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HEELS ON WHEELS: 2011 TOYOTA AVALON REVIEW


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2011 Toyota Avalon

Toyota Buyers Guide

HEELS ON WHEELS
By Katrina Ramser
San Francisco Bureau
The Auto Channel

INTRO TO THE AVALON VEHICLE
The Avalon is Toyota’s full-size sedan that features classier touches and more room to distinguish this five passenger experience from the popular Camry’s. Sit in the Avalon’s comfortable seats, take in the refined dashboard, and you’ll experience a more elevated cabin experience.

I drove a 2011 Toyota Avalon with a 268-horsepower 3.6-liter DOHC V6 engine and a six-speed automatic transmission. Fuel estimations are 20 miles-per-gallon city and 29 highway. Available in just two trims, the Base and Limited, my Base trim came with the following standards: 17-inch wheels; color-keyed foldable side mirrors; chrome-tipped exhaust; leather-wrapped steering wheel; 8-way power seating for driver; leather-trimmed seating; 9-speaker audio system; USB and auxiliary input jacks; wood-grain style interior trim; keyless entry; and a nice digital quartz clock. Base price begins at $33,195. My test drive also had a $1,020 Memory Seat and Mirrors Package (8-way power passenger seat, lumbar support); a $2,350 Navigation and Premium Audio Package (voice and touch-activated navigation screen with a backup camera and an upgraded JBL 4-disc CD player with 12 speakers). Throw in a couple extras (emergency kit, glass breakage sensor) and total price came to $36,868.

I like that Toyota keeps the Avalon simple with just two trim choices along with one reputable V6 engine. Although Hyundai doesn’t have a comparable large-sized sedan to really compete with, the Korean carmaker is really heating up the car market with great style and deals to match. Toyota needs to make sure a dependable find like the Avalon continues to feel accessible if it’s going to remain a top favorite.

HEELS ON WHEELS REVIEW CRITERIA

Stylish But Comfortable Results: The 2011 Avalon has a refreshed front exterior, but it hasn’t undergone a complete redesign. The seating is firm, plush and easy to personalize. Standards are luxurious for a mid-level brand, giving the Avalon a little glimmer of what it’s like to own a Lexus. Second-row passengers will be extremely happy with the 40-plus inches of legroom. Two kids’ seats fit very nicely back here with plenty of space remaining in the center for baby bags, purses, and a blanket or two.

Reliability & Safety Factor: The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) gave the 2011 Avalon “Good” ratings in all crash test areas (frontal, side impact and rollover), making it a Top Safety Pick. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has not yet used the 5-star crash ratings on the 2011 model. U.S. News has ranked the 2011 Toyota Avalon the #1 pick for large-size sedans.

Cost Issues: With the Base trim at $33,195, an upscale large-size sedan experience is operable for tight family budgets.

Activity & Performance Ability: I took the Avalon on a weekend car trip with two babies in tow. Up steep highway grades, the Avalon’s engine performance was smooth, responsive and immediate – 268 horsepower is a lot of push. The suspension soaked up road abrasions and the steering was intuitive. I found the braking to be firm and balanced while taking high-speed corners at ascents. Overall, the Avalon injects a lot of personal driving confidence. The interior cabin is quite and sturdy – this sedan is the next best thing to a crossover (and even better than some).

The Green Concern: Fuel economy for the Avalon is 20-city and 29-highway driving for an average of 23 miles-per-gallon. While some other V6 engine might save you a mile or two in gas costs; the size and performance of this 3.6-liter motor are delivering a lean estimation.

FINAL PARTING WORDS
The Avalon might not be the flashiest choice, but it is a proven reliable choice for a full-size sedan. Inside you’ll find a refined and roomy cabin featuring a healthy list of standard features. Performance-wise, the powerful 3.6-liter engine will handle steep highway grades well, allowing you to tackle the roads with the feeling you’re sitting in your favorite living room chair.

©2011 Katrina Ramser