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2017 Toyota Avalon Review by Steve Purdy +VIDEO

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LEARN MORE:Expectant Toyota Team Members See New Arrival (10/31/2012)

Review by Steve Purdy
The Auto Channel
Michigan Bureau

Beginning life as a 1994 model the first Avalon replaced the Cressida as Toyota’s full-size sedan. It was plain as white bread but as competent as anything on the market and imbued with Toyota’s legendary quality. Avalon shared the Camry platform with front-wheel drive and V6 power and became a quintessential old person’s car along with full-size Buicks and the last generation Crown Vic and Grand Marquis.

In 2013 the Georgetown, KY-built Avalon began its fourth generation on essentially the Lexus ES platform, also front-wheel drive. Vastly improved over the generations this new one is as aesthetically interesting as a craft-baked ciabatta, still as competent as anything in the market and still characterized by Toyota quality. No longer just an old folks’ car.

The Avalon design, in my view, could contend for “most improved” honors over its original, both aesthetically and in terms of just about every measure of performance. Styling, functional design, mechanical sophistication and user friendliness are all first rate.

Company boss, Akio Toyoda, pronounced not long, before the newest Avalon was designed, that Toyota would no longer embrace unexciting vehicles and he has kept his word. Since that time Toyota products across the board have gotten much more personality and Avalon leads with an exaggerated, gaping lower grille, squinty, wrap-around headlight bezels and deep cheek vents. Graceful sculpting around the flanks leads to an expressive rear view. Standard 17-inch wheels are just big enough to fill the wheel wells making for a modestly athletic stance.

Inside it is even more charming. Excellent quality materials, fit and finish make this Avalon seem like it should be in at least in the near-luxury category. A complex dash design, nice stitching and good ergonomics contribute to that as well. The best feature inside, I contend, may be the center stack that leans out of the vertical plane at the bottom, sloping gracefully so that the multi-function control screen comes within much easier reach of the driver. Knobs for the audio and touch controls for most other functions work well. Touch controls for the HVAC are better than those on the Cadillac. A handy cubby opens up at the bottom of the center stack where we find the auxiliary, USB and power outlets in easy reach.

Ingress and egress, at least through front doors, is better than many cars is its class as confirmed by this big guy’s experience. Standard leather seating is generous and comfortable both front and rear. Our rear seat passengers this week raved about the room and feel back there. Rear seatbacks do not fold but a pass-through is incorporated into the center for skis or other long things. The deep trunk will hold 16 cubic-feet of your stuff.

Only one powertrain is available in the Avalon - Toyota’s trusty 3.5-liter, naturally aspirated V6 making a decent 268 horsepower and 248 pound-feet of torque mated to a sophisticated 6-speed automatic transmission with manual mode. ECO and Sport settings allow adjustment of the transmission’s priorities to favor performance or economy. The EPA rates the relatively lithe, 3,600-pound Avalon at 21 mpg in the city, 30 on the highway and 24 mpg combined using regular fuel. We easily managed 27 mpg in our week of mixed driving.

We found the driving dynamics amazingly good with better-than-expected acceleration (0-to-60 in a decent 7.4 seconds), well-balanced suspension and surprising agility. While we did not treat it as if we were on the race course we did push it hard enough around our country roads, freeway ramps and other challenging environments to get a good feel for its competence. The chassis feels sturdy and tight across our rough railroad crossings and potholed roads.

Avalon pricing starts at $33,300 for the well-equipped entry level XLE and ranges through the $41,100 Limited. It also comes with a hybrid powertrain in three trim levels topping out at $42,600. Our test car is the XLE Premium showing a base price of $36,450. Content is generous with: good looking 17-inch alloy wheels, a plethora of safety and driver assistance features, halogen headlights with automatic dimming, power sunroof, dual-zone HVAC, navigation with traffic, smart key with push button start, 2 12V power outlets plus auxiliary and USB ports, and all the other stuff we expect in our cars today.

In spite of the brand’s well-earned reputation for dependability and quality Toyota’s new car warranty covers the whole car for only 3 years or 36,000 miles and 5 years or 60,000 miles on the powertrain.

Compare Avalon to Buick LaCrosse, Chevy Impala, Hyundai Azera, Kia Cadenza and Nissan Maxima - all front-wheel drive – or even the rear-wheel drive Chrysler 300 and Dodge Charger and you’ll find it competes well in just about every category.

Avalon need not just appeal to old folks or white bread lovers anymore – it should attract style-conscious younger sourdough aficionados as well.

© Steve Purdy, Shunpiker Productions, All Rights Reserved

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