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

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems

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]

Steph Willems
Steph Willems

More by Steph Willems

Join the conversation
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.

  • 3SpeedAutomatic Once e-mail was adopted by my former employer, we were coached about malice software as early as the 90's. We called it "worms" back then.They were separating the computers that ran the power plants from the rest of the system in the early 00's. One plant supervisor loaded vacation pictures from a thumb drive on his work PC. His PC was immediately isolated and the supervisor in question was made an example of via a disciplinary notice. Word spread quickly!!Last I heard, they still had their own data center!! Cloud Computing, what's that?!?! 🚗🚗🚗
  • 3SpeedAutomatic At this time, GM had a "Me Too" attitude towards engine development:[list][*]the Euro luxury brands have diesels, so can we via an Olds V8[/*][*]variable value timing, welcome to the brave new world of Cadillac V8-6-4[/*][*]an aluminum block V8 engine via the HT4100, the go-go 80's[/*][*]double overhead cams, 4 valves per cylinder, no sweat, just like the Asian brands via NorthStar. [/*][/list]When you mindset is iron block and cast iron heads, life if easy. However, each time, GM failed to understand the nuances; intricate differences; and technical difficulty in each new engine program. Each time, GM came away with egg on its face and its reputation in ruin.If you look today, the engines in most Cadillacs are the same as in many Chevrolets. 🚗🚗🚗
  • 3-On-The-Tree I don’t think Toyotas going down.
  • ToolGuy Random thoughts (bulleted list because it should work on this page):• Carlos Tavares is a very smart individual.• I get the sense that the western hemisphere portion of Stellantis was even more messed up than he originally believed (I have no data), which is why the plan (old plan, original plan) has taken longer than expected (longer than I expected).• All the OEMs who have taken a serious look at what is happening with EVs in China have had to take a step back and reassess (oversimplification: they were thinking mostly business-as-usual with some tweaks here and there, and now realize they have bigger issues, much bigger, really big).• You (dear TTAC reader) aren't ready to hear this yet, but the EV thing is a tsunami (the thing has already done the thing, just hasn't reached you yet). I hesitate to even tell you, but it is the truth.
  • ToolGuy ¶ I have kicked around doing an engine rebuild at some point (I never have on an automobile); right now my interest level in that is pretty low, say 2/5.¶ It could be interesting to do an engine swap at some point (also haven't done that), call that 2/5 as well.¶ Building a kit car would be interesting but a big commitment, let's say 1/5 realistically.¶ Frame-up restoration, very little interest, 1/5.¶ I have repainted a vehicle (down to bare metal) and that was interesting/engaging (didn't have the right facilities, but made it work, sort of lol).¶ Taking a vehicle which I like where the ICE has given out and converting it to EV sounds engaging and appealing. Would not do it anytime soon, maybe 3 to 5 years out. Current interest level 4/5.¶ Building my own car (from scratch) would have some significant hurdles. Unless I started my own car company, which might involve other hurdles. 😉