By on December 29, 2010

Panthers get a lot of love here at TTAC, but my automotive soft spot is actually for big, softly sprung front-drive sedans. When I bought a brand-new Chrysler LHS back in 2000, I probably single-handedly dropped the average age of the LHS buyer by double digits. I can’t say exactly what the attraction was, but there’s something pleasing about wafting around in a big, smooth sedan with just enough get-up-and-go. Around the same time as Chrysler attacked the large front driver market with the LH platform, Toyota was getting into the full-size arena with the Avalon.

But, just as the LHS tended to live in the shadow of the 300M, Toyota’s full-size model has always suffered from its little brother’s success: the Avalon never stood out enough to tempt buyers away from the (none too cramped) Camry and its smaller price tag. Now, tackling Buick, Ford and Hyundai rather than Chrysler for the large FWD sedan market, Toyota has given the Avalon a thorough going-over with the goal of distancing the near-luxo-barge from its mass-market cousin. But will this makeover help the “forgotten Toyota” reclaim some spotlight?

After more than 15 years into the game, the Avalon now looks less like a “stretched Camry” than ever. Designed in Toyota’s California styling studio, the Avalon’s new look is more harmonious than its predecessors’, although it’s still a study in subtlety compared to something like the Buick LaCrosse. From the outside the revised front grille and headlamps echo the Lexus look at least as much they do the mid-market Camry. Out back, LEDs and light pipes combine to make something I would never have thought possible on an Avalon before: an attractive rear end.

Another way to distinguish the Avalon: consolidating the available trimlines and option packages trim lines to two models with high levels of standard equipment and relatively few options. The base car gets standard Bluetooth, steering wheel audio and climate controls, XM Radio, USB and iPod connectivity and leather seating.. The Avalon Limited adds keyless-go, HID headlamps, heated and cooled front seats and a power front passenger seat to the party. Starting at $32,445 in base trim and $35,685 for the Limited trim, our Limited trim tester came equipped with the only factory option on offer: the $1,450 navigation and up-level sound system.

Beating under the hood of the Avalon is Toyota’s corporate 3.5L V6. For Avalon duty, the 3.5L engine is equipped with dual independent variable valve timing “with intelligence” which reduces emissions to California ULEV status and helps the engine to deliver 268HP and 248lb-ft of torque (at 6200RPM and 4700RPM respectively) while feeding on regular 87-octane gasoline. Though the engine may not seem overly sporty, the relatively light curb weight of 3572-3616lbs (depending on options) means that the Avalon will scoot to 60 in a TTAC verified 6.2 seconds which is non-too-shabby for the full-size sedan market. For the sake of comparison, the Buick Lucerne when equipped with the thirsty 4.6L V8 took 7.7 seconds to get to highway-speed.

Inside, Toyota has replaced the frumpy dash of the 2010 model with a much more Japanese looking “second hump” to contain the optional navigation LCD, climate control and vents. While passenger opinions were mixed, I have to say the look worked for me, as does the fake-metal trim surrounding the radio. This same faux-metal can be found in the cockpit of the new Subaru Legacy, but in the Avalon it’s applied more liberally and with more taste. Sadly the plastic wood trim that the doors and portions of the dash are covered with is fairly terrible. Chrysler’s K cars had more convincing wood trim. It’s a pity that Toyota chose not to make the brushed aluminum-look-alike trim available instead; I’d certainly pay extra for that look.

If you have seen any Avalon TV commercials lately, then you know that Toyota’s biggest selling point for the Avalon is the rear seat. The commercials use an airline motif describing the rear accommodations as 1950s jet-set airliner travel quarters. I am glad to say that the rear thrones are far more comfortable than airplane seats, the recline feature however has about the same range of motion as the last Southwest Airlines flight I was on. I am disappointed to say the stewardesses were not included with our test car.

And though the rear recliners are nifty, I would gladly give it up for the utility of a folding rear seat, even it if was limited to the center 20% section. Otherwise, the rear of the Avalon is huge ginormous. The Avalon is one of the few vehicles that could transport four American football players in comfort, or for a more family-friendly metric: three child seats abreast in the rear. Speaking of those kiddies, parents will be happy to know the Avalon has snagged the IIHS top safety pick award in 2010 (for the 2011 model).

Out on the road the Avalon yields relatively few surprises. The chassis delivers a compliant ride that is more smooth and refined than I would have expected from a long wheelbase Camry. Although wind noise is higher than any of the Lexus models, I’d submit that the highway ride quality is closer to the Lexus LS than the Toyota Camry. When the road gets twisty, the front wheel drive platform and somewhat narrow rubber remind you that you are driving a premium full-size front-wheel-drive sedan, not a sports sedan by any measure. Torque steer may be limited, but so is grip with the all-season tires that are standard on both Avalon trims. In an odd twist however the handling of the Avalon feels very confidant and well balanced, no doubt due to the low curb weight. While I can’t imagine many Avalon buyers will try to pass on curvy mountain roads, it is possible to do so.

Let’s talk competition: The Buick Lucerne has escaped the executioner’s axe for yet another year but is seriously long in the tooth. The Northstar V8 sounds pleasant but is low on performance and two cogs short of the competition with its ancient 4-speed automatic. I was unable to find official figures, but when equipped with the ancient 3.9L V6, it is safe to say that 0-60 times are north of 8 seconds. The closest real competition for the Avalon can be found in the Hyundai Azera. The Azera boasts a lower price tag ($32,980 similarly equipped) but unlike the rest of the Hyundai line that is earning raves from the automotive press for the stunning new designs, the Azera’s interior and exterior fail to impress. On the other hand, a new Hyundai Azera and its Kia cousin are coming, and though the LaCrosse is a bit smaller, it won’t be confused with a Camry. But if, as history indicates, size, smoothness and subtlety rule this segment, the Avalon has a safe future.

At the end of my week with the Avalon I was actually sorry to see it go. The Avalon is the type of car that Toyota executes to perfection. The car may be low on soul, but it offers comfort, value and the promise of above average reliability in a form that will never set your heart on fire, but won’t turn your nose after a few years either. New car shoppers seem to forget the Avalon exists despite the bevy of campy-TV ads Toyota has been airing over the past few months, which is a shame the Avalon might just be the best full-size sedan for sale at the moment.

Toyota provided the vehicle, insurance and one tank of gas for this review

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70 Comments on “Review: 2011 Toyota Avalon...”


  • avatar
    willamettejd

    I guess I’ve never seen the appeal of these. For about the same price you can get a better looking, performing, and higher prestige Lexus (either LS or GS) that happens to be slightly used but will last just as long.  Or anything else more interesting.  Or anything else.  This thing’s worst enemy has got to be an optioned-out Camry, which looks just as good (bad), rides as quiet, has similar interior quality, and costs a whole lot less.  And seriously, who needs more front or rear leg room than a Camry?  I’m 6’4″ and can ride in the back of my in-laws Camry with plenty of room to spare, even with my 6’1″ father-in-law driving.

    • 0 avatar
      xyzzy

      Funny you should say that.  In 2001 when I was car shopping, I cross-shopped a new Avalon against a CPO LS400.  When I mentioned that to the Toyota salesman while driving the Avalon, he involuntarily blurted out “that’s not fair!”.  My response was I was comparing a two $30K cars.
       
      And yes, I bought the LS400, still drive it to this day though it’s getting long in the tooth.  I hope it lasts forever, but it’s just turning 200K miles and I’ve had to start thinking about what will replace it.  If it can last 3 more years, a used one of these looks like it might be a good answer.

  • avatar
    HoldenSSVSE

    You can most definitely get the Northstar 4.6L V8 (why you would I don’t know) under the hood of a 2011 Buick Lucerene mated to an ancient 4-speed automatic, so sayeth the Buick website.

    Not defending the Lucerne, had one as a rental in 2006 with the 3.8L L26 197 HP V6.  It is the second worst rental car I ever had in modern times.  Grossly under powered and floating hopelessly soft.  Only a 2008 Ford Taurus I had was worse; I will give the Lucerne this, it was comfortable.

    But you are incorrect that you can’t get a V8 Lucerne.  The 3.9L V6 is a major upgrade from the L26 that use to be under the hood in the base model.  I believe it was the last North American GM product to offer the L26.

    As for the Avalon TV ads for the refresh; some of the worst positioning ever. I believe their target demographic was Pearl Harbor survivors. Yes, the Toyota Avalon, remember when train travel meant sucking in coal soot and was the main way to get around because the Eisenhower Highway System didin’t exist. Remember when flying meant climbing into an unpressurized cabin powered by piston engines and filled with acrid cigarette smoke. Well we sure hope so because that is exactly what riding in the Toyota Avalon is going to remind you of.

    • 0 avatar
      Alex L. Dykes

      Thank you for that correction, I have updates the article accordingly. The rumours of the death of a Northstar V8 in the Lucerne were greatly exaggerated.

    • 0 avatar
      bumpy ii

      Most Pearl Harbor survivors are dead by now. Toyota’s target demographic is their kids.
      The 3.9L V6 in the Lucerne isn’t ancient: it was a more-or-less clean-sheet design back in 2004 or so to eventually replace the 3800.
      As for the Avalon itself, my dad bought one a few years ago to replace an E320 that he got tired of taking to the dealer. As he is fond of saying, it is a Japanese Buick in almost every way, and I imagine he will continue to rack up the highway miles on it until he retires in a few years.

    • 0 avatar
      HoldenSSVSE

      @bumpyii
       
      Confused, I never said the GM 3.9L V6 is “ancient,” I did say the 4-speed auto found in the Lucerne is.

    • 0 avatar
      bumpy ii

      That is in the review.

  • avatar

    Toyota took its US popular Avalon and put it on the Australian market a few years ago  EPIC FAIL. Competition was the Ford Falcon/Holden Commodore both with RWD both with V8 available it never stood a chance. This looks better but its still non handling. When is Toymota and others going to wake up and employ competent suspension engineers?

  • avatar
    zznalg

    The front drive Taurus in top spec is less expensive than the Avalon and quite possibly better equipped. I’m curious how you would compare those two vehicles.

    • 0 avatar

      The Taurus isn’t as roomy, is harder to see out of, and feels much more massive (because it is).
      TrueDelta’s default price comparison selects the SHO to match the power-to-weight ratios as closely as possible:
      http://truedelta.com/comparisons201/Avalon-vs-Taurus-price-comparison.php
      To compare the regular Taurus instead, click the “bodystyle, powertrain” link at the top of the page.

    • 0 avatar
      jj99

      zznalg … Motor Trend was not very kind to the Taurus.  They are not the first.

       
      http://www.motortrend.com/roadtests/sedans/
      1008_2010_ford_taurus_limited_awd_vs_2011_toyota_avalon_limited
      _vs_2010_hyundai_genesis_3_8
      /performance.html

    • 0 avatar
      NulloModo

      The Taurus and the Avalon look similar on paper, but they feel very different from the driver’s seat.  The cabin in the Avalon is airier and the car both feels and is roomier inside.  On the other hand, the Taurus feels more like a premium vehicle from the driver’s seat, and the swooping center console combined with other interior design elements give a sportier cocooned cockpit feel.
       
      The MT review has a major flaw – they put the AWD Taurus against the 2wd models of the Avalon and the Genesis, and then go on to complain about acceleration times and fuel economy.  Of course the AWD version of the Taurus is going to be slower and drink more gas than the FWD model.  I’m not sure why they didn’t take the time to find a FWD Taurus to put all of the cars on a level playing field.
       
      As it stands, I rarely have customers cross shopping the Taurus vs. the Avalon, and those that do, I almost always win over with the Taurus.  The Genesis is a bigger threat, and in the cases of customers shopping the two, I’m only about 50/50.  Having had the chance to spend some more time with Genesises lately due to a couple being traded in, I’m becoming more of a fan of that car, Hyundai really hit one out of the park with it, at least at the price point.  It will be interesting to see how much intra-showroom competition there is between the Genesis and the new Azera coming out.  Hyundai has been on a roll lately, but a lot of that has been from midsize and smaller vehicles.  The big Genesis and Veracruz have gotten plenty of attention from the press, but neither one seems to be selling in big numbers compared to the Sonata, Elantra, Sante Fe, and Tuscon.

    • 0 avatar
      bd2

      Aside from its awkward, somewhat dumpy looks – the Avalon does the whole large, upscale (but not quite luxury) sedan (with a soft, luxo-cruiser ride) thing well.

      While the Taurus and Maxima are in the same segment, they don’t really compete against the Avalon.

      The Impala is an afterthought until GM comes out with the next gen model.

      That only leaves the current Azera as the Avalon’s competitor, but while it is an all-around pretty decent car in its segment (following the same soft, luxo-cruiser path), there is nothing compelling about it that would drive prospective customers to the Azera.

      That may very well change in 2011 with the new Azera.  Aside from much better sheetmetal and interior, Hyundai reportedly made the new Azera a sharper handler while still retaining a compliant ride.

      The Kia  cousin, the Cadenza, will get stiffer suspension settings and go after the sportier end of this segment (Maxima, Taurus).

      Can see the new Azera doing about 3K-3.5K in sales monthly; while still behind that of the Avalon, Maxima and Taurus, it would be a huge improvement over the monthly sales of the current Azera.

      As for sales of the Genesis sedan, it’s doing more than fine being the 3rd best selling RWD, mid-size luxury import sedan after the E Class and 5 Series (and that’s without the benefit of AWD).

  • avatar

    6 ish seconds to 60? On such a large car thats pretty quick!
    I’m curious what the up level audio system consists of.
     
    Is it BOSE, Harmon Kardon or Infinity? Perhaps something else?

  • avatar
    mikey

    “the Avalon might be the best full-size sedan for sale at the moment”. The key word there would be “might”. The Tundra might be a real truck, and be kicking F 150 and Silverado in the a$$, but its not. The Avalon might be a top selling full-size sedan, but its not even in the race.

    • 0 avatar
      HoldenSSVSE

      With the death of Panther; the end of the LHS a few years back. the Lucerene spared the executioner block for one last year, the class of car that the Avalon plays in is getting very narrow.  If GM is to bring a civilian version of the PPV on the longer Zeta Statesman platform (longer than the Commodore) it could be a very strong competitor.

      I think the hand writing is on the wall for the big-back-seat-sort-of-luxury-but-not-really-gray-haired-sled cars and the days are numbered.  Just as I see the Lucerne pointing to Buick’s past, I see the Avalon doing the same for Toyota.

      As Alex pointed out, the Avalon really doesn’t have a competitor.  If this was a new niche vehicle like the Honda Element was once upon a time, and it created a new category, that would be a very good thing.  However the Avalon is a representative relic of a time gone by that isn’t going to return.  It isn’t a matter of if Toyota will kill the Avalon as the years go by; but much more likely when.

  • avatar

    Had one of these myself for a week recently. So I guess there will be a Take Two soon.
    TrueDelta’s reliability stats for the Avalon is unfortunately limited to a partial result for the 2006, which is about average in the latest update but has been better in the past. Could be a matter of the small sample size.
    To help with the survey, with an Avalon or just about any car:
    http://www.truedelta.com/reliability.php

  • avatar
    geo

    I was pretty sure that the Taurus was meant to be direct competition for the Avalon…

  • avatar
    HoldenSSVSE

    @Alex I had a Chrysler LHS Sedan as a rental car for two weeks in 2001.  I loved that sled.  It was a fabulous car for the volume of driving I had to do (Boston to the Canadian border in New Hampshire, Acadia National Park, Springfield, Mass, then out to Cape Cod and finally return to the airport at Boston).

    I found it had very acceptable acceleration, great passing power, a good stereo, super comfortable and acceptable handling.  I would never “buy” one, not my daily drive tastes; but for a huge FWD sled it was a very nice car.

  • avatar
    jj99

    The problem with the Avalon is the Camry is so good that one has a hard time paying a higher price tag.  For example, Motor Trend recently tested all midsize sedans available in the US.  The result?  The Camry was better than any other midsize sedan.  Better than the Accord.  Better than the Altima.  Better than the Hyundai.  Better than the Malibu, and better than the Fusion. While I don’t own a Camry, it is hard to justify the purchase of anything else in the segment.

    Motor Trend also tested the Avalon, and it came in second place, behind the Hyundai, but far ahead of the Ford Taurus.

    That is the problem. Do you pay a bigger price for a second place Avalon, or a lower price for a first place Camry.

    One more item. Before I purchased my Highlander, I test drove an Avalon. I felt it had far too much power. Motor Trend also noted how the Avalon was the quickest of the pack and also got the highest mileage ( against the Hyundai and the Ford ). I would hold out for Toyota to put the 4 cylinder in the Avalon.

    • 0 avatar
      SV

      You know, just because Motor Trend says something doesn’t mean it is so. Their word is opinion, not gospel.

      Car and Driver routinely puts the Accord first in comparos, but it doesn’t mean the Accord is definitively the best car in its class; it just means THEY liked it better.

      And for what it’s worth, I don’t know where you got the impression that the Taurus was “far” behind the Avalon (apart from your anti-Ford bias, which has been pretty blatant for a while now) but MT did state they found the Genesis to be, and I quote, “far and away the superior car” to both the Ford AND the Toyota.

      The best way to determine which vehicle is “superior” – and of course, different cars will be better for different people – is not to outsource your brain to an enthusiast magazine, but to weigh all the sources and then evaluate the cars for yourself, in person. Going by sales figures, the enthusiast magazines aren’t a good arbiter of what’s best for large sedan buyers anyway, as the Maxima, LaCrosse and Taurus have consistently outsold the Genesis and Avalon by a good margin for some time now.

    • 0 avatar
      golden2husky

      I guess it depends on what is most important to you.  Pitting my 09 Altima against my friends 05 Camry, it is no contest.  The Altima offers some fun behind the wheel and a decent level of comfort, while the Camry is comfort, no fun.  I don’t know how significant the changes are in the Camry that’s for sale today, but if even a modicum of spirited driving is part of the equation I can’t see going for the Toyota.  My father really doesn’t like my Altima yet he loves his Avalon.  I appreciate it but the tires squeal in anticipation of a curve.  It really is a Japanese Buick which really is not an insult.

      Regarding a 4 cylinder version, why not is a good question. Many folks who buy comfort cars rather have a couple of more MPGs than the speed. I do know my father would have no problem with a 11 second 0 to 60 time. I’d imagine he is not unique but the auto mags would blast it for being under powered…

    • 0 avatar
      bd2

      MT admitted that they weighed the whole ‘”family” part of the family sedan comparison more heavily – taking into account things like trunk space, rear passenger head/leg room, etc. more so than usual.

      If we are going to base “best in segment” by wins in comparison tests by auto publications, the winner currently would be the Sonata  (tho the early indication is that the new Optima may ultimately trump the Sonata).

      Also, the Camry has come in dead LAST in a no. of comparisons (Edmunds/Inside Line didn’t even bother to include the Camry in their last mainstream, mid-size sedan comparison since they just HATED the Camry).

      And even tho, the Camry beat out the 2011 Sonata in MT’s most recent comparison, one can still get the model that beat out the Camry in MT’s previous comparison test - the 2010 Sonata.

  • avatar
    anchke

    Mr. Thrifty begs to add –

    MPG for the Avalon is rated at 20/29, which compares to the Lexus ES’ 19/27. Far as I can tell, they share the same drive train. On our last extended highway trip, the missus’ 2008 ES350 averaged 32+ mpg at 70 mph over two tanksful. This is good as/better than my own 4 cyl Honda CR-V regularly delivers. For that matter, what does a Mini get? In actual use, I think the Avalon would do better than its EPA rating. And I think it’s fine with the 87 pump.

    I’ve always been fond of stealth cars and can attest that, though image-conscious hipsters may scoff at the Avalon, they probably can’t keep up with it off the entry ramp.

    Finally, to sensible consumers who buy pre-owned cars, it is very possible, with the help of Carfax, to find a well-equipped Avalon, the owners of which drove it to the second home in Florida and back again over a year or three, maintained it properly, and left another 200K in it for the second owner.  In my neck o’ the woods, theses cars are priced approx $8K below a comparable 2nd hand Lexus.

    Finally, finally, an enterprisng Avalon owner will hide a nice bottle of wine in that capacious back seat, drive his missus to some secluded spot, and see if she may be in the mood to test just how much room there is back there. Such important considerations are invariably omitted by the professional testers.

  • avatar
    rtfact32

    I’ve never driven a Taurus or an Avalon, but my parents have owned two Lucernes (an ’07 and a ’10) and while they are old school through and through, I also piled up a lot of miles very quickly taking my mom to Florida in very good comfort. I’ve done that drive in a ’85 Caprice, ’88 Century Wagon, ’95 Contour and an ’01 Focus, admittedly not the anywhere near direct competition…
    Suffices to say, I think the Lucerne is a decent automobile for a decent buck.
     

  • avatar
    zznalg

    While I am no fan of this vehicle segment (my tastes run lighter, smaller and sportier), I can understand the possible attraction. For fans of luxury without sport who either do not want or cannot afford a prestige badge, they make sense. For some of these people, the comparison might not be between the Avalon and the Camry but between the Avalon and the Lexus ES.

    • 0 avatar
      BMWfan

      You are correct sir. We could have bought the ES, but I actually thought it was inferior to the Avalon.  It does have a nicer interior though. Don’t have to worry about the wife getting carjacked in the Avalon either.

  • avatar
    BMWfan

    As the owner of an 05 Avalon limited, (wifes car) I can tell you that those who compare it to the Camry are mistaken. The Avalon is so much better than the Camry. The rear seats are huge, and the car is very quick for it’s size. It may be because ours has loosened up, but I timed a solid 0-60 run at 6 seconds flat. I have embarassed many a stoplight racer with this car. The drawbacks are that the handling leaves a lot to be desired, but a set of Michelin primacy tires to replace the factory rubber improved the handling considerably. The Michelin SRT8 tires that came on the car wore out at 35,000 miles, and could best be described as feeling greasy in the turns. The trunk should also be larger for a car this size. The JBL sound system is fantastic and I would not change a thing about it. The nav system on our car leaves a lot to be desired, although that has been corrected on the 2011 from what I understand. This car is too much of a boat for my taste, but my wife likes it so much that we will be buying a new one in the near future. As mentioned gas mileage has been fantastic, and other than a couple of recalls, the car has been flawless. It is indeed a Lexus at about 15K less. All in all, a great car for what it is.

  • avatar
    ajla

    1. The 3900 is not ancient.  It was introduced in 2006.
     
    2. The 3900 is wonderful. 0-60 times be damned.  Just put the stopwatch away and enjoy the power curve.
     
    3. The Lucerne V6 still isn’t all that good. (GM won’t let you get Magneride on it)

    • 0 avatar
      TG57

      1. The 3900 is a pushrod motor, I don’t care when it was introduced, that isn’t modern technology by any stretch.

      2. The 3900 is not wonderful, in fact, it is rather mediocre for a 6-cylinder. Forget 0-60, it’s just not smooth – at idle there are noticeable vibrations in the steering wheel and seats, and it sounds coarse and gritty under acceleration. Does not compare to a supremely smooth Toyota 3.5 V6, which happens to be far more powerful as well.

      3. I actually quite enjoyed my Lucerne V6 rental car, just not the engine. It rode very comfortably and didn’t feel like a total marshmallow, sound insulation was superb and it is one of the quietest cars I’ve ever driven. Seats were comfy, interior not bad for a GM car. Just needs a different engine (and a couple more gears in the trans).

      4. The Avalon is still a better and more well-rounded car than any version of Lucerne.
       

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      @TG57:
       
      Are you sure your rental Lucerne used the 3900 and not the 3800?  The 3800 definitely gave some idle vibrations and gritty sounds, but the 3900 largely solved those issues.
       
      If you did test drive a 3900-powered Buick, I don’t know what to tell you.  I’ve driven the 3900 in a Relay, G6, Impala, and Lucerne. Each time I liked the engine a lot and never found it coarse/harsh.
       
      On your other points, I don’t really want to waste time getting into the old “OHC versus OHV” internet pissing match.  If you want to, read up on the 3900, it incorporates plenty of modern engine technology.
       
      I don’t consider the 3900 “ancient” simply because it uses pushrods. Do you consider the LS7 or LSA “ancient” as well?  If you do, then that’s your right.  Let’s just agree to disagree.

    • 0 avatar
      TG57

      The car was a 2010 model, and according to wiki the old 3800 hasn’t been used since 2008, so it must have been the 3900.
      I don’t have a problem with pushrod engines necessarily (and I’m not interested in getting in an about what’s “better”), I merely assumed that was why it was so unrefined feeling, as that’s my experience with pushrod engines (mainly the old 3800) vs more “modern” designs like Toyota’s 3.5 DOHC. I just didn’t see the 3900 as that big of an improvement over the 3800.
      Granted, the vibrations were very minor and the grittyness wasn’t too offensive sounding. It wasn’t a terrible engine, I’ve just come to expect better from a V6. Toyota’s current 3.5 and even the older 3.3 and 3.0 are absolutely superb – zero vibrations whatsoever, almost completely silent (and the noises it does make are quite refined), much more powerful than the Buick motor.
      Refinement and noises are very subjective, and that’s just my opinion. In its defense, I’m sure the 4-speed transmission did not help my impression – that is one feature that badly needs to be updated.

    • 0 avatar
      geozinger

      Like ajla, I have driven the 3.5/3.9 60 degree V6 in a number of different vehicles, and have always found it to be a smooth, powerful and flexible motor. We had one in our Malibu Maxx, and over the 39,000 miles we had that car, no issues whatsoever. When the OEM tires wore out, it was very easy to spin the front tires (until traction control took over) with the amount of torque the motor puts out.
       
      However, I would agree that the 4 speed auto tranny, always seemed a step out of time with the motor. It really needed a fifth gear, especially for lower speed expressways. It always stayed in the highest gear and when downshifting, the gear spacing always felt too low or too high for comfort.

    • 0 avatar
      potatobreath

      I guess the GM 3.5 and 3.9 sound a bit raucous when I put my foot down compared to a Toyota DOHC V6, but I simply don’t rev the Impala. There’s rarely a need to with the torque.
      When’s W-body appreciation week? :)

  • avatar
    SV

    The Avalon’s not particularly pleasing to look at, but I’m sure it’s a good car. The rear seat measurements are just absurd.

    Still, as far as large sedans go, I think I’d rather have a Genesis, or even a Taurus. The former is just superior all around, and while the Taurus has packaging and weight issues, its vastly superior styling inside and out and likely better driving dynamics (if reviews are to be believed, and if it drives similarly to the ’08 Sable which I have experience with) more than compensate. I’m also rather fond of the Nissan Maxima.

  • avatar
    jeanpierresarti

    Hello everybody, my name is Jean Pierre and I’m here to come to terms with the fact that I am an Avalon fan. I can not deny it any longer. It is who I am and I have made peace with myself about it…thank you…can someone give me a hug now?

  • avatar
    rpol35

    I didn’t know it was still made. I guess that says a lot with saying very little.

  • avatar
    Felis Concolor

    I’m getting a definite Fujitsu-Ten vibe from the information display – but a 90s era Fujitsu-Ten. I do prefer the look of Ford’s information displays now, but I’m also aware of how fickle style can be and how quickly the new hot thing becomes a fashion faux pas. Both are preferable to the hideous EL dot matrix era displays, which stank from day one.

    Oh my goodness, the dashboard clock is the same unchanged unit found in Toyotas of all types since the early 90s – and possibly even earlier. Can anyone provide a definite start date for that particular item? I’m impressed at how long it’s remained in use.

    • 0 avatar
      TG57

      That clock was in my dad’s 1985 Camry, so they’ve had it for close to three decades now.

    • 0 avatar
      xyzzy

      I had that clock in my first new car, a 1987 Corolla FX-16.  So if I bought one of these I could have a new luxobarge with nostalgia for my first car, which was a hot hatch.  Perfect for the 40something car loving dude.

    • 0 avatar
      Felis Concolor

      Thanks for the dates; it’s nice to see something as timeless as a timepiece work as well now as it did 3 decades ago. Definitely one for the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” files.

  • avatar
    N8iveVA

    I find few cars that are more boring than a Camry, and this is one of them.  I mean it is nice, but it’s forgetable. 

  • avatar
    Windshield

    This is similiar to a CADILLAC STS.  However,its cheaper and a better car.  This is an example of Toyota doing Toyota right.

  • avatar
    krhodes1

    I had an Avalon as a rental in FL last year – I had two 6’6″+ friends to cart around on the trip. It was the best Buick Buick never made. Absolutely no handling ability, WAY more power than it had grip for. But tons of room and a decent stereo. If I had to cover huge distances in the square states, I wouldn’t mind one. Would certainly pick it over some Panther-saur. A better couch on wheels than Detroit ever made.

  • avatar

    Looks absolutely boring.  At its best, it could only hope to be a stripped down LS460.

    • 0 avatar
      SherbornSean

      You raise a good point.  Would the Avalon be seen as more credible if it were a stripped down LS460, rather than a stretched Camry?  Switching to RWD would build some volume on that platform.
      I wonder how much more expensive RWD is to manufacture than FWD.  Can’t be more than a few hundred bucks.  Using that logic, why isn’t the Maxima a stripped down M35, rather than an oddly styled Altima?  And why isn’ t the Crosstour a stripped version of that RWD V8 Acura whose name escapes me for some reason…

    • 0 avatar
      Educator(of teachers)Dan

      There is no Acura V8 or RWD Acura (there is an AWD Acura but the default is FWD.)  [Minor point]
       
      A stripped LS as Avalon would be like what GM used to do taking Buicks and Oldsmobiles and stripping them down to sell as Pontaics and Chevys.  A stripped Avalon from LS DNA would be akin to GM in 1968 deciding to de-content a Coupe De Ville and sell it as a Buick or the top of the line Chevy.
       
      And the switch from RWD to FWD is much harder than you think unless the platform has been designed like that from the get go.  Nissan derives it’s platform sharing costs savings from being able to share with Renault and spread out the costs world wide.

      • 0 avatar
        MrRams27

        I’m pretty sure SherbornSean was being sarcastic with his Acura statement. He is like many of the other car followers that believes Acura needs a V8 engine like yesterday, and that their flagship sedan should be RWD instead of a heavily reworked Honda Accord. The whole FWD/RWD debate is pretty pointless. Each configuration has its merits and its flaws. Besides only a small percentage of drivers can really tell the difference by just driving the vehicle. Although you tend to get torque steer in FWD biased cars, my 2003 Yukon XL Denali has something that resembles torque steer, so its not impossible in a RWD vehicle.

  • avatar
    jmo

    The Avalon doesn’t compete with the Lacrosse?  Why all the talk of the Lucerne?
     
    Is the Avalon just that much bigger than a Lacrosse?

  • avatar
    bumpy ii

    Yes. Wider inside, particularly.

  • avatar

    I have had company iron for 37 years, from a 73 Impala to a 2006 S80 Volvo and a lot of forgettable cars in between, and for the past four years, the ride has been a base trim 07  XL Avalon.
    Without a doubt, for high mileage (both the car and me) driver, it is the best I have ever experienced.
    At 126K miles, it is comfortable, quiet, rattle free, and sustains 28 MPG. It is roomy, has a good sound system with both CD and cassette, and the trunk holds my golf gear.
    Yes it is the vanilla of cars, does nothing outstanding, nor does it do anything badly. I test drove a Taurus as my company says it is time for a new car. I don’t like the low seating and the rear styling of the Ford, although the seat was comfortable. Rear visibility was poor too.
    A Hyundai Genesis was also examined and I liked it enough, although the ride was choppy. Living up North I inquired about four Blizzaks for the RWD Genesis and that addded over a grand and involved the seasonal switch/storage pain. The Salesman thought it handled great for a RWD car, I guess that is why I viewed putting the battery under the trunk as an engineering gimmick/afterthought in the Korean car.
    So I await delivery of the new base model 2011 the company ordered for me looking forward to many bland, trouble-free miles until retirement in the Avalon. Hey it beats the hell out of the Cown Vic/Grand Marquis’ I had in the 80′s and 90′s.

  • avatar
    spyked

    $35k is a lot of money for a Toyota.  For the same or less you could get a new-generation Saab 9-5.  Not only gorgeous, but large, comfortable, and safe.  Of course Saab won’t advertise the damn thing on a national level so no one knows its exists. 

    I too enjoy a soft highway car when it’s the right tool for the job, its just that in the Avalon’s case, it’s so hard to look at.  In that class, the Taurus is the winner, IMO.  Drives well, cheap in price but not in materials or execution, and looks like a $50k car. 

  • avatar
    jerseydevil

    As for the Northstar and its 4 cog transmission, the dts i used for work was magnificent.  I knew of course that it had 4 gears, but i never felt them… i could not have cared less what the gear box was doing.   I was much more interested in tuning the bose, adjustung the seats,  playing with the seat temp and lumbar control, etc. The engine was silent – like everything else – unless u nail it, then a wonderful growl percolated into the cabin.  Different from my Golf 5 speed! 

    I was never interested in the Avalon, it strikes me as bland.  Ha, I never thought I would be such a fan of large front drive caddys either, go figure.  I would prob like the Avalon alot.

  • avatar
    Carlson Fan

    I rented the previous generation Avalon for a week one time and really liked it. I found some of the interior bits to be cheap and flimsy. Still it was nice to drive, smoooth and had plenty of power.  The big plus was you could get 3 kids car seats in the back.  

  • avatar
    kr900

    Wow Alex, that’s a lot of love for the Avalon. Is that why your V70R is for sale… to be replaced by one of these?

    A well written review- clearly you bonded with the Avalon. I just didn’t bond with it when I reviewed one earlier this year.

  • avatar
    Bridge2farr

    Should re-name it Toyota Anethesia

  • avatar
    ponchoman49

    I think your confusing the Lucernes 0-60 times. The current Lucerne Super uses the HO 292 HP Northstar with performance 3.71:1 gears compared to the earlier 2006-2008 version which used the base 275 HP engine and 3.11 gears. The 7.7 second 0-60 times are what I have acheived for the 3900 V6 and sometimes even better than that on a cool dense day. Most rags of the day usually got 6.9 seconds with the base 275 HP Northstar. The current 292 HP mill has timed out at 6.4 seconds by my G-tec so it isn’t all that far off the Avalon in that respect. More HP and torque should easily overcome the weight and tranny gear limitations somewhat. The biggest issues I have with the Avalon are it’s small 14.4 cu. ft. trunk, lack of split folding rear seats(the Lucerne also lacks this with but a access hole) the bland exterior styling that still looks much the same as when it was introduced way back in 2005, the crappy fake woodgrain and the cheesy light tan interior. Otherwise it is a fairly good if pricey example of a full size substitute for what Buick used to make very well as the current mid size LaCrosse really isn’t fit for flagship status.

  • avatar
    silverkris

    I too have a soft spot for the Avalon.  I drove a couple of them as rentals (the 2nd gen 2004 model and the 2008 current one).  The engine is pretty lively – has some oomph to it, surprisingly.  Of course it’s really roomy, quiet and has a very comfy ride though it’s no performance sedan.    Cavernous rear passenger compartment in particular. 

    The only deal breaker for me is that it’s got no folding rear seats, and that the trunk space isn’t all that large for cars of its class.  

  • avatar

    The low end power of the Northstar in a Lucerne makes it a drastically better option even if the max power isn’t much higher.   Absolutely no competition between an Avalon v6 and a Northstar. But the Northstar is no longer available, in any car.

    And while the 3.9L liter isn’t exactly ancient, it doesn’t have as much power as something 2008 and newer should either.
    On the plus side, the 3.8L wasn’t exaclty massively underpowered, but wasn’t much about performance.  The one thing I’ll say it definitely had going for it was fantastic gas mileage.  I had a Lesabre and I’d get just under 40mpg on the highway, no lie!  But, the car should take just under 8 seconds to 60 with a 3.8L and a little better with a 3.9L too.
     
    Better off looking for a Lacrosse, or something nicer and more money efficient if you ask me.  35k is a lot for an entry-level full-size car.


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