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2011 Toyota Avalon Review

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SEE ALSO: Toyota Buyers Guide

2011 Toyota Avalon, Roomy and Comfortable
By Larry Nutson
Senior Editor,
Chicago Bureau
The Auto Channel

Mention the name Toyota and the Camry quickly comes to mind and perhaps the Corolla. Each is a formidable offering in its size class. Not to be overlooked, Toyota offers a Large Car class model too, the Avalon. Toyota’s flagship passenger car since 1995 is redesigned for 2011. If you are a large-stature driver or if you regularly need to transport 3 or 4 people, the Avalon’s roominess is not to be overlooked. I would call the Avalon a perfect car for a real estate salesperson to transport clients.

Sophisticated, elegant and comfortable, the new Avalon has a distinctive new exterior style and a restyled interior rich with premium touches and practical new technologies.

The 2011 Avalon is available in two trim levels -- previously three, Avalon and Avalon Limited. Both are well equipped with leather-trimmed interior, eight-way power driver’s seat, back-up camera, dual zone automatic climate control with air filtration, moonroof and 17-inch alloy wheels. The Avalon Limited additionally has cooled leather trimmed seats, an eight-way passenger’s seat with lumbar support, driver’s seat cushion extension, rain-sensing windshield wipers and Smart Key. The Avalon trim level can be upgraded with a JBL Synthesis sound system and heated front seats, and Navigation is optional for both.

The base MSRP for the Avalon ranges from $32,445 for the Avalon to $35,685 for the Limited. Among competitive models are the Buick LaCrosse, Nissan Maxima, Lincoln MKZ, Volkswagen Passat and Lexus ES350.

Restyled at Calty Design Research in Newport Beach, California, the Avalon is assembled at Toyota Motor Manufacturing Kentucky (TMMK). It was developed at the Toyota Technical Center (TTC) in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

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The restyled Avalon features a wider, more substantial grille tied into projector headlamps, which combine multi-reflector halogen high beams with halogen or HID low beams, using “light pipes” to create a signature night-time appearance. The front fog lamps, now integrated into a trapezoidal front bumper, provide wider illumination.

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In profile, the 2011 Avalon features revised chrome trim, redesigned rocker panels and glare-resistant outside mirrors with integrated turn signals. The Limited trim level adds new 17-inch wheels with a 10-spoke design with mirror finish. Dual exhaust tailpipes are integrated into the cutaway trapezoid shape of the lower bumper. Reshaped taillights reduce turbulence at the rear, helping also to reduce the car’s coefficient of drag. The new lights integrate stop, turn and side marker lighting functions in one combined lamp and feature LED light pipes with dark aluminized sides and both clear and red lenses.

The new interior is generously spacious and elegant, fitted with comfortable seating, coordinated colors and wood-grain surfaces. A new instrument panel incorporates Optitron gauges that use graduated white illumination with white pointers. These are set inside smoked lenses and deep chrome rings that add depth.

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The steering wheel has fingertip controls for Bluetooth hands-free phones, the audio system, climate control system and the vehicle information center.

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Standard leather-trimmed front seats and seatbacks on the Avalon Limited are fitted with ventilation systems and an enlarged perforation area to help keep them cool. For safety, active front headrests are also standard.

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The rear seating area is configured to seat three passengers comfortably, with ample legroom and reclining rear seats that are unique in the segment. The rear headrests have also been reshaped and enlarged for better support, and a convenient flip-down center armrest provides storage when the middle seat position is not in use. A power rear sunshade, activated by a one-touch lever, filters direct sunlight coming through the rear window. The sunshade, which helps to protect rear seat passengers from unwanted light and heat, automatically retracts when the driver selects reverse gear.

New standard equipment includes Bluetooth hands-free phone and music streaming to the audio system from a compatible device, XM satellite radio including a 90-day free trial subscription, and both USB and 1/8-inch auxiliary connections for iPod and other audio devices.

The optional DVD Navigation system has a newly adopted database and now has easier search and address input functionality. The navigation system also offers new displays for road icons and points of interest, and a keyboard screen arranged in the same way as a personal computer. The Avalon’s has a standard nine-speaker system, and the Limited features a standard 12-speaker, 660-watt JBL Premium Synthesis audio system with enhanced two-coil sub-woofer and a 12-channel digital amplifier.

A rear-view monitor function is standard in the rear-view mirror or with the available navigation system. The rear-view-mirror image includes on-screen back-up guides that help the driver to back into parking spaces or driveways. I find these back-up guides extremely helpful and I noticeably miss them when lacking in other vehicles.

The 2011 Avalon is powered by a 24-valve, dual-overhead cam 3.5-liter V6 engine that produces 268 horsepower and is equipped with a dual VVT-i electronic valve-control system. EPA ratings are 20 city MPG and 29 highway MPG, each up by 1 mpg over last year. Coupled with the engine is a 6-speed electronically controlled automatic transmission driving thru the front wheels.

Surprisingly to the point that it is worthy of mention, the 2011 Avalon features a standard full-size spare tire on an alloy wheel. Avalon also features a redesigned accelerator pedal assembly and a brake override system for 2011.

Toyota’s standard Star Safety System includes Vehicle Stability Control (VSC), anti-lock braking system (ABS) with Electronic Brake force Distribution (EBD), Brake Assist and TRAC traction control system. As is common in the luxury category, the Avalon is available in nine exterior colors and three leather-trimmed interior colors

As an added value for customers and further decreasing owner operating costs--or increasing miles per dollar, as I like--Toyota recently announced that new Toyota vehicles will now come standard with Toyota Care. This new plan offers complimentary normal factory-scheduled maintenance and 24-hour roadside assistance for two years or 25,000 miles, whichever comes first. Toyota is the first full-line brand to offer a complimentary maintenance plan standard on new Toyota vehicles within its line-up.

The bottom line: A very refined, quiet and comfortable car.

Larry Nutson