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SEE ALSO: Toyota Buyer's Guide

The all-new Avalon marks Toyota's entry into the six-passenger large car market. When the Cressida was dropped from the Toyota lineup a few years ago, Camry owners had no place to move up to in the Toyota line except to its upscale luxury division, Lexus. This move represented too large a dollar jump for many, and as auto manufacturers hate to lose customers, the need for a full-size four- door well-equipped near-luxury sedan became quite apparent. Utilizing its design and technical studios in California, Arizona and Michigan the styling of the Avalon began to take shape. The Avalon is a large automobile that is designed, engineered, and built in America for the North American auto market. It is made at Toyota's Georgetown, Kentucky, facility and utilizes a Camry platform that has been stretched to allow for a longer wheelbase and a powertrain that has been modified for additional performance. It has the distinction of being the first large-size four-door six- passenger sedan to bear a Japanese nameplate, as well as the most spacious, most American, and the best equipped sedan Toyota has ever offered.

An all-to-short week of driving the Avalon in the liquid sunshine that California has been blessed with this winter left these impressions:

APPEARANCE: The Avalon is recognizably Toyota, but with strong styling ties to its upscale Lexus cousins. The front is more than slightly reminiscent of the Lexus LS400, while its long passenger cabin resembles that of the Lexus GS300. Its rear treatment shows its Camry ancestry. All in all it is a crisp, elegant blend of rounded forms and angles. The XLS features color-keyed bumpers, an integrated front air dam, bodyside moldings, flush door handles, black window trim and a thin, bright highlight around the side windows. Seven-spoke alloy wheels and Bridgestone all-season tires complement its classic body lines.

COMFORT: As befits a large American-built luxury sedan the Avalon XLE is quite roomy and well outfitted. It is available as either a five- or six-passenger configuration. Our test vehicle had the six- passenger layout which included the optional leather-covered front and rear contoured bench seats with large arm rests. The front ones are dual-powered while the rear ones are non-adjustable. To make room for three in front the shifter is mounted on the steering column, while the parking brake is engaged with a foot pedal. Occupant head and leg room is spacious and visibility is excellent. Its large low liftover trunk is flat and finished. The recessed instrument panel has large analog gages, and all controls are well-placed. The XLE is equipped with all of the powered accessories that are expected today in upscale cars: front seats, side mirrors, windows, locks, steering and brakes. The optional flagship AM-FM sound system features 240 watts of power along with seven speakers and cassette plus a trunk-mounted 12-disc CD changer. An automatic climate control system quietly maintains a comfortable cabin temperature.

SAFETY: The 1995 Avalon meets Federal 1997 side impact standards and is equipped with driver and passenger-side airbags and three-point seat belts with shoulder height adjustment for the front seats. Four-wheel disc anti-lock brakes, vented in front, are standard equipment, as are front and rear crumple zones designed to protect occupants in the event of impact.

ROADABILITY: The Avalon provides a refined, comfortable ride. With its high-strength rigid platform and new insulation and weatherstripping it is a very quiet automobile with little wind or mechanical noise intruding into the passenger cabin. The four-wheel independent suspension system was designed to provide a smooth luxury ride, and includes anti-vibration subframe, stabilizer bars and gas-filled shock absorbers. Power assisted rack and pinion steering, anti-lock disc brakes and all- season steel belted radial tires insure adroit handling and high maneuverability. It can be driven aggressively and handle quick evasive situations with aplomb as well.

PERFORMANCE: Toyota's proven 3.0 liter aluminum engine, and four-speed electronically controlled transmission as well as a computer controlled engine management system enable the Avalon to develop 192 horsepower and 210 lb. ft of torque. The result is excellent pick-up when required, and quiet and smooth cruising down the interstate. It is a well-balanced package.

CONCLUSION: The Avalon is the first six-passenger sedan to be built by a Japanese auto maker. It was designed in America for American drivers. It is assembled in Georgetown, Ky by American workers using a major percentage of American parts, and will only be sold in North America.


           Base Price              $  26,688
           Price As Tested         $  29,398
           Engine Type             V-6, dohc - 24v, mpfi
           Engine Size             3.0 liter/182 cid        
           Horsepower              192 @ 5200
           Torque (ft/lbs)         210 @ 4400
           Wheelbase/Length        107"/190"
           Transmission            four-speed ECauto w/od 
           Curb Weight             3290 
           Pounds per Horsepower   17
           Fuel Capacity           18
           Fuel Requirement        Unleaded premium (91 oct)
           Tires                   Bridgestone Potenza 92H P205/65R 15 M+S
           Brakes                  antilock standard        vented disc/disc
           Train                   Front engine/front drive
           EPA Economy - miles per gallon,        
             city/highway/observed         21/29/26.1
           0 to 60 mph                     8.0 sec            
           1/4 mi (E.T.)                   16.2 sec            
           Coefficient of Drag  (Cd)       .31