The Truth About Cars » Avalon http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Mon, 20 Oct 2014 16:05:48 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.0 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » Avalon http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com Bark’s Bites: Flying “Avalon Class”? Chances Are You’re Pre-Boarding Due To Age And/Or Infirmity http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/08/barks-bites-flying-avalon-class-chances-are-youre-pre-boarding-due-to-age-andor-infirmity/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/08/barks-bites-flying-avalon-class-chances-are-youre-pre-boarding-due-to-age-andor-infirmity/#comments Mon, 05 Aug 2013 13:00:05 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=498094 Atlanta can be somewhat of a rental car wasteland. Less than two years ago, the lots were still primarily populated by a sea of dingy Mercury Grand Marquises. (Yeah, yeah, Panther Love, whatever.) Nowadays, the unhappy renter-to-be is usually confronted by seemingly endless rows of 2.5S Altimas and Jeep Compasses. Shudder. So it was with […]

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2013av

Atlanta can be somewhat of a rental car wasteland. Less than two years ago, the lots were still primarily populated by a sea of dingy Mercury Grand Marquises. (Yeah, yeah, Panther Love, whatever.) Nowadays, the unhappy renter-to-be is usually confronted by seemingly endless rows of 2.5S Altimas and Jeep Compasses. Shudder. So it was with this expectation that I entered the ATL garage again, and I was not disappointed — zero-option Altimas as far as the eye could see, with a Silverado pickup mixed in here and there. A fellow business traveler walked up to the rental car company rep as I was surveying the landscape and moaned, “Is this really all you have?”

While he was complaining, I was hunting. Obscured by the hulking mass of a Silvy was a brand-spanking new, moderately-redesigned-for-2013, black Toyota Avalon — in XLE spec, no less! I damn near RAN over to it, opened the door, and jumped inside before Mr. Complainer knew what hit him.

“Not bad,” I said to myself as I surveyed the psuedo-leather and plasti-wood of the dash. The seats seemed comfortable, if not terribly supportive. The large screen of the infotainment system was impressive (for now, anyway). Plenty of room in the back seat for whatever (or whomever). I tossed my Tumi carry-on in the back, plugged my phone in via the USB jack, and push-button started my way out of the garage.

That’s roughly where my enjoyment of the car ended.

Let’s start with the infotainment system. It was awful. It was neither feature-rich enough to be interesting nor simple enough to be useful. Bark’s rule of car stereo systems goes like this-if I have to read a manual to use it, I’m already over it like Katherine McPhee. There was a bizarre coupling of touchscreen-only functions and dedicated “real” controls, none of which did what you think they would. Some of the trip computer information appeared here, and some of it appeared in the instrument cluster, with no rhyme or reason as to why. Bluetooth pairing was relatively painless, which was good because the car refused to recognize that anything was plugged into the USB port, despite the fact that my phone was receiving a charge from said port.

Audio quality ranged from “Poor” to “Lousy” on the Karaoke Revolution grading scale. Turning up the bass (which requires a degree in electrical engineering, a solid evening in the company of the owners’ manual, or a willingness to press ALL the buttons in EVERY possible order) had no effect whatsoever on the Avalon’s ability to thump out Party Rock. Luckily, this also meant that no apologies would be required.

Next up on my list of annoyances-the lumbar support system. One four-direction button that controlled upper and lower back lumbar support. I never did get this one right. I think one button released all the air from all three areas at once and the other three pushed air into them one at a time. This made for an infuriating experience-if I got one of the three just a little bit wrong, I had to start all over again (#firstworldproblems). Eventually, I just decided to deflate the entire seat and go without.

Visibility from the driver’s seat of an Avalon can be described as “Camaro-like.” The windshield has a very steep and un-Toyota-like slope, which meant that there was a very narrow seat height sweet spot where I could see over the steering wheel without brushing my head on the ceiling. I’m 5’9″, which has to be within the average height of Avalon “intenders”, so this amounts to sloppy engineering.

There was, however, one thing about the Avalon that I absolutely loved. Some rather bizarre circumstances that would seem more appropriate to be related in the “Sunday Not Entirely Fiction Stories” section of this website meant that I was going to have to put a LOT of miles on the Toyota. As I racked up mile after mile on the odometer, the gas needle just never seemed to move. When I made my first stop after one hundred eighty miles, I needed less than five gallons. Apparently, the Avalon had been not-quite-party-rocking along the highway at eighty miles per hour to the tune of about thirty-five miles a gallon, even better than the EPA highway estimate of 31 MPG. In fact, after I actually figured out how the trip computer worked, I was able to surmise at the end of the trip I had averaged 32.2 MPG of blended driving over three days. Big mileage numbers for a big car like this, no matter how you look at it.

The driving experience of this car can best be described as numb. Road noise is at a minimum, feedback through the pedals is vague at best, lateral grip is underwhelming and pushy. While it’s perfect for, say, a seven-hour cruise control drive down I-95 that starts at 0100 hours, it’s not going to light anybody on fire when compared to several of the other options at this price point, such as a Dodge Charger R/T.

Which leads one to ask: what exactly is the Toyota Avalon, and who on Earth is supposed to buy it? It’s part of that no-man’s land of “not-quite-flagship FWD sedans,” like the Buick LaCrosse, Hyundai Azera, Chevy Impala…I’m sorry, I fell asleep there for a second. It has a 268 HP, 3.5 liter V6 with a manufacturer’s stated 0-60 time of 6.1 seconds, which is considerably faster than a lot of performance cars (like Toyota’s own FR-S), but it certainly doesn’t feel anywhere near that quick behind the wheel. In rental-car trim, it stickers out at $31,800, but can be optioned up for press-tester Limited trim at $42K plus, dangerously close to cars that are much, much more interesting (Super Bee, anyone?). The Avalon has long had a reputation as being this retiree generation’s Buick-safe, reliable, and completely boring. I’m sorry to say that, despite much improved sales numbers, this Avalon won’t do much to change that impression.

When I dropped the Avalon off at the rental car garage, I felt much like Pierce Brosnan’s version of James Bond in The World is Not Enough did when he placed his PPK against Renard’s bullet-scarred head — in other words, I felt nothing. No anger at the car, no joy in having experienced it, no remorse in having to leave it behind. If that’s how you’d like to feel about making a $500+ car payment every month, the 2013 Toyota Avalon is for you. If you’d like to feel something, go another direction.

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Review: 2013 Toyota Avalon Limited (Video) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/04/review-2013-toyota-avalon-limited-video/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/04/review-2013-toyota-avalon-limited-video/#comments Mon, 22 Apr 2013 18:00:05 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=484895 The Avalon has been something of a caricature since it wafted on stage in 1994. The stretched Camry was low on soul, devoid of style and soft of spring. In short, it was the Buick that wouldn’t leave you stranded. Since then Toyota has struggled to divine a mission for their full size sedan, a […]

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The Avalon has been something of a caricature since it wafted on stage in 1994. The stretched Camry was low on soul, devoid of style and soft of spring. In short, it was the Buick that wouldn’t leave you stranded. Since then Toyota has struggled to divine a mission for their full size sedan, a problem complicated by the re-invigoration of the large sedan market by the American brands. In hopes of resurrecting sales numbers, which have slid to 25% of their 2000 year shipments, Toyota has injected something hitherto unseen in an Avalon: style. Is it enough?

Click here to view the embedded video.

Before we dive into the Avalon, let’s talk competition. Back when the LHS and Park Avenue roamed the land, the Avalon’s competition was easy to identify and easy to overcome. Nearly 20 years later those shoppers are in a nursing home and Toyota is hunting for younger flesh in a more competitive market. We now have the larger-than-ever Taurus, a new Impala that doesn’t make me want to put my eyes out, the Azera/Cadenza twins, Nissan’s Maxima and the less-Bentley aping 300.

But wait, I’m forgetting one. The “elephant in the room” that is the Lexus ES. You see, the kind of shopper that needs a new car and immediately thinks “Toyota Avalon” is far more likely to cross shop the Lexus ES than the gangsta 300 or the Impala. (You know I’m right.) After spending a a week with the twins back-to-back, this comparison is even more valid.

Exterior

While the “I’m a bigger Camry” look is still going on, Toyota has injected enough creases and curves that my 33 year old eyes gave the Avalon a second look (of course, I did buy a 2000 LHS new in 2000, so…) It’s not as exciting as the new Cadenza, but Toyota’s efforts look better thought out than the 11/10ths Cruze grille Chevy put on the Impala.

The new rump features more chrome, dual exhaust tips and tail lamps that wrap well around the side and thankfully share no styling cues with the Camry’s funky “apostrophe” shaped lights. The engineers stretched the greenhouse over the trunk to increase the visual length of the car, a trick that worked on me until I looked at the spec sheet. At 195 inches, the Avalon is 6-inches longer than the Camry, but it’s several inches shorter than the Chrysler, Chevy and Ford. Since the ES and Avalon are now twins separated at birth, most of the dimensions are common except that the Avalon gets a bigger booty (and more trunk space in the process) and has a lower ride height giving it a more aggressive stance.

Interior

The exterior looks like a Toyota product. No news there. Inside is a different ball of wax. The interior is why you may have heard people saying they prefer the Avalon to its Lexus sister. If you recall from our review of the Lexus ES 300h, there were plenty of hard plastics within reach of the driver, and instead of a leather dash (like the 300 wears) or stitched pleather goodness like the competition is wearing, the ES stuck with an injection molded dashboard “faux-stitched” with real thread. In an unexpected contrast, the Avalon’s interior has a more premium feel, thanks largely to heavy use of (you guessed it) stitched pleather. The faux-cow in the Avalon may not be hand-sewn (Toyota is mum on the subject) but its liberal use on the doors, dashboard and center console beat every competitor (except for that Chrysler with the leather dashboard option.)

My lunch group was divided about the styling, some feeling that Toyota had gone too far and the rest thinking it was a bold choice for Toyota. I fell into the latter camp. Yes, there’s an enormous driver’s window defogger vent (in the picture above), but I appreciate the fact that a styling direction was chosen rather than just repeating the same “beige” the Avalon has been known for. That a group of adults in their 30s were arguing the merits of an Avalon interior is nothing short of revolutionary.

Compared to the Avalon’s Lexus sister, the interior has a more expansive and harmonious feel despite the heavily styled parts. I think I chalk some of this up to the tan-on-black color scheme our tester sported, but plenty of it has to do with dashboard shapes. Lexus’ two-tier dashboard and the “high and centered” position of the infotainment screen make the dashboard feel more imposing than the Avalon’s sweeping forms and less “bulky” dashboard on the passenger’s side.

The front seats are functionally identical to those in the ES with the exception that the number of power-motions varies by the trim level. The thrones are thickly padded and comfortable for long journeys but larger shoppers should know that they are more “bucket” shaped than previous models. Taller drivers and passengers will appreciate the largest cabin Toyota has ever built, including the LS 600hL. With 42.1 inches of legroom up front, 39.2 in the rear, and class leading headroom, the Avalon swallows those tall kids of yours more easily than any front driver this side of the Cadillac XTS. How does Toyota do this with a shorter sedan? They “skimp” on trunk space. Our tester’s 16 cubic foot trunk is nearly 25% smaller than the Taurus and 18% smaller than the Impala.

Infotainment & Gadgets

The Avalon comes in four trim levels, three of which have no available options for the picking. Things start with the $30,990 XLE which comes well equipped with 8 speakers, a touchscreen audio system, Bluetooth integration, dual-zone climate control, keyless go, and a heated 8-way power seat for the driver. The $33,195 XLE Premium tosses in a moonroof, backup cam, an extra speaker, and an auto-dimming rear-view mirror. For $35,500 the XLE Touring adds navigation, shift paddles, driver’s seat memory, fog lights, 18-inch wheels with 225-width rubber, and Toyota’s Entune data services. Our tester was the top-of-the-line Limited which starts at $39,650 and gets auto-dimming side mirrors with puddle lamps, HID headlamps, 11 JBL speakers, rain sense wipers, three-zone climate control, heated rear seats, ambient lighting, a color HVAC control panel, and a passenger seat with eight powered directions instead of four. Limited buyers can further option their car with two technology packages, for $1,750 you get radar cruise control with pre-collision warning and automatic high beams and for an extra $200 Toyota will integrate a wireless charging mat into the console.

On the infotainment side it is important to remember that Toyota makes two different systems that share nothing with one another. The picture above is the 7-inch system in our Limited tester and the picture below is the 6.1 inch “display audio” system in lesser Avalons. The 6.1 system has more basic graphics but is more responsive and is designed around an “app” model where things like navigation (available only on the Touring trim) are just another “app” available via the “apps” button on the dash. The 7-inch system uses XM Satellite data services while the 6.1 uses your paired smartphone for dynamic content. The 6.1 provides a fairly basic navigation experience, but it is easy to use and very responsive. The 7-inch system (only on Limited) is the familiar Toyota/Lexus system that’s been around for several years that has been updated with Entune data services, smartphone app integration and voice commands for controlling your media device ala Ford’s SYNC. This is the same software used in the Lexus, except without the atrocious “Remote Touch” joystick.

Going back to the ES comparison, since the Limited model uses essentially the same system, driving the ES and Avalon back to back served to solidify my dislike of the Lexus pain stick. The exact same interface is considerably easier to use, less distracting and more intuitive when you can glance at the screen and stab the option with your finger.

Drivetrain

The 3.5L V6 is buttery-smooth, but churns out a less-than-thrilling 268 HP and 248 lb-ft of twist. For reasons I don’t understand, Toyota has yet to fit their D4-S direct-injection system which would make it more competitive on paper (the competition are all around 290 HP). (Ford of course still offers the insane 365HP twin-turbo V6.) Proving that horsepower isn’t everything, the Avalon’s light 3,461lbs curb weight allows it to scoot to 60 in 6.25 seconds, among the fastest in the group behind the 365 HP Taurus SHO and the 290 HP Maxima (thank the Nissan CVT). While we haven’t been able to get our hands on the new Impala, expect it to be fairly quick thanks to its low curb weight as well. Meanwhile the 300 V6, LaCrosse, Azera, MKS and plenty of others will be seen in the Avalon’s rear view mirror.

The only major change for 2013 is the fitting of paddle shifters to the 6-speed automatic transaxle in Touring and Limited trims. With the paddles comes revised software that blips the throttle on downshifts. Don’t get too excited, since this cog swapper is just as up-shift-happy and down-shift-resistant as it was before.

For $2,360 on XLE Premium and $1,750 on Touring and Limited you can opt for Toyota’s 200 HP hybrid system. This is the same setup under the hood of the Camry and ES 300h and increases the Avalon’s MPGs from 21/31/25 (City/Highway/Combined) to 40/39/40 resulting an a savings of $900 per year at $4 a gallon. The trade off is the loss of one full second on the run to 60, well worth the cost in my book.

Drive

For 2013 the Avalon has ditched the wallowy ride synonymous with the model in favor of stiffer springs and a more buttoned down demeanor. Thanks to the new found corner carving skills and a curb weight that is 600lbs lighter than the Taurus, the Avalon is more engaging, composed and nimble than the heavy Ford. Notice I didn’t say “handles better.” The reason the Taurus clings onto first place in our road holding test is down to rubber, seriously wide 255/45R19 rubber (Taurus Limited.)

The Hyundai Azera and its Kia cousin are well-priced alternatives. While the Avalon beats them handily in terms of interior refinement, the Koreans have plenty of power (293 HP) and coupled with a curb weight that’s only 150-200 lbs more than the Avalon they are quicker off the line. Thanks to more aggressive rubber and excellent suspension dynamics the pair is also faster around a track. Of course, shoppers in this segment don’t really care about handling limits and that’s a problem for the dynamic duo because their refinement quotient is still a notch below the new Avalon.

Nissan’s Maxima is fairly light at 3,565lbs and has one of the more powerful engines at 290 HP and 261 lb-ft of twist. Thanks to the low starting ratio and step-less nature of the Nissan CVT, the Maxima burns rubber on its way to the best 0-60 time in this bunch of 5.6 seconds. Of course I can’t talk Nissan without admitting that the CVT isn’t the “sporting” choice because of the “rubber-band” like feel they impart but I don’t think its much of a problem in this segment. On the down side, the Maxima is starting to show its age in a stable of products shifting to a new design language.

The Chrysler 300 is the odd man out. I’m including it because some of our readers would have complained if it had been left out. The problem is the 300 appeals to an entirely different sort of person, both because of its aggressive looks and its RWD drivetrain. Still, the 300 V6 would be my personal choice in this shootout, but I have to acknowledge that a bold RWD American sedan isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. Chrysler’s smooth 292 HP V6 and the slick ZF 8-speed automatic are no match for the 300’s higher curb weight making the 300 slower to 60 by nearly a full second. Although I prefer the RWD dynamics of the 300, the heavier curb weight means the Avalon is the nimbler choice. On the flip side, the 300 Luxury Series (the most appropriate cross shop) has a gorgeous full-leather dash and the ride of a full-sized luxury sedan.

That brings us full circle to the elephant in the room: the 2013 Lexus ES. Our Avalon Limited tester has so far knocked the ES to its knees by delivering a better interior, nearly identical feature content, and an easier to use infotainment system. Of course, siblings fight dirty and the Avalon kicks her sister while she’s down by handling better thanks to stiffer springs and wider rubber. When you factor in the Avalon’s lower sticker price and the reality that the Avalon and ES are likely to be as reliable as one another and cost essentially the same to maintain, you have to ask yourself how much that Lexus logo is worth to you. Even outside the direct Toyota vs Lexus comparison the Avalon is highly competitive with an excellent interior, plenty of power, huge back seat and a price tag that isn’t as frightening as the “luxury” alternatives. I never thought I would say this about the Avalon: it’s the aggressive sister that knocks down her stuck-up twin and steals the boyfriend by promising to be a cheaper date. Since I like my women cheap and feisty, I’d take the Avalon up on her offer and only think about the ES once a year at family reunions.

 

Hit it

  • The best interior with a Toyota badge.
  • Never thought I would call an Avalon “nimble.”
  • “Better” than the Lexus for less.

Quit it

  • No ability to add navigation to the base display audio system.
  • 268 HP is nothing to brag about in 2013.
  • Smaller trunk than the competition.

 

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

Specifications as tested

0-30: 2.55 Seconds

0-60: 6.25 Seconds

1/4 Mile: 14.51 Seconds @ 98.8 MPH

Average Fuel Economy: 23.2 MPG over 534 Miles

2013 Toyota Avalon Limited, Exterior, Rear 3/4 View, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota Avalon Limited, Exterior, Side, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota Avalon Limited, Exterior, Front 3/4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota Avalon Limited, Exterior, Wheels, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota Avalon Limited, Exterior, Daytime Running Lamps, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota Avalon Limited, Headlamps, Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota Avalon Limited, Exterior, Front, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota Avalon Limited, Exterior, Front, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota Avalon Limited, Exterior, Front Overhang, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota Avalon Limited, Exterior, Rear, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota Avalon Limited, Exterior, Rear, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota Avalon Limited, Exterior, Avalon badge, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota Avalon Limited, Exterior, Rear, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota Avalon Limited, Exterior, Rear 3/4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota Avalon Limited, Interior, Trunk, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota Avalon Limited, Interior, Dashboard, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota Avalon Limited, Gauges, Interior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota Avalon Limited, Interior, Rear Climate Control, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota Avalon Limited, Interior, Rear HVAC, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota Avalon Limited, Interior, Door Stitching, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota Avalon Limited, Interior, Passenger Dashboard, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota Avalon Limited, Interior, Front Door, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota Avalon Limited, Interior, Steering Wheel Buttons, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota Avalon Limited, Interior, Steering Wheel, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota Avalon Limited, Interior, Heated and Cooled Seat Controls, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota Avalon Limited, Interior, Memory Buttons, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota Avalon Limited, Interior, Rear Seats, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota Avalon Limited, Interior, Premium Navigation, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota Avalon Limited, Interior, Premium Navigation, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota Avalon Limited, Interior, Premium Navigation, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota Avalon Limited, Interior, Premium Navigation, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota Avalon Limited, Interior, Premium Navigation, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota Avalon Limited, Interior, Premium Navigation, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota Avalon Limited, Interior, Premium Navigation, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota Avalon Limited, Interior, Infotainment and navigation, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota Avalon Limited, Interior, HVAC Controls, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota Avalon Limited, Interior, HVAC Controls, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota Avalon Limited, Interior, Infotainment Controls, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota Avalon Limited, Interior, Infotainment Controls, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota Avalon Limited, Interior, Driver's Window Defigger Vent, Dashboard, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota Avalon Limited, Engine, 3.5L V6, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota Avalon Limited, Engine, 3.5L V6, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Toyota Avalon Display Audio System with Entune and Navigation, Picture Courtesy of Toyota 2013 Toyota Avalon Limited, Exterior, Front, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail

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New Or Used? : What Isn’t Better Than A Panther Edition http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/04/new-or-used-what-isnt-better-than-a-panther-edition/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/04/new-or-used-what-isnt-better-than-a-panther-edition/#comments Fri, 12 Apr 2013 12:00:42 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=484419 TJ writes: Hey Sajeev and Steve, Need your assistance for a fellow panther lover (my aunt) who is going to be looking for a new ride this fall. She currently has a Mercury Grand Marquis (her second or third) and loves the car and would replace it with another in a heartbeat if they were […]

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TJ writes:

Hey Sajeev and Steve,

Need your assistance for a fellow panther lover (my aunt) who is going to be looking for a new ride this fall.

She currently has a Mercury Grand Marquis (her second or third) and loves the car and would replace it with another in a heartbeat if they were still for sale.  If you’re asking why she’s getting rid of it, there isn’t any particular reason.

My aunt always replaces her cars ever 3-5 years (so B&B please no exhortations to keep the car, that was my original advice and it isn’t happening) and this one is coming up on it’s expiration date.  A word about my mother’s family so you realize how committed they are to this sort of car: My mom is one of 4 sisters, and between them, they’ve owned (at least) 2 Cadillac Devilles, 2 Eldorados, the aforementioned MGMs, a Buick Lesabre or Park Ave, and a Lincoln Town Car.  You get the idea.  They like them big, floaty, with a cavernous trunk, and preferably with a leather couch or recliner in the front.

I’m gonna try to take her to the Miami auto show this fall so she can see sample all her options at once, but wanted to see if you had any guidance.  Of the new cars that will be on offer, what is the next best thing to her beloved Panther?  My aunt realizes most people have migrated to SUVs/CUVs, but she says they won’t work because she finds them too difficult to climb in and out of (she’s 65 and barely over 5′ tall).

My first two suggestions were shot down, which were a Chrysler 300 (does’t like the styling) and a Chrysler Town and Country (doesn’t want a minivan).  I still hope that maybe sitting in the 300, or seeing the versatility of the T&C may change her mind (she has two still growing grandkids).  The next best option I could think of was the Ford Flex, with the Taurus being a distant 4th.  Any other suggestions?

I’ll have her look at the LaCrosse, Genesis, Azera, Avalon, and ES350, but I’m concerned they will be too small and/or not cushy enough, and the Cadillac XTS may be too pricey and not torquey enough.  While she is a 65 year old Grandmother, after 20 years of Ford 4.6 and GM 3800 ownership, she’s also used to lazy, effortless low end grunt helping her force her way through South Florida’s insane traffic, and I know the XTS has been hit hard in reviews for its combination of a peaky engine, high curb weight, and tall gearing.  Have I missed any other worthwhile options?  Thanks for your help.

Steve Says:

Every model you mentioned from the Lacrosse to the ES350 offers more overall interior space than the ol’ Grand. Though they all fall short of the Panther when it comes to the, “Why the hell would anyone buy a new one?” factor.

As for the ride, the Hyundai models ride a bit more taut than the others. So scratch those two.

The LaCrosse would be a good blue plate special car for her given her apparent apathy for quality interior components. But I would check to see if the interior design agrees with her first.

The ES350 is wonderful, but steep. If your Aunt has a liking for large Marge levels of interior space and a floaty ride, I would strike a deal for the outgoing prior gen Avalon. It also has a cost contained interior that is thankfully two clicks above the last Grand Marquis redesign, and you may be able to cut her a good deal.

Then again, the Shoney’s capital of the world may not offer much in the ways of discounts for a Camry-esque product.

I understand your kvetching about this expenditure. My own mom has that same Floridian ailment that is replacing a perfectly good car for no other reason than the changing of the tides. Every ten years I buy her a new Camry. Why? Beats me. However the depreciation works out to only about $150 a month. For what works out to $5 a day, I can deal with it.

I would focus on helping her with the selling of her car and the negotiation process, if she desires your help, and start with having her rent a Buick LaCrosse for the day. You may be able to find an Avalon for rent as well. This is Florida after all. Give her a couple days to make the decision, and remember to be a mensch when she picks that aqua blue model with the glossy white vinyl roof.

Sajeev Says:

I’m glad to hear she doesn’t like the 300: not because it’s a horrible vehicle, but because it doesn’t personify the values present in Panther Love.  Those proper American Sedans doing their job since the 1950s. That’s history, and that’s okay.  Now she needs to learn to compromise…somewhere.

Aside from a CPO Mercedes with some sort of thumpin’ V8 under the hood, there’s nothing in play that’s torquey enough to be a contender in the motor and styling department.  Make sure she test drives all the cars mentioned above, but there are two machines for me in this situation: the Toyota Avalon and the Camry LE. Yup, the LE.

Granted, I haven’t driven a new Camry yet, and I didn’t like the previous model (because we still had Panthers back then) but this is probably the best machine for a numb, floaty, and isolating cabin.  The Avalon? Perhaps better, but maybe not enough to justify the price.

I once grudgingly admitted that my last trip through NY, NJ and PA was far more pleasant because the (last gen) Camry LE (with those tall sidewalls) did a good job obliterating every bump on the road. While it wasn’t that unique blend of isolating-while-inspiring-confidence like RWD Panther Love, it worked. Aside from the lack of torque, the Camry might be the best bet here.  And I can’t believe I just wrote that.

Off to you, Best and Brightest.

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Vellum Venom Vignette: Ghastly Entry-Level Luxury Design http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/03/vellum-venom-vignette-ghastly-entry-level-luxury-design/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/03/vellum-venom-vignette-ghastly-entry-level-luxury-design/#comments Sun, 03 Mar 2013 18:21:12 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=479767 Robert writes: Have you seen a more ghastly DLO (daylight opening) fail than the new Avalon? (note the nicely highlighted black plastic sections in the photo sent by the OP- SM) Sajeev answers: Gather ’round the warm glow of your collective computer screens, let’s tell the tale of three Entry-Level Luxury Sedans of the year […]

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Robert writes:

Have you seen a more ghastly DLO (daylight opening) fail than the new Avalon? (note the nicely highlighted black plastic sections in the photo sent by the OP- SM)

Sajeev answers:

Gather ’round the warm glow of your collective computer screens, let’s tell the tale of three Entry-Level Luxury Sedans of the year 2013 with very different DLOs. A tale with plastic triangles and fixed window panes told by me, but the ending lies at the end of the comment section.

 

Yes, the Avalon is pretty shameful. Note little chrome + black plastic triangle at the front of the doors, and how it has little “flow” with the top of the fender as it sweeps back to the A-pillar.  But the huge plastic triangle (instead of a more logical pillar design) in the rear door; that’s a big problem.

When you make a roofline/C-pillar so long and “sweepy” (technical term, don’t try this at home) that the rear door needs a large black plastic triangle to make the window roll down, you’ve failed your DLO. Why do Entry-Level Luxury Cars suck so hard at the basics of car design?

But wait, it gets worse.

 

The new Lincoln MKZ, a vehicle from a brand trying to be significantly better than any Toyota, is distinctly worse in the realm of Entry-Level Luxury DLO FAIL.  Why? Because it needs both the plastic triangles and fixed window panes to carry out “the look.”

Note the plastic triangle in the front, it’s a solid chrome bit that stands out far more than the Avalon.  The B-pillar looks shorter/fatter/thicker relative to the rest of the body, and the rear door’s black plastic triangle area is not only large, it fights the natural, voluptuous curve of the door’s rear cutline into the quarter panel.

But that’s not enough to make it much worse than the Toyota Avalon.  Behold, and click to expand:

 

There’s plenty of DLO fail, and yet there’s also a fixed window pane on the front door? If you’re gonna artificially extend the DLO to need a FAIL point, don’t have both a plastic triangle and a hunk of glass! To think of the money spent just to make this poseur-luxury stuff…when you could have…

Wait for it…

 

Indeed.  The superior DLO of the 2013 Lexus ES.  When Entry-Level Luxury is done right, you get one of the most popular, most appealing examples of the bunch.  No stupid plastic triangles, black or chrome. And because that roof line is super sleek (too sleek, but that’s another story) Lexus spent the money to have a fixed piece of glass on the rear door.  The way we’ve done car design for decades…before it was okay to mask our problems with rapid prototype’d plastic triangles.

Note to Entry-Level Lexus wannabes from all around the world: don’t cut corners in such obvious places and you might topple The King.

But still…I still yearn for a car with no triangles, no fixed window panes:

 

This is one of the most logical, most elegant DLOs in an Entry-Level Luxury car.  Logical pillars with no plastic triangles, making elegant transitions into the door’s cut lines with the body. A roof line that doesn’t think it’s a Ferrari.  And just to tell everyone else they can go suck a lemon, there’s a floating C-pillar completely encased in glass.

Replace that flying thing in the background with one of the Obama-drones and this could almost pass for a new car.  What I wouldn’t give if Ford made the 1986 Sable instead of the 2013 MKZ.

And while it shared the roof and windshield (and the inner door structure) with the similarly incredible Taurus, this is how you make an Entry-Level Luxury sedan without resorting to the cheap triangles and fixed glass common in today’s badge engineered Luxury sedans.

“Out of the ordinary but not out of range” indeed.

 

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Review: 2011 Toyota Avalon http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/12/review-2011-toyota-avalon/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/12/review-2011-toyota-avalon/#comments Wed, 29 Dec 2010 21:37:41 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=379020 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 […]

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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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Choose Your Cruiser: 2011 Azera or 2011 Avalon? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/02/choose-your-cruiser-2011-azera-or-2011-avalon/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/02/choose-your-cruiser-2011-azera-or-2011-avalon/#comments Wed, 10 Feb 2010 23:49:46 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=344997 Hyundai and Toyota have done the math, and they know Americans almost always prefer big, crude and comfortable over slick, trim and stylish. In hopes Impala-ing this fat part of the mid-sized sedan market, Toyota and Hyundai have refreshed their Avalon and Azera sedans for 2011, and the results are… well, frankly, we can’t tell.

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Hyundai and Toyota have done the math, and they know Americans almost always prefer big, crude and comfortable over slick, trim and stylish. In hopes Impala-ing this fat part of the mid-sized sedan market, Toyota and Hyundai have refreshed their Avalon and Azera sedans for 2011, and the results are… well, frankly, we can’t tell.

2011avalon 2011avalon1 2011avalon2 2011azera 2011azera1 2011azera2 Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail

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