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Wednesday, April 4, 2018

2018 Toyota Avalon Review

2018 Toyota Avalon Review
The 2018 Toyota Avalon is a spacious full-size sedan that prioritizes comfort and safety above keeping up with the Joneses.


MSRP: From $34,385

Horsepower: 268 hp

MPG: Up to 21 mpg city/30 highway

Dimensions: 195” L x 72” W x 58” H

Curb Weight: 3,461 lbs


The 2018 Toyota Avalon is a safe pick. Not only is the full-size sedan a top performer when it comes to safety data, it’s also a purely logical pick: not a lot of style, all substance.
This year, Toyota replaced the “2017” stickers with “2018” stickers. In other words, both models are exactly the same. A new Avalon is on its way for 2019.

We give the Avalon a 7.2 out of 10 on our overall scale. It scores big in safety and comfort, by our books.

Last year, Toyota made standard on the Avalon a raft of safety features that included forward-collision warnings with automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, automatic high beams, and lane-departure warnings. That should be peace of mind for shoppers looking to frequently fill the Avalon’s roomy confines with multiple passengers.

Toyota makes available two powertrains that stretch time between fuel-pump visits, and one that can make the big cruiser among the most fuel-efficient on the road today.

The base engine is a strong and smooth 268-horsepower 3.5-liter V-6 mated to a 6-speed automatic. The combination nets a 24-mpg combined rating from the EPA, which is on par with its competition.

The optional engine is an inline-4 paired with a battery that makes only 200 hp, but the number to know is 40 mpg combined. In several drives of the Avalon Hybrid, we’ve noted reasonable acceleration and impressive fuel economy.

The Avalon’s ace among full-sizers such as the Chevy Impala, Ford Taurus, and Hyundai Azera is its standard safety features, which partly helps justify its price compared to its rivals. Automakers—if they even offer the same features—typically reserve active safety equipment for top models; Toyota makes them standard on all models of the Avalon, including the base Avalon XLE, which starts at $34,385.

We can’t think of a new car that typifies the land yachts of yesteryear, but the Avalon comes close. It’s big, spacious, comfortable, and quiet, but retains a modicum of control that those 1970s battleships never had.

Styling
There's no longer any Camry in the Avalon's shape; it's a refreshing, contemporary look for Toyota.
The Avalon makes an effort to look somewhat interesting from the outside, and that’s appreciated.

It’s a handsome style that looks good, but that’s about as far as we go. The interior is less interesting than a medical history questionnaire. It earns a 6 out of 10 on our style-o-meter.

The Avalon has now been left behind the newer Camry in terms of overall style, but we’re not convinced that’s a bad thing. The Avalon lacks the verve of, say, an Audi A7, but its graceful approach to sheet metal is a tried-and-true approach.

We’d prefer a different maw on the Avalon, its deep and wide jaw looks like far too aggressive for its intended audience and the vertical daytime running lights just punctuate that flavor.

Inside, the Avalon takes a simple and straightforward approach with two tones that break up a sizable dash. The Avalon’s insides doesn’t have the panache of many luxury brands, but it’s also available for half the price.

One highlight: The climate controls integrate a good-looking screen that dispatches the 1980s-style clock of other Toyotas. The bad news: Touch-sensitive controls replaced traditional knobs and buttons. We prefer the tactile feel of the latter rather than today’s style of touch control.

Performance
The Avalon isn’t the floaty cruiser it used to be; solid powertrains keep it relevant with others in the class.

All versions of the Toyota Avalon are gifted with a plush ride and competent performance. It’s not overpowering or throaty, say in a Chrysler 300C V-8 kind of way, but the V-6 has plenty of passing power and it’s relatively frugal.

We give the V-6 Avalon one point above average for its good ride. Sportiness isn’t its focus, so a 6 out of 10 on our performance matrix is entirely respectable. 

Most Avalons will be equipped with a corporate 3.5-liter V-6 that makes 268 horsepower and 248 pound-feet of torque. It’s reliable enough to set your watch on and the same goes for the 6-speed automatic. All V-6 models get paddle-shift controls, as well as Eco, Normal, and Sport driving modes that adjust steering, throttle, and shift feel. The V-6 versions hit 60 mph in just 6.7 seconds.

It’s a combination that won’t be thrilling for many, but it’s enough to get out of the way of the firm, but not harsh ride.

If you’re expecting the Avalon to ride like a 1979 Chrysler New Yorker, you might be surprised: it’s far from pillowy. Toyota turned to Lexus for a fine tune of the Avalon’s handle, and it yielded a surprising return. The Avalon manages to shrink around the driver, which we appreciate, but we’d hardly call it sporty.

The optional hybrid powertrain teams an inline-4 with two motors that are fed by nickel-metal hydride batteries. The 6-speed is swapped with a continuously variable automatic that coaxes the 200-hp battery-engine duo up to 60 mph in 8.2 seconds. Obviously, outright pace isn’t the Hybrid’s first priority either; the hybrid eschews speed for efficiency. The EPA rates the combo at 40 mpg combined.

Comfort & Quality
The Avalon is among the most comfortable and quiet sedans on the road—at any price.

The 2018 Toyota Avalon makes hay in making people feel comfortable, and it’s one of the few sedans today that can seat five adults and hold all of their gear.

We give it a point for living up to its billing as a five-seater, it gets two more for good front and rear seats, and another for a spacious trunk. It gets a 9 out of 10 for comfort.

The front seats don’t have the kind of lateral support that we’d like, but they’re solidly Midwestern in their execution—flat and wide. The seats are shod with soft hides and impressive stitching; top-trim Avalon Premium models get cooled seats as well.

The back seats are contoured for adults, and we’d expect three reasonably sized adults can fit across the bench with dignities intact. The low roofline requires a small duck on the way in, but once inside there’s plenty of room for heads and legs.

The Avalon has abundant interior storage to complement its sizable 16-cubic-foot trunk (hybrid versions get 14 cubes).

The Avalon’s interior appointments are carefully constructed, even the leather grains appear to match. Only ultra-luxury rides do better, and those start well beyond the Avalon’s $34,385 entry ask.

The Avalon’s hushed ride can compete with any other sedan—regardless of price. The hush comes thanks to acoustic glass used for the windshield and side windows; the windshield wipers tuck inside the cowl for better isolation from wind and lowered noise. Both the Hybrid and the V-6 are quiet during cruising, without noticeable engine noise. Only during hard acceleration does the Hybrid model reveal itself with a more coarse engine note. The only other exception is a bit of motor whine that makes its way inside in the Hybrid, when in Sport mode or making quicker takeoffs.

Safety
The Avalon’s solid safety record is bolstered further by impressive standard safety features.

The 2018 Toyota Avalon has an impressive safety record that includes a Top Safety Pick nod and a five-star overall score from federal testers.

The IIHS rates the Avalon’s standard headlights and optional LED headlights on Touring trim levels as “Marginal." HID headlights available on the Limited, however, score "Acceptable" and help elevate the Avalon to Top Safety Pick status. So, shop carefully.

The Avalon is fitted with 10 airbags, including driver and front passenger knee bags and rear outboard seat-mounted bags.

A rearview camera is standard on all Avalons, which helps better maneuver the Avalon into tricky parking spaces.

The Avalon also includes Toyota’s Safety Sense-P suite of advanced features now becoming standard from the automaker. Those features include adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking, active lane control, and automatic high beams.

Toyota has made clear that it would equip the suite to more cars, as standard, well before the self-imposed 2022 deadline for many other automakers. We wholeheartedly applaud the decision.

Features
Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are notable omissions, but every Avalon gets high-tech safety gear.

In any trim, the Toyota Avalon is handsomely equipped. In top trims, it’s a luxury car without the badges.

We give the Avalon an 8 out of 10 for good standard equipment, excellent optional features, and a good infotainment system that lacks smartphone support, but is easy to use.

Every model, including the base Avalon XLE, is equipped with leather seats, heated front seats, a rearview camera, 17-inch wheels, and a 7.0-inch touchscreen.

Stepping up to the Avalon XLE Plus trim adds a moonroof to the aforementioned equipment.

The Avalon XLE Premium is equipped with standard navigation and a wireless cellphone charger.

Toward the top, Avalon Touring models get a slightly revised suspension, 18-inch wheels, LED headlights (that the IIHS rates better than XLE models) and LED daytime running lights.

The Avalon Limited is a Lexus without the badging and includes heated and cooled seats, three-zone climate control, heated rear seats, and softer hides.

The Avalon Hybrid is offered in XLE Plus, Premium, and Touring grades.

Toyota’s infotainment system, which they call Entune, is straightforward enough for most people to use and understand, but requires a few button presses to get basic tasks accomplished. For instance, the map is buried in a navigation screen and doesn’t have its own dedicated button.

The infotainment system supports Bluetooth connectivity with phones, but that’s as far as it goes. Apple’s CarPlay and Android Auto aren’t part of the package.

Fuel Economy
The Avalon’s fuel-efficient with a V-6, miserly with a hybrid powertrain.

The 2018 Toyota Avalon and Avalon Hybrid are relatively fuel-efficient for full-size sedans that border on luxury cars.

According to the EPA, the Avalon manages 21 mpg city, 30 highway, 24 combined. That’s good enough for a 6 out of 10 on our fuel economy scale. It’s worth noting that the Avalon Hybrid goes well beyond those figures.

Among full-size sedans the Avalon Hybrid is near the top. The EPA rates it at 40/39/40 mpg; to do any better requires stepping up to luxury brands.

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