2019 Toyota Avalon: Open Wide for a Modern, and More Aggressive Boulevard Cruiser

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
2019 toyota avalon open wide for a modern and more aggressive boulevard cruiser

As we told you not too long ago, Toyota’s sticking with its traditional car lineup in the face of declining sales — clinging to it, really. How else could you explain not only the continued existence of the full-size Avalon sedan, but a wholly new generation of it?

That’s what we have here this morning in Detroit. The 2019 Avalon, the fifth-generation of a lineage dating back to the 1995 model year, is here. It’s longer, lower, wider, faster, thriftier, and plusher than before, while boasting enough technology to impress or confuse just about anyone who might find themselves behind the wheel.

Riding atop Toyota’s modular TNGA platform, the revamped Avalon comes in two flavors: regular and hybrid. A new-generation 3.5-liter V6 of undisclosed power drives non-hybrid models, while an electrified variant of the 2.5-liter four-cylinder found in the new Camry goes to work in the hybrid model.

Both engines share automotive suitors. In the Camry, the V6 makes 301 hp and 267 lb-ft of torque; the lesser engine, also available with a hybrid in the Camry, makes 203 hp and 184 lb-ft. We’ll have to wait and see if the specs change at all. For 2019, the Avalon ditches its old six-speed transmission for an eight-speed unit with a taller top gear, allowing for low-RPM highway cruising and an uptick in fuel economy. (Tightly-spaced gears in the middle of the range aid in passing.)

Looking at the new Avalon, the most obvious discovery is that Toyota designers somehow managed to find a way to make its grille bigger. The 2019 Avalon’s yawning face chasm is even larger than the previous generation’s gaping maw, and is now available in two colors, depending on trim level. It’s all face, with only some slim LED headlamps infringing upon the model’s whale-sized kisser. Towards the lower corners of the giga-grille, tall, narrow vents improve the model’s aerodynamics but shuttling airflow into the front wheel wells and across the wheel face, preventing drag-inducing turbulence.

Yes, it’s a slipperier car, both on paper and in the flesh. Coefficient of drag, at 0.27, bests last year’s model (0.28). The nod to aerodynamics is seen in the Avalon’s bodyside lines, especially the strong character line that broadens like a valve towards the rear flanks, and the scalloping seen along the lower body. A rear spoiler and “substantial” underbody panel coverage aids in the car’s fuel-sipping mission.

Elsewhere, weight savings were found wherever possible, and engineers shored up any sources of excess energy loss. Power drain in the hybrid transaxle has supposedly shrunk by 20 percent, and the cooling system’s energy loss is now down 10 percent. If that wasn’t enough, Toyota’s new Auto Glide Control maximizes the range of the vehicle’s coasting — another nod to efficiency.

Unfortunately, we can’t tell you the fuel-consumption figure Toyota’s shooting for. But customers seem much less likely to be interested in that area than the Environmental Protection Agency. Clearly, comfort and convenience are the hallmarks of a near-premium vehicle, and the Avalon’s reshaped body handles the first half of that equation. Wheelbase stretches a further 2 inches, but the passenger cabin stretches an extra seven inches, forcing engineers to add 2.2 inches to the quarter glass and C-pillar. Overhangs, both front and rear, shrink.

The Avalon’s headlights and taillights undergo a complete revamp, with the rear clusters sending out all information from an interconnected line of LEDs. In the front, LED Vision Tech lamps tap a number of reflectors and thin lighting modules for a all-seeing nighttime experience. There’s two new technologies here. Adaptive LED Corning Lamps assist drivers while making a turn by lighting, as needed, the surrounding environment. Meanwhile, the brand’s Dynamic Auxiliary Turn Signal lights the signal’s individual diodes in a sequential fashion, calling even more attention to your impending course change.

Inside, soft-touch materials abound, mingling with real and engineered wood trim, plus aluminum trim. Toyota promises best-in-class shoulder, leg and headroom in the spacious cabin. “Cognac” joins the leather roster as a new grade/color, while similar changes are afoot in the Ultrasuede and Softex realms. It shouldn’t be too hard to ensure a proper coddling.

For infotainment, a 9-inch touch screen with “pinch and slide” functionality sits atop a redesigned, tablet-like center stack; drivers also get a 7-inch multi-information display in the gauge cluster. Top-level Touring models see four drive modes (instead of three) and receive Toyota’s Adaptive Variable Suspension as standard kit. This system adjusts damping in 20 milliseconds. For trims not endowed with AVS, spring and stabilizer bar stiffness increases across the board.

Naturally, there safety aids to spare — the full Safety Sense P suite of technologies lands in the Avalon buyer’s lap.

Amazingly, Toyota decided buyers needed even more excitement while behind the wheel of an Avalon, so the automaker did something unusual. In Sport + mode, the vehicle boosts its exhaust note with a series of baffles, amplifying the drone, rumblr, or burble via the stereo system’s speakers. There’s also an intake sound generator, just so the concert includes breathing.

How such a system made its way into an Avalon is hard to fathom. The Avalon’s a safe, solid vehicle that traditionally appeals to sensible geriatrics who don’t like breakdowns or anything too fancy. Just how many new, younger buyers Toyota could poach with its new model remains a mystery. The passenger car market, and especially the full-size segment, is plummeting towards zero.

Avalon sales sank 52 percent in the U.S. in December, year-over-year. Volume in 2017 was 18.7 percent lower than in 2016, and 53.5 percent lower than the Avalon’s best post-recession year, 2013.

The 2019 Toyota Avalon hits dealer lots in late spring of this year. Pricing has yet to be announced.

[Images: Toyota]

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2 of 81 comments
  • Andrew Stravitz Andrew Stravitz on Apr 01, 2018

    Please fix the giant front hideous grille and we can consider the car - it hurts my eyes to look at it. What were they thinking???

  • Wheeler Wheeler on Dec 06, 2018

    That grille is a cheap plastic abomination...way out of proportion to the rest of the body. Are those guys at the Calty design center serious? The front fascia went from bad in previous generation to ludicrous. Too bad because the rest of it has a brawny bold substantial, and sleek, look.

  • Keith Maybe my market's different. but 4.5k whack. Plus mods like his are just donations for the next owner. I'd consider driving it as a fun but practical yet disposable work/airport car if it was priced right. Some VAG's (yep, even Audis) are capable, long lasting reliable cars despite what the haters preach. I can't lie I've done the same as this guy: I had a decently clean 4 Runner V8 with about the same miles- I put it up for sale around the same price as the lower mile examples. I heard crickets chirp until I dropped the price. Folks just don't want NYC cab miles.
  • Max So GM will be making TESLAS in the future. YEA They really shouldn’t be taking cues from Elon musk. Tesla is just about to be over.
  • Malcolm It's not that commenters attack Tesla, musk has brought it on the company. The delivery of the first semi was half loaded in 70 degree weather hauling potato chips for frito lay. No company underutilizes their loads like this. Musk shouted at the world "look at us". Freightliners e-cascads has been delivering loads for 6-8 months before Tesla delivered one semi. What commenters are asking "What's the actual usable range when in say Leadville when its blowing snow and -20F outside with a full trailer?
  • Funky D I despise Google for a whole host of reasons. So why on earth would I willing spend a large amount of $ on a car that will force Google spyware on me.The only connectivity to the world I will put up with is through my phone, which at least gives me the option of turning it off or disconnecting it from the car should I choose to.No CarPlay, no sale.
  • William I think it's important to understand the factors that made GM as big as it once was and would like to be today. Let's roll back to 1965, or even before that. GM was the biggest of the Big Three. It's main competition was Ford and Chrysler, as well as it's own 5 brands competing with themselves. The import competition was all but non existent. Volkswagen was the most popular imported cars at the time. So GM had its successful 5 brands, and very little competition compared to today's market. GM was big, huge in fact. It was diversified into many other lines of business, from trains to information data processing (EDS). Again GM was huge. But being huge didn't make it better. There are many examples of GM not building the best cars they could, it's no surprise that they were building cars to maximize their profits, not to be the best built cars on the road, the closest brand to achieve that status was Cadillac. Anyone who owned a Cadillac knew it could have been a much higher level of quality than it was. It had a higher level of engineering and design features compared to it's competition. But as my Godfather used to say "how good is good?" Being as good as your competitors, isn't being as good as you could be. So, today GM does not hold 50% of the automotive market as it once did, and because of a multitude of reasons it never will again. No matter how much it improves it's quality, market value and dealer network, based on competition alone it can't have a 50% market share again. It has only 3 of its original 5 brands, and there are too many strong competitors taking pieces of the market share. So that says it's playing in a different game, therfore there's a whole new normal to use as a baseline than before. GM has to continue downsizing to fit into today's market. It can still be big, but in a different game and scale. The new normal will never be the same scale it once was as compared to the now "worlds" automotive industry. Just like how the US railroad industry had to reinvent its self to meet the changing transportation industry, and IBM has had to reinvent its self to play in the ever changing Information Technology industry it finds it's self in. IBM was once the industry leader, now it has to scale it's self down to remain in the industry it created. GM is in the same place that the railroads, IBM and other big companies like AT&T and Standard Oil have found themselves in. It seems like being the industry leader is always followed by having to reinvent it's self to just remain viable. It's part of the business cycle. GM, it's time you accept your fate, not dead, but not huge either.