Avalon, Toyota’s premium midsize sedan, has been blurring the lines between the midsize, full-size and entry-luxury categories for 20 years.
This year, the third year of Avalon’s fourth generation, Toyota adds a Touring Sport Edition with special wheels, trim, and equipment; upgrades the Entune multimedia system on all models; and puts paddle shifters on all gas models and blind-spot monitors on Touring models.
Eight models are available, including three hybrids, with prices from $32,285 for a basic XLE to $41,700 for the Hybrid Limited.
Five models – XLE, XLE Premium, XLE Touring, the new XLE Touring Sport Edition and Limited – come with a smooth, energetic V-6.
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The Hybrid Synergy Drive models come in XLE Premium, XLE Touring and Limited trims. Avalon is still the only car in its class to offer a hybrid version. Toyota is a hybrid leader, with seven models in the brand’s lineup.
Avalon Hybrid is rated at an estimated 40 mpg combined mileage (40 city/39 highway), which gives it small-car fuel economy in a roomy sedan loaded with luxury amenities. The gasoline-only Avalon models are rated at 21 city/31 highway.
The gasoline models come with a powerful yet quiet 3.5-liter V-6 that produces 268 horsepower, paired with a six-speed automatic transmission with a sporty manual shift mode, to move the Avalon from zero to 60 mph in under seven seconds.
Three drive modes allow the driver to adjust Avalon’s responsiveness to the mood. Sport mode adjusts throttle response and Electric Power Steering for a more direct feel.
Eco concentrates on fuel efficiency and balances air conditioning functions and driving performance. Normal provides optimal performance across the board.
The Electric Power Steering assist, in all models, adjusts steering feel for lighter effort at lower speeds and increased effort and more centered feel at higher speeds.
My tester for this review was a gorgeous XLE Sport Edition in Attitude Black Metallic with Black leather interior, the only colors available for this model. The perforated-leather-trimmed heated front seats and the leather-trimmed door panels had blue top stitching, with dark blue cross-hatch interior accents on the door armrests, dash trim and center console, and blue edges on the Touring Sport Edition floor mats. Smoky chrome trimmed the dash, center stack, and door handles.
The coupelike silhouette, chiseled lines, strategically placed chrome accents and subtle blue metallic flash made a striking statement. The dark blue Touring Sport Edition Badge and dual chrome-tipped exhaust added nice finishing touches to a sporty ride.
Riding on exclusive 18-inch Black-Painted Machined-Finish alloy wheels with five split-”V” spokes, the Sport Edition has a sharper, almost sinister look.
With standard HID Quadrabeam headlights, LED daytime running lights borrowed from the Limited trim line, and wide-angle fog lights, the Avalon makes its presence known day or night. Touring Sport Edition also has aluminum scuff-plate door sills for added style and protection.
More than great looking, the exterior is aerodynamically designed to slice through the air, aiding fuel economy and strength. Special details include the sleek side mirrors with turn signals, heaters, memory positioning, puddle lights, and available Blind Spot Monitor and auto-dimming electrochromatic glass, all in a neat package.
The Smart Key System opens the driver’s door, passenger’s door and the trunk as well, while allowing the driver to keep the fob in a pocket or purse. My tester added a Remote Engine Starter for $499.
Inside my sleek-looking Avalon, the cabin was spacious and luxurious, one of the roomiest in the midsize segment, with 103.6 cubic feet of passenger space and 16 cubic feet in the trunk. Thanks in part to its trim dimensions and 3,505 slender pounds, my tester was still very sporty and agile, taking hills and curves with grace.
The luxurious cabin was quiet, with soft-touch sculpted surfaces. Strategically placed sound-absorbing and sound-insulating materials, with foam injected into the support pillars and rocker panels, along with acoustic-type glass for the windshield and side glass, provided outstanding quietness for enjoying our favorite music, pleasant conversation, or discussing where to stop for lunch.
A rich-looking instrument panel under a glare-reducing shade used Optitron-type gauges and a 3.5-inch thin-film-transistor color multi-information screen to show essential or convenient information, such as miles-to-empty, average mpg, or turn-by-turn navigation instructions.
The leather-wrapped steering wheel included buttons for the information display, audio, cruise control, hands-free phone function, and voice recognition, and paddle shifters for manual shifting.
My Avalon had an auto-dimming rearview mirror with compass and universal garage/gate opener; a coin box to the left of the steering wheel with a damper for smooth opening and closing; power windows that slow down as they approach the top of the window frame for less wind noise and vibration; a power tilt/slide moon roof; eight-way power driver’s seat with power manual support and memory settings, including outside mirror; four-way power passenger’s seat; dual-zone automatic climate control with air filter and rear air vents; blind-spot monitor with cross-traffic alert; anti-theft system with engine immobilizer; and a Paint Protection Film ($395 extra).
We were disappointed that there were no bottle holders in the door map pockets (the pockets were small, too). We use our bottle holders on our long road trips for essential water. The front cupholders, however, were excellent, well placed and unobstructed.
Avalon offers three audio systems: a standard eight-speaker Entune Audio Plus; available nine-speaker Entune Premium Audio with Navigation and App Suite; or available Entune Premium JBL Audio with Navigation and App Suite with 11 JBL GreenEdge speakers.
The Entune Audio Plus system includes SiriusXM radio (three-month complimentary trial), HD radio, HD traffic and weather for major metro areas, integrated backup camera display with projected path; and Entune Multimedia Bundle with 6.1-inch touch-screen display, AM/FM/CD player, auxiliary audio jack, USB 2.0 port with iPod connectivity and control, advanced voice recognition, hands-free phone capability, phonebook access and music streaming via Bluetooth.
My Avalon had the nine-speaker Premium Audio with Navigation and App Suite, which added a seven-inch high-resolution touch screen with split-screen display, HD predictive traffic and Doppler weather overlay, Gracenotes album cover art, and AM/FM cache radio to allow the operator to pause up to 20 minutes of any broadcast to replay later.
The navigation system served us well and was relatively simple to program and follow. It was annoying that the posted speed limit wasn’t automatically displayed on the map, though. I had to touch the “information” icon to bring it up.
Entune App Suite uses a smartphone interface to bring applications such Bing, Pandora, iHeartRadio, MovieTickets, and OpenTable.
Electronic devices got the royal treatment with an eBin storage tray in the center console, which held two devices side-by-side on a rubberized grip surface. Below the tray, which opened softly with the touch of a finger, is a hidden storage box with two charging ports, an auxiliary port and a USB port. The lid can be closed with cables passing through a slot at the front edge. The eBin was softly illuminated by LEDs.
Passengers are protected by 10 standard air bags, LATCh for outboard rear seats (the middle seat has the upper tether only), and the STAR Safety System with Vehicle Stability Control, Traction Control, Antilock Brake System, Electronic Brake-force Distribution, Brake Assist and Toyota’s Smart Stop brake-override Technology.
With a base price of $37,170 plus $894 in accessories, and $825 destination charges, the total delivered price of my Avalon was $38,889.
The automotive columns of Emma Jayne Williams have appeared regularly in the Star-Telegram since 2007. Contact her at email@example.com.