Toyota’s fourth-generation Avalon, with a sport-coupe profile and a luxury-car interior, is aimed at a younger, hipper audience. That’s understandable because the median age of a current Avalon buyer is 64 years old.
By TOM STRONGMAN
Designed in Toyota’s Newport Beach, Calif., design studios, engineered in its Ann Arbor, Mich., tech center and manufactured in Georgetown, Ky., the new Avalon is a significant departure from earlier Avalons that were more like a Buick than a BMW.
Not that the new car is a BMW, but its youthful styling is a key ingredient. The body was sculpted with sensuous lines and subtle surface creases that make it look sleek and purposeful. Its on-road stance grabs your attention immediately.
The slippery shape and careful underbody shielding results in a drag coefficient of 0.28 that is 0.01 higher than the Scion FR-S coupe. Lack of noise has become a Toyota trademark, and the Avalon slips down the highway with very little wind whistle, thanks to refinement of details such as the shape of the door handles.
Avalon prices begin at $30,990 for the XLE and top out at $39,650 for the Limited. A hybrid version is also offered, and it begins at $35,555 and tops out at $41,400.
I drove both models, but will focus primarily on the Limited with a 268-horsepower, 3.5-liter V-6 and a six-speed automatic transmission. The standard gasoline engine is more powerful and more fun to drive than the hybrid, and its mileage, rated at 21 miles per gallon in the city and 31 on the highway, is pretty reasonable. There are three performance modes – Normal, Eco and Sport – that let the driver choose how the car feels. In Sport, the throttle response is crisper and the steering feels heavier. Eco softens the throttle response and reduces the power consumed by air-conditioning.
The hybrid is rated at 40 mpg city and 39 highway. It was very cold during my time with the hybrid and my city average was just under 30 mpg.
The Avalon is not a sports sedan, but the ride is nicely buttoned down without being harsh or uncomfortable. The electronic power steering is a nice combination of comfort and feel, while the handling is considerably more agile than Avalons of the past.
The Avalon’s cabin is almost as nicely crafted as a Lexus. The instrument panel is a pleasing combination of surface textures and materials, and the concave section in front of the passenger adds to a feeling of spaciousness. The handsome gauges and center-stack controls are positioned within easy reach of the driver. The capacitive touch switches on the center stack are among the best of the type that I have experienced. They provide good feedback and work with gloves. The sliding fan-speed switch is intuitive and slick.
Rear-seat legroom is generous, as is trunk space, even though the overall size of the vehicle is slightly smaller than earlier Avalons.
An LCD screen displays vehicle system information as well as the map and rearview camera when so equipped.
On cars equipped with the premium audio system, a smartphone app called Entune works with the vehicle to stream Pandora music, listen to iHeartRadio, purchase movie tickets or make dinner reservations. Entune also offers information about stocks, weather, fuel prices and sports.
The Limited also has three-zone climate control, heated and cooled front seats and heated rear seats.
Blind spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert are also available. Front, side and side-curtain airbags are standard, as are anti-lock brakes, traction control and vehicle stability control.
The test car’s base price was $39,650. Floor mats and destination charges brought the sticker price to $40,670.
Three years or 36,000 miles with a five-year, 60,000-mile powertrain warranty.
Tom Strongman’s email address is email@example.com.