At the start of the life of the Toyota Avalon back in 1995 as the replacement for the Cressida, there were two characteristics being addressed by the full-sized senior sedan:
1. It would be a better Buick
2. It would be an alternative for those people who wouldn’t want to be seen in a Lexus (e.g., some people wouldn’t necessarily want to see their minister or dentist in a luxury vehicle, because in the first case it might seem to be too swank and in the case of the second, because you might think that the proposed dental work has an additional agenda that is only coincidentally about your smile)
Of course, nowadays, Buicks aren’t even Buicks. Back then, Buicks were big, plush, comfortable, and wallowing. Now Buicks are medium-sized or small and are taut inside, outside and in driving performance.
And when the base MSRP of the 2013 Avalon that we have here is $39,650, that’s Lexus territory, whether it has a “T” or an “L” on the front. (Frankly, except for the fact that they probably have a nicer waiting room in the Lexus dealership when you take your car in for service than they do at a mass-market Toyota store, if this is a price point that is in your budget, you might consider the car before the place where you’re going to take it for service.)
What’s more, with the 2013 model, the designers at Calty in Newport Beach have taken the car to a space where there is a serious amount of style; the engineers at the Toyota Technical Center have given the car a solid base and plenty of technical advances; the manufacturing people in Georgetown are processing the car in a way so that the QDR that has long been associated with the Toyota brand (minus that unsubstantiated issue a few years back, which the company is still paying for, financially and, to a lesser extent, reputationally) is in the Avalon in spades.
No dentist or minister is going to be stealthy in an Avalon.
Although the car is said to be in the “premium mid-size” segment, it is Toyota’s flagship model, and they didn’t spare much in creating the car. Whether it is the fresh new look or interior materials on the instrument panel that aren’t leather but certainly seem to be (maybe they want to keep that for Lexus, although driver’s and front passenger’s seat are the real deal), whether it is the tastefully executed line of LED daytime running lights (it must be acknowledged that some companies are using LEDs in a manner that brings jewelry to mind—as in paste, not precious), this is clearly a car that was considered, not simply spread-sheeted.
Word is that the Avalon is a car that was developed by the U.S. team working in close coordination, and it is evident that their efforts paid off. It isn’t a car of compromise but one where there were clearly some stretch goals, and those involved did the requisite extensions.
The Avalon is powered by a 3.5-liter, 286-hp engine, so it accelerates with authority, if not alacrity. But this is not something within a few decades of the boy-racer. Oddly, it has a six-speed automatic with paddle shifters: these will probably be the feature of the car used least of any. Driving modes—Eco, Normal, Sport—are available, with the first helping squeeze all the efficiency possible by doing things like reducing the air con output and the latter providing faster throttle response.
The vehicle design is described by Toyota as being “elegant and athletic.” Maybe the former smacks too much of Buicks of yore, but it strikes me that this, as the flagship of the Toyota lineup, is elegant in a contemporary fashion. Athleticism? No, not really. Not that it is in the least bit out of shape, but terms like that need to be reserved for things like, oh, the Lexus IS.
Engine: 3.5-liter DOHC, 24-valve, dual VVT-I V6
Material: All aluminum
Horsepower: 268 @ 6,200 rpm
Torque: 248 lb-ft @ 4,700 rpm
Transmission: Six-speed automatic
Wheelbase: 111.0 in.
Length: 195.2 in.
Width: 72.2 in.
Height: 57.5 in.
Passenger volume: 102.3 cu. ft. (w/moon roof)
Cargo volume: 16 cu. ft.
Coefficient of drag: 0.28
EPA: 21/31/24 city/highway/combined mpg