Avalon is the brand's large flagship sedan, and it's a companion for the popular mid-size Camry model. The Avalon shares much of its running gear with the Camry, but it's actually more closely related to the Lexus ES–both are mid-size sedans that flirt with the official edge of the "large sedan" designated, and both are powered by a V-6.

Slimmer and sleeker now than in the past, the Avalon is also more interesting to drive. It competes with the full-size offerings from other brands, including the Chevy Impala, Hyundai Azera, Ford Taurus, and Buick LaCrosse, but trumps all of them in gas mileage with a new Avalon Hybrid edition.

With the Avalon, Toyota serves a slightly more premium sedan segment than it does with the best-selling Camry. The Kentucky-built Avalon replaced the former Cressida sedan in 1995, and was based on the Camry. Though it shares some running gear with that four-door, the Avalon has always offered a little more space and comfort and has also served to debut some technologies and luxury features under the Toyota brand.

Early versions of the Avalon received the same engine as the Camry and looked quite similar to the Camry if you squinted just right, but that changed a bit with the redesigned version introduced for 2000. This version, was genuinely roomier and featured some options you couldn't yet get on the Camry, like a navigation system and electronic stability control plus Brake Assist. Side airbags were also standard on all models. At that time the 3.0-liter V-6 made 210 hp. These Avalon models are extremely smooth and comfortable but not particularly rewarding to drive.

The Avalon was completely redesigned for 2005, with a sleek, very aerodynamic new shape and new 280-horsepower (later 268 hp, though no change to the engine), 3.5-liter V-6, and Toyota right away tried to address those who wanted a little more performance with a slightly sportier Touring model that included a firmer suspension calibration along with larger wheels and spruced-up trim. In these models, the V-6 and five-speed automatic shifted almost perceptively, in Lexus-like fashion. The ride was just as composed as in the previous generation but handling was improved—without anything close to a truly sporty feel, however. A huge trunk and space to sprawl in the backseat were the hallmarks, and a battery of sound insulation and acoustic windshield kept it whisper-quiet inside.

Offered in a range of models from XL and XLS up to Touring and Limited models, this generation of Toyota Avalon offered more technological features than any Toyota model up until the new 2010 Toyota Prius. Rain-sensing wipers, xenon HID headlamps, remote engine start, and the Dynamic Laser Cruise Control System were all available. Top Limited models got heated and ventilated seats, a smart-key system, power rear sunshade, and high-end JBL sound.

Toyota gave the Avalon a very mild reskin for 2012, with extensively reworked sheetmetal and a new interior including improved backseat comfort and reclining back seats. Throughout this generation, the Avalon demonstrated creamy ride quality and high assembly quality, with some new features included for 2012--namely, Bluetooth audio streaming.

Finally for 2013 the Toyota Avalon has been fully modernized, with a full redesign and re-engineering yielding a sheen of sophistication in everything from its control interface to the way it drives. The sleek, curvy new exterior and bolder interior design--with capacitive controls for climate and audio--help show that the new Avalon appeals to a younger crowd (of 40-to-60 year olds) than before, and it's now fully up to snuff in infotainment and accident-avoidance technology, even compared to some luxury-badge sedans. Standout advanced-tech features include Rear Cross Traffic Alert, Adaptive Cruise Control, and a Pre-Collision System, while the new Avalon gets Toyota's Entune system for running smartphone-based apps, as well as a magnificent 785-watt JBL sound system. The 2013 Toyota Avalon is also the first car to offer wireless charging for mobile phones.

The latest Avalon is available in a new Hybrid model for the first time, and based on early drives we found it the most compelling package. With a combined output of 200 horsepower (from a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine and Toyota's Hybrid Synergy Drive system), the Avalon Hybrid accelerates quietly and confidently, while returning an EPA Combined rating of 40 mpg (40 mpg city, 39 mpg highway).

The Avalon has an excellent reputation for reliability and has held its resale value well. But in recent years, the Avalon's price tag has grown larger. A new Avalon Limited can reach beyond $40,000, well into luxury territory, where the related Lexus ES anchors that franchise.

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