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April 23, 2013

2013 Toyota Avalon

by Mark Savage

Avalon XLE Premium aims for younger drivers

avalon-parked

Styling is dramatically improved on the 2013 Toyota Avalon.

An old automotive axiom goes that you can sell a young man’s car to an old man, but you can’t sell an old man’s car to a young man.Apparently Toyota didn’t know that, until now.

Toyota’s Avalon, long a senior citizen favorite, has been restyled and its suspension and steering firmed up to move it decidedly out of the old fuddy-duddy market in looks and performance. Its crisp new body with thin chrome-trimmed grille above a larger lower opening and its thinned taillights with chrome across the rear deck turn styling yawner into a sharply tailored machine.

At least now mature adults who are not yet AARP worthy may look at the Avalon.

Video link imageMy metallic silver test car was the XLE Premium model, one up from the base model and listing for $33,195. The base XLE starts at $30,990. There are two higher-end models too, the XLE Touring at $35,500, and the Limited, which pushes $40 grand.

Yet for most families looking for a full-size near-luxury sedan, the XLE Premium will do just fine. It has a leather interior, sunroof, power seats and even a backup camera, pretty much all the stuff folks demand once you’re beyond the basic car these days.

But if this were still a floaty big barge that leans in turns and takes a nose dive when you put on the brakes, the Avalon would remain a grandpa mobile.

avalon-rearToyota wisely firms the ride and steering enough that you feel you’re in a well controlled sedan. The four-wheel independent suspension handles rough roads well, yet never feels sloppy, or too firm, being spot on middle ground. The lengthy 111-inch wheelbase helps there too.

Steering feel is decent, but could still be tightened up some. There is a bit of play to the wheel, but steering effort is moderate and the car handles well in turns, just minor body lean.

What you might not expect, yet it remains the same as the last generation Avalon, is a powerful 268-horse 3.5-liter V6. This motor feels Lexus smooth coupled with a seamless six-speed automatic, and it’s quiet too. However, tromp the accelerator and the Avalon has some giddy-up. Take that you whippersnappers.

That get-up-and-go is aided by the Avalon dropping 100 lbs. from the previous model. Plus braking here is excellent with four-wheel discs along with traction and stability control.

And lest you think this large sedan means you’ll spend most of your time at the gas station; that just isn’t so. Avalon is rated 21 mpg city and 31 highway, much better than a crossover or sport-ute. I got 24.2 mpg in roughly a 50-50 mix of city and highway driving.

Inside, the extremely quiet test car featured black over cream leather with navy blue door pull handle and console leather. The dash had a little bit of gray wood-look trim on its face, but flat black facing on the center stack, which featured touch controls. Unlike many such controls though, these worked fine, even while I was wearing gloves, a benefit to us upper Midwesterners.avalon-cabin

All gauges were well placed and easy to see and the small radio screen was simple to use. No double punching of buttons here, so the frustration level and ease of use while driving was top notch.

There’s an inside trunk release, power mirror controls on the doors, a manual tilt/telescope steering wheel that’s wrapped in leather, and radio, phone and trip computer buttons on the wheel’s hub. Behind the wheel, Toyota keeps its cruise control on a stalk, much like General Motors did for years before it moved that function to the steering wheel hub. And yes, there is push-button start, no key.

The Entune system and radio are all touch-screen activated, while the climate controls below also are digital.

The Entune system and radio are all touch-screen activated, while the climate controls below also are digital.

While the radio is adjusted via a touch-screen, again, one that works easily, there are volume and tuning knobs. Both are large and easy to grasp, and adjust, while driving. Avalon also has dual climate control buttons that are simple to see, and use.Under the center stack is a good-sized bin, plus a place to plug in an iPod, and there’s a 12-volt outlet. A tray also slides down over that are, good for storing coins on a trip to our fine southern brethren’s toll roads.

Avalon’s seats are among the best I’ve ridden in, and both front seats are powered, so simple to adjust. Plus the driver’s seat has a power lumbar support that can be moved up and down, enabling tall and short drivers to be comfortable. These seats are close to perfectly contoured and Avalon’s interior is roomy enough that four adults, possibly five, can ride comfortably.

Overhead is a sunroof, plus visors that slide. The later is a must in my book unless you’re driving a 10-year-old beater.

Avalon also features a super-sized trunk. This one measures in at 16.0 cubic feet. It also housed most of the options on the test car, a $49 cargo net and $29 first aid kit, along with a trunk mat, part of a $225 group that adds carpeted floor mats. I wouldn’t pay extra for any of those things, especially if I’m parting with $30+ grand for the car. They should be standard.

Add in a $795 delivery charge and the test car settled at $34,293. That’s just slightly above the average cost of a new vehicle today.

In any trim, Avalon is a fine, near-luxury sedan for the family. And now, with improved looks and driving dynamics, it’s one a family of any age can enjoy.

Stats: 2013 Toyota Avalon XLE Premium

Hits: Much improved styling, excellent ride and power, smooth shifts and comfortable, quiet interior. Well-shaped seats that will seat 4-5 adults comfortably, plus simple, logical dash controls and the visors slide. Large trunk.

Misses: Steering feel could be firmed some more.

Made in: Georgetown, Ky.

Engine: 3.5-liter V6, 268 hp

Transmission: 6-speed automatic

Weight: 3,461 lbs.

Wheelbase: 111.0 in.

Cargo: 16.0 cu.ft.

MPG: 21/31

Base Price: $33,195

Dealer’s Price: $29,876

Major Options:

Cargo net, $49

First aid kit, $29

Carpeted floor mats/trunk mat, $225

Delivery: $795

Test vehicle: $34,293

Sources: Toyota, www.autos.yahoo.com

Photos: Courtesy of Toyota

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