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2005 Toyota Avalon XLS Review

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MODEL: Toyota Avalon XLS
ENGINE: 3.5-liter DOHC V6
HORSEPOWER/TORQUE: 280 hp @ 6,200 rpm/260 lb.-ft. @ 4,700 rpm
TRANSMISSION: 5-speed automatic with sequential shift
WHEELBASE: 111.0 in.
LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT: 197.2 x 72.8 x 58.5 in.
TIRES: P215/55 R17
CARGO: 14.4 cu. ft.
ECONOMY: 22 mpg city/31 mpg highway/21.8 mpg test
PRICE: $35,169 (includes $540 delivery, processing and handling fee)

People in my neighborhood know what I do for a living, so after 21 years, there are rarely comments about the vehicles they see parked in my driveway. However, when I looked out the window and saw the Toyota Avalon sitting there, I knew this was about to change.

The Avalon, besides being a stunningly good-looking car, was dressed in a striking lime-green dress that accentuated every curve. This pale green (Silver Pine Mica to Toyota), I was told by my fashion-conscious daughters and wife, is the "in" color right now. And everyone who saw it felt they had to comment on the car. Surprisingly, few mentioned the sleek body under the dress, or asked about power, etc., but the majority of the comments were on the paint.

The body is excellent, too. Being a professional, I couldn't simply admire the outside, of course. There's a strong family resemblance to the Lexus ES330, but the Avalon is four inches longer in wheelbase and six inches longer overall, pushing it into the "large car" category, while the Lexus is simply a "premium midsize."

As a large car, the Avalon offers a ton of interior room inside. Here's an Oprah lurking under the dress. Front leg, shoulder and head room is excellent. In the rear, the leg room invites stretching, even with the front seat all the way back on the stops. And the rear seats recline. Okay, the recline is more like an airline seat recline, but rear passengers can use the feature, plus the legroom that you don't get in a plane, to fine chaise lounge-like comfort. My daughter found the rear seat to her liking during seven hours of driving one day, and she's usually the first to let me know if I've cramped her too much back there.

Under the hood of this beauty is a 3.5-liter double overhead cam V6 with Toyota's VVT-i technology that varies cam timing depending on how much power is asked for. The engine's rated at 280 horsepower, which is more than enough for this car. Hooked to a 5-speed automatic with a sequential manual shift, you can do almost anything you want.

Acceleration is excellent, as is the critical 40-60 mph acceleration mode that you wind up using to pass in short spaces or get by slower traffic on Interstates. We averaged nearly 25 mpg on our longer runs and 21.8 mpg overall.

When it's challenged, there's a slight roar from under the hood, but in general the Avalon is a quiet car. We noticed some tire noise that was road-surface dependant, and a hint of wind noise, but otherwise the Avalon was Lexus-quiet.

As befits a near-luxury car, the Avalon was equipped with all the necessary power options, including windows, door locks, seats (with lumbar support), the power rear recliner, tilt and telescoping steering wheel with audio and climate controls, and a power moon roof. Our tester had a voice-activated DVD navigation system with a 6-disc CD changer and AM/FM radio ($2,450). The nav system helped us find where we were headed, although the directions provided worked, too.

We used the trunk to carry golf clubs (two sets fit nicely), gifts, camp chairs, and anything we wanted. Cargo volume is listed at 14.4 cubic feet, but it gives the impression of being larger. There's also a ski pass-through for long, narrow objects.

The Avalon also had an alphabet soup of goodies - ABS, EBD (Electronic Brake force Distribution), Vehicle Stability Control (VSC), Traction control (TRAC) and Brake Assist (BA) that were part of the VD option ($1,090) and also included heated front seats. My daughter had to suffer with normal seats in her recliner.

The Toyota Avalon flirts with luxury car status, and at $35,169 the price also flirts a lot. But this flirt is gorgeous, has all the space and comfort that you'd expect from a large car, and ride like a cloud.

2005 The Auto Page Syndicate