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2013 Toyota Avalon - Steve Purdy First Look

2013 Toyota Avalon (select to view enlarged photo)
2013 Toyota Avalon


By Steve Purdy
Michigan Bureau

Until now if asked to identify the most typical “old-man’s” car we might have named the Toyota Avalon, particularly with the anachronistic Mercury Grand Marquis gone to the storage yard in the sky. Even though the last Avalon (generation two) was competent and nicely appointed, it offered little appeal to anyone under Social Security age. Toyota is determined to change that perception with this fresh, third generation Avalon - a large, stylish, full-function, comfortable sedan.

2013 Toyota Avalon (select to view enlarged photo)

The 5-passenger (bench seats and column shifts are gone), front-wheel drive Avalon has always been essentially a larger, version of the mid-size Camry sharing a platform and built in the same Kentucky assembly plant. Style and design have always been mild-mannered and unobtrusive because the average customer for that car had no desire to make a statement or be cool. He/she just wanted a comfortable, convenient, dependable car, easy to get in and out of, both front and rear, to make it easy to take guests along to the early buffet.

Again, that’s all changing with the mostly-new 2013 Toyota Avalon, perhaps a candidate for “Most Improved” honors. Toyota calls this a “premium mid-size sport sedan” but it is the same size as most full-size cars. So, if you’ll forgive me for my brashness, I’ll continue to refer to it as full-size.

2013 Toyota Avalon (select to view enlarged photo)

Though using the same platform and wheelbase as the outgoing model, Avalon looks entirely different. Exterior styling is sleek, swoopy and rife with interesting details. The Toyota design and marketing teams, primarily U.S.-based, decided the theme would be “Kinetic Energy.” They managed that theme quite well. The bold front fascia shows the Toyota emblem integrated within a narrow horizontal trim line between the flowing, shinny headlight bezels while a gaping lower grill suggests power and dynamics. The overall stance and profile makes Avalon appear wider, lower and substantially more eye catching. The 0.28 coefficient of drag means it is amazingly slippery for a full-size sedan. Striking LED taillights add to the ambiance.

2013 Toyota Avalon (select to view enlarged photo)

Inside, the drama continues. Chrome trim outlines major functional elements of the instrument panel while the stitched leather dash and door trim along with wood trim offer an upscale feel. A ‘floating’ center stack leaves space for small items out of sight. We acclimated easily to most of the controls on our short first drive with no confusion or frustration evident. Toyota’s “Intelli-touch” controls feature adjustable sensitivity. We’ve not found many new cars that include so much technology and touch-screen functionality to be quite so easily managed. Toyota’s goal of luring a younger demographic to the Avalon will be well served by the form and the function of the dash.

Seating inside is generous and not too soft, both front and rear with more bolster than expected. Interior volume at least matches the last generation Avalon and exceeds it in some measurements. Avalon does not include folding rear seat backs.

Buyers can choose a conventional powertrain or a hybrid. The former is a carryover 3.5-liter V6 making 268 horsepower and 248 pound-feet of torque rated at 21-mpg in the city, 31 on the highway and 25 combined on regular fuel. That’s excellent mileage for this size of car. During our test drive we found the acceleration surprisingly strong with a respectably resonant rumble on full throttle. We can control the six-speed automatic transmission with either paddle shifters or the console-mounted shifter if we like, and it even has a ‘blip’ function on downshifts.

Three selectable driving modes are at our fingertips – Eco, Normal and Sport – that adjust throttle response and shift points among other things. This is all done electronically and is becoming as ubiquitous as manual shift modes in automatic transmissions. That allows us to prioritize fuel economy or performance whichever we’re in the mood for.

Wider track with conventional McPherson struts in front and dual-link independent suspension in the rear feature shocks with rebound springs for smoother rough road response. Electric power steering adjusts to speed and other factors to provide decent feel and feedback. While it doesn’t feel like the German sedans it felt much improved over the outgoing Avalon. While we did not experience any challenging roads on our test drive we did push it hard enough to confirm that the handling is quick and responsive enough to satisfy all but the most hard-driving enthusiasts.

The Hybrid Synergy Drive is essentially the same as Camry and one of the most thoroughly developed. Touting 40-mpg in the city, 39on the highway, and 40 combined, according the official EPA numbers, plus an EV mode to make better use of electrons by holding in electric mode to 25 mph, this HSD system is fully sorted in every way.

The best in new safety technology is available on the Avalon - blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert with 180-degree view, adaptive cruise control with three ranges, pre-collision warning and intervention and more airbags than a Senate panel.

2013 Toyota Avalon (select to view enlarged photo)

As just a hint of how far Avalon has come, we’re told there will be a “Livery Edition” to fill in for the now-out-of-production Lincoln Town Car featuring heated black leather rear seats, and for the annual SEMA (aftermarket) show in Las Vegas recently DUB Magazine, the bible of Hip-Hop urban culture, did a custom version of the Avalon. When a DUB version appears, you know it must be cool.

New Avalons began arriving at dealers in November 2012. Base price begins at just over $30,000 for the XLE which comes with leather, smart key and plenty of other unexpected content. The top-of-the-line Hybrid Touring model starts at about $41,000. In all we have four trim levels of the conventionally-powered Avalon and three levels of the Hybrid are available from which to choose.

Toyota’s new car warranty covers the whole car for 3 years or 36,000 miles and the powertrain for 5 years or 60,000 miles.

I would be proud to be seen in the new Avalon. Yes, I really am an old man, though I’m certainly a car-conscious old man sensitive to what I drive. With lots of modern new products in this segment of the market – Impala, Azera, Taurus, Chrysler 300 - Avalon will most certainly hold its own.

ęSteve Purdy, Shunpiker Productions, All Rights Reserved