Toyota’s Avalon is a breath of fresh air, a full-size sedan with stylish lines and oodles of comfort and features at a reasonable price.
In days of yore, that would be enough to make it one of the top sellers in the marketplace, but alas, modern times belong to trucks, SUVs and crossovers.
Still, if you enjoy a smooth well-controlled ride and a roomy quiet interior that will coddle five adults on a road trip, Avalon should be atop your shopping list.
Toyota restyled Avalon a couple years ago, all to the good. It looks modern, youthful and sporty for a big sedan. Its 111-inch wheelbase gives it one of the most pleasant rides of any car, truck or ute, no matter the price.
Avalon’s strong 268-horse V6 engine delivers excellent power so the sedan will hoof it up to highway speeds like a race horse, not a plow horse like most SUVs. Amazingly its gas mileage is excellent too, rated at 21 mpg city and 31 mpg highway by the EPA. I got 26.7 mpg in about 75% highway driving, including a roundtrip to Chicago with two folks aboard and light luggage.
This has three driving modes too, Normal, Eco and Sport, but I felt little difference between Normal and Sport. Eco allows the transmission to shift earlier to save fuel, so cuts power a bit. Yet the gas mileage, as stated earlier, is fine without using Eco.
Handling is fine too. I’d prefer a little more responsive feel, but the car is easy to control in town or on the highway with a moderate feel to the wheel. At 195.3 inches long and with a 40-foot turning diameter the Avalon is long and takes a bit of maneuvering in tight parking lots. Thankfully a rearview camera is standard equipment.
The sizzling crimson (dark red) test car was the Touring model, so midrange of five trim levels. It comes standard with most everything you want and rides on 18-inch tires vs. the 17-inch tires on lower trim levels. Braking is strong from four-wheel discs and this is front-drive with no AWD model available. For the record, Avalon comptitors, the Ford Taurus and Chrysler 300, offer AWD.
Avalon’s interior is extremely quiet and this one featured a black over tan leather dash with tan dash face and seats and black open-poor wood trim on the passenger’s side. Vent and other trim is chrome and there was brown leather on the console around the cup holders and armrest.
The touch controls on the screen and dash work well, even while a driver is wearing gloves. That’s rare, but Toyota uses capacitive touch switches for the audio and climate systems that work with the slightest finger-tip touch. Bravo!
All gauges are well placed and easy to see with a digital trip computer readout between the main gauges. Atop the stack is the radio screen, which splits to include the navigation screen. Or you can expand either to fill the full screen. Another plus, there is a large radio volume knob and tuning knob too.
Avalon also comes with a manual tilt/telescope steering wheel that’s wrapped in thick leather, and features radio, phone and trip computer buttons on the wheel’s hub. Behind the wheel, Toyota keeps its cruise control on a stalk, but there is a push-button start.
The sedan also comes with dual climate control buttons that are simple to see, and use. Under the center stack is a good-sized cubby, plus a place to plug in an iPod, along with several other outlets. The center armrest is well padded and there’s storage beneath that too.
Avalon’s seats are exceptionally comfortable, with fairly flat bottom but better contoured back. Both front seats are powered and the driver’s seat has a power lumbar support. However, the passenger’s seat is mounted way too low and does not feature a height adjustment, a problem I’d encountered in earlier test drives. With most of today’s cars having high door window sills a height adjustment is needed for passengers’ seats. Short people can barely see over the sills.
Rear seat legroom and headroom is generous, allowing five adults to ride in comfort. The trunk is deep and wide too, a full 16 cubic feet. That’s perfect for hauling a lot of gear and bags on a family vacation.
Overhead the Avalon Touring features a sunroof, plus visors that slide. It’s surprising how many pricier cars do not feature such flexible visors.
Sadly there is no heated steering wheel here and the A-pillars are rather large, as in most of today’s vehicles. That combined with the side mirror creates a bit of a blind spot. On the plus side, the Avalon comes with a blind-spot warning system in the side mirrors.
For the record a base Avalon XLE starts at a modest $33,485, including delivery and comes with the same engine and is well equipped with heated outside mirrors, the rearview camera, leather seats, push-button start, dual climate controls and a 6.1-inch screen. Moving up to the Premium level adds the sunroof, wireless charging and Toyota’s Entune audio system. This Touring model adds navigation and a driver’s seat 2-setting memory system to that.
Note too that Avalon, unlike the Taurus and Chrysler 300, is available with a hybrid system. That includes a 2.0-liter I4 engine and hybrid electric system that combined gives it 200 horsepower and ups the gas mileage to 40 mpg city and 39 mpg highway. Hybrids list about $37,500 to start.
And that’s right where the test car started, $37,050 with a $835 delivery fee to end at $37,885. That’s just slightly above the average transaction price of a new car these days.
If you prefer cars to crossovers and trucks, Avalon offers a lot of comfort, convenience and economy, along with spiffy looks and a quiet, well-appointed and laid out interior. It’s a winner!
FAST STATS: 2016 Toyota Avalon Touring
Hits: Super ride and power, plus good gas mileage in stylish and roomy 5-person sedan. Simple well laid out dash, good control touch, big volume/tuning knobs, big trunk, quiet interior with heated leather seats and blind-spot warning system. Hybrid system available.
Misses: No heated steering wheel, passenger seat height not adjustable so low sitting position vs. high window sill, which is bad for short passengers.
Made in: Georgetown, Ky.
Engine: 3.5-liter, VVT-i V6, 268 hp
Transmission: 6-speed ECT
Weight: 3,505 lbs.
Length: 195.3 in.
Wheelbase: 111.0 in.
Cargo: 16.0 cu.ft.
Tow: 1,000 lbs.
MPG: 21/31 (EPA)
MPG: 26.7 (tested)
Base Price: $37,050
Major Options: None
Test vehicle: $37,885
Sources: Toyota, www.kbb.com
Photos: Mark Savage and Toyota