By on April 23, 2018

Image: Steph Willems/TTAC

Years fade into the past, but the public’s thirst for high-riding, do-everything vehicles never seems to ebb. In light of this seismic shift, the Toyota Avalon’s continued presence at the top of the brand’s model line increasingly comes across as mysterious. Perhaps it shouldn’t be.

Introduced for the 1995 model year, the front-drive full-sizer always stayed true to itself — dressed in conservative clothing, it boasted a comfy, roomy cabin, ample V6 power, old-school Toyota dependability, and little chance of drama. If flashiness or cargo volume wasn’t your thing, who could ask for more?

In its recent study of America’s longest lasting vehicles, iSeeCars.com discovered the Avalon was the passenger car most likely to see 200,000 miles. Treat it right, and it’ll outlast multiple owners.

There’s a problem, though, in the fact that fewer and fewer buyers visit Toyota showrooms in search of a large sedan. Avalon sales declined each year following the model’s 2013 post-recession sales peak. Clearly, a change is in order. In crafting its next-generation Avalon, Toyota sought to create a model capable of wooing loyal, returning customers and — for the first time, it seems — younger buyers.

The trouble is, by messing with a formula that worked well for two decades, you risk alienating both groups.

Image: Steph Willems/TTAC

Full disclosure: Toyota flew me down to San Diego for this drive, after which they put me up in a Del Mar hotel, fed me several meals, and footed the bill for an iced coffee at a trendy shop where good-looking people own nice dogs.

For 2019, the Avalon swings onto the brand’s TNGA K platform, bringing with it a wider stance (by 0.6 inches), lower roofline (by 1 inch), and a 2-inch longer wheelbase. Overhangs grow shorter, aerodynamic flourishes appear everywhere (coefficient of drag drops to 0.27 from 0.28), and the model’s face adopts the largest grille of any passenger car I’ve ever seen. With the exception of the narrow LED headlamps and a small piece of fascia connecting them below the hood’s leading edge, the grille devours all front-end real estate. (Note: very little of this gaping maw actually admits air.)

Speaking of the headlamps, Toyota’s awfully proud of them. LED daytime running lights shining through laser-cut aluminum panels underscore the main beams, and higher-trim customers can expect adaptive cornering lamps that illuminate the inside of a 25 degree-plus turn and activate when signalling or reversing.

Image: Steph Willems/TTAC

Appearing along the sedan’s now busy flanks is a tapering bulge that grows as it approaches the rear fender, lending a hint of muscularity. That’s no happy accident. While touting the Avalon’s features, Ed Laukes, group vice president of marketing at Toyota Motor North America, made sure to mention the car’s “athletic personality” to a room of skeptical journalists.

Now that there’s more than one type of buyer in mind, the Avalon’s trims fall into two distinct camps: premium and sport. The premium category covers the base XLE and uplevel Limited, both of which adopt a horizontal slat grille and say “no thanks” to sporty add-ons, while the XSE and Touring offer a stiffer suspension (sport-tuned shocks and stronger stabilizer bars on XSE, an adaptive variable setup on Touring), 19-inch wheels, quad exhaust tips, a black lip spoiler, mesh grille, mirror caps, and diffuser, plus an additional drive modes on Touring. A hybrid drivetrain is available on all but the Touring trim.

Image: Steph Willems/TTAC

Overall, it’s not a bad looking package. And, on paper, the standard powertrain — a 3.5-liter V6 making 301 horsepower and 267 lb-ft, mated to an eight-speed automatic — seems perfectly sufficient for a large front-drive sedan. That output’s up significantly from last year’s 268 hp and 248 lb-ft. Go hybrid, and the recipe swaps the six for a Dynamic Force 2.5-liter four-cylinder/electric motor combo. Total system output rises to 215 hp, managed by a continuously variable transmission.

Green types could easily find themselves wooed by the hybrid “HV” models, now costing just $1,000 over stock. As a starting point, the 2019 Avalon’s better-equipped XLE base model rings in at $35,500 before an $895 delivery charge, some $2k more than 2018. XSE models carry a $38,895 price tag. Moving up to a Limited carries an all-in sticker of $42,695, while the range-topping Touring moves $43,095 from a buyer’s checking account.

Standard on all trims is Toyota Safety Sense Plus (TSS-P), a suite of driver assists that includes a pre-collision system with pedestrian detection, blind spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, lane departure alert with steering assist, dynamic radar cruise control, and brake assist. Entune 3.0 audio graces all vehicles (eight speakers for XLE and XSE, 14 for Limited and Touring). Want Alexa to ride shotgun? She’s there, too, but it may be a while before Android Auto joins Apple CarPlay on the Avalon’s list of connectivity features. Oh, there’s also a 10-inch head-up display (HUD) on Limited and Touring.

Clearly, Toyota didn’t skimp on the kit. But what’s the ambiance like?

Image: Steph Willems/TTAC

Hop behind the wheel of an uplevel Avalon and you’ll find soft-touch surfaces and open-pore wood or authentic aluminum trim colliding with a less-than-premium pebbled gray plastic that covers much of the doors and console. It’s not the greatest combination, nor is it an extreme mismatch. In our cushy Limited tester, decked out in perforated “Cognac” SofTex pseudo leather, seat bolstering was mainly absent but unnecessary, as the low-drag tires would surely wash out before a lead-footed driver found themself in need of physical restraint.

Stickier rubber and corresponding seat bolsters appear on Touring models, as do paddle shifters.

Unfortunately, the well cared-for pavement and bevy of law-abiding SUV drivers in and around Del Mar didn’t add up to an ideal test of the Avalon’s roadholding abilities, but pros and cons soon emerged. Seat and ride comfort was perfectly fine, though not exceptional, in all trims. Regardless of trim, the Avalon isn’t prone to jarring bumps or queasy body lean, and even the Touring model avoided undue harshness in the suspension-firming Sport + mode. While the precise steering gains a nice heaviness in the more athletic drive modes, and wandering isn’t an issue, you won’t mistake the feedback for that of a taut, rear-drive German.

Befitting a near-premium highway cruiser, road and engine noise fades to the background, but that engine note receives an audio enhancement in Touring models (a feature available on XSE). This type of gimmick seems wildly out of place on an Avalon; feel free to disagree. At least the sound generator isn’t wildly intrusive.

Image: Steph Willems/TTAC

One gripe in the Limited — a 9-inch touchscreen (standard in all trims) that appeared illegibly dark and was slow to respond to inputs for the first five or so minutes of driving — didn’t replicate itself in the other models. Let’s hope the car’s pre-production nature takes all the blame for that.

When the roads allowed, the transmission’s manual mode went into action. And, almost as quickly, I abandoned it, as this isn’t a true manumatic. Stomp on the gas in manual mode and the tranny shownshifts, regardless of the gear selected and displayed on the 7-inch multi-information display; you can also digitally upshift past the present gear without the cog engaging. Add a little more speed and bam, an upshift. No thanks.

And this is where the Avalon’s Achilles heel makes its appearance. That eight-speed, like others I’ve experienced in the automaker’s line, was the biggest strike against the car. Laggy and confused under sudden, “sporty” throttle application, especially when coasting towards a traffic light that goes green, it often doesn’t know whether to drop one gear or four. A significant delay ensues. The transmission’s drawbacks really takes away from the car’s sporting pretentions, which is too bad. A crisp, seamless eight-speed can do wonders for a car, or drive you nuts.

Image: Steph Willems/TTAC

True, returning buyers sourcing an XLE or Limited aren’t likely to moan and groan about such an issue, as sedate motoring doesn’t arouse the tranny’s dark side. Instead, they’ll enjoy the compliant ride and boosted fuel economy. The 2019 XLE returns an estimated 22 mpg city, 32 mph highway, and 26 mpg combined. Drop 1 mpg from the highway and combined figures and you’ll find the estimated thirst of the remaining gas-only trims. It’s up 1 or 2 mpg from the six-speed 2018 model.

Hybrid buyers, on the other hand, can cruise right past those pumps, thanks to a maximum estimated fuel economy figure of 44 mpg combined in the XLE HV, and 43 mpg in the Limited HV and XSE HV trims. That’s an increase of 3 or 4 mpg depending on model, and buyers can get into an entry level hybrid for $1,000 cheaper than last year’s model. In fact, there’s a third bonus in buying an Avalon hybrid: no eight-speed automatic.

Of the Avalons tested, the XSE HV — or any other HV trim, really — seemed the ideal overall choice. Sure, there’s CVT lag off the line, but once the gearless tranny’s in the correct rev range, power isn’t an issue. Passing thrust feels adequate, but most importantly, the 2.5-liter/CVT combo delivers the smooth, quiet driving experience an Avalon occupant deserves — and, more likely than not, expects.

One further note: For 2019, the hybrid’s battery moves from below the trunk to beneath the rear seat, freeing up an extra 2 cubic feet of cargo space. Dimensionally, both trunks are now the same.

Image: Steph Willems/TTAC

For all the changes made to this next-gen model, the results are decidedly mixed. Styling, now far more visually arresting, isn’t fully backed up by the vehicle’s on-road performance, and it’s with this newly sport persona that Toyota intends to lure in the younger crowd. XLE, Limited, and certainly the HV trims should find acceptance from many former owners. For one thing, Toyota hasn’t gone way out and wild with certain things. There’s still an volume and tuning knob for the audio system, and thank God for that. There’s no newfangled — and potentially confusing — gearshift one must learn to operate.

If Toyota can program the eight-speed to shift with certainty and finesse, there’d be far more to like about this car. As it stands, the 2019 Avalon packs a lot of content into a contemporary package with a daring face, but if you’re a 30-something couple with a decent combined income, an eye for style, and an appreciation for driving, what’s stopping you from dropping less money on a base Kia Stinger — or even a Stinger GT?

[Images: Steph Willems/The Truth About Cars]

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132 Comments on “2019 Toyota Avalon First Drive – One Step Forward and Back...”


  • avatar
    IHateCars

    That front bumper clip must cost a fortune to replace. Otherwise, a nice looking car. My BiL picked up a low mileage, mint 2000 Avalon for his kids to drive. Five years later, it runs like a top and still looks great. They were really screwed together well back then.

    • 0 avatar
      Kyree S. Williams

      I don’t see why it would cost any more or less than average. Whether it’s consumed with grille or not, it’s still all plastic up front, just like the majority of cars today.

      In fact, given Toyota’s demographic, I bet they’ve made sure it *isn’t* too expensive to replace.

      • 0 avatar
        tsoden

        ANYTHING on a Toyota is expensive to replace. I had to replace a passenger wiper arm on a 2000 Echo and that was $250, the plasic bolt cover for that wiper arm was an additional $9!!!! $9 for what appears to be the size of a tater tot…and probably only cost a few cents to make.

        • 0 avatar
          bumpy ii

          Whoever sold you those would like to thank you for not shopping around.

          https://parts.lakelandtoyota.com/p/TOYOTA_2000_ECHO1500CC-16VALVE-DOHC-EFI–AUTOMATIC2-DOOR/ARM–FR-WIPER–RH/4085470/8521152100.html $101.89

          https://parts.lakelandtoyota.com/p/TOYOTA_2000_ECHO1500CC-16VALVE-DOHC-EFI–AUTOMATIC2-DOOR/ARM–FR-WIPER–LH/4103326/8522152100.html $72.31

          https://parts.lakelandtoyota.com/p/TOYOTA_2000_ECHO1500CC-16VALVE-DOHC-EFI–AUTOMATIC2-DOOR/CAP–FRONT-WIPER-ARM-HEAD-COVER–WINDSHIELD-WIPER-ARM-86–87-PLANT-NOA3-M12-K21/4096718/8519212800.html $2.84

          • 0 avatar
            tsoden

            Those were CANADIAN prices btw….. All prices here for the dealers in my city are pretty much the same.

      • 0 avatar
        tsoden

        ANYTHING on a Toyota is expensive to replace. I had to replace a passenger wiper arm on a 2000 Echo and that was $250, the plastic bolt cover for that wiper arm was an additional $9!!!! $9 for what appears to be the size of a tater tot…and probably only cost a few cents to make.

      • 0 avatar
        Secret Hi5

        I’m with Kyree, especially if the damage does not require repaint. OTOH, if the grill is more fragile than a regular bumper, then there is a greater probability of damage, so . . . not good.

    • 0 avatar
      slavuta

      I see this as going back to black bumpers. See, parking this big car in the city will take some toll on bumper. So, Toyota thought about it and said, “lets make it back. So even if it gets scratch, nobody will see it.”

  • avatar
    VW4motion

    Not a bad looking sedan. I mean at least it doesn’t have the fake rear panel air vents like in the Camry.

    • 0 avatar
      TMA1

      Isn’t it just the SE/XSE models that have those? Still tacky though.

      • 0 avatar
        VW4motion

        Yes, I think so. Those little plastic fake air outlets look awful. LE and XLE doesn’t try as hard.
        The Avalon also has a much more thought out interior. Front passenger leg room is not cut off by the center console and dash as in the camry.

    • 0 avatar
      DeadWeight

      One of the most hideous sedans of the last decade.

      It’s as if there are employees/execs at Toyota/Lexus who are saboteurs; it’s that ugly.

      – Kiichiro Toyoda turns in his grave with each next generation of uglier Toyotas and Lexuses filled with cheaper and c0more hollow interior parts.

      • 0 avatar
        TwoBelugas

        I agree deadweight, it’s hideous.

        I finally got used to seeing the front end of the 2013-2017 but then they “improved” it.

        I didn’t appreciate the 2006-2012 bland styling enough when they are new, but now I suddenly find myself browsing used 2006-2012s.

        Luckily the Avalon depreciates as quickly as its American counterparts so it’s still not too late to get a lightly used one.

  • avatar
    make_light

    I actually like this, more than just about any Toyota sedan in the past decade. But my recent 18 Camry rental still had WAY too many whiffs of cheapness, I was kind of shocked. Hopefully they’d be banished in the Avalon but who knows.

    • 0 avatar
      tonycd

      The last-gen Avalon was introduced amid much fanfare that it was more stylish and aimed at a less geriatric audience than before. Same old, same old (literally).

      Beyond that, this car lines up interestingly with the new Accord. Both have pretensions of luxury. Their greenhouse is virtually identical. This also means that, like the Accord, Avalon has an abundance of rear legroom but deficient rear headroom. In both models, that undermines the car’s mission as a four-place family sedan.

      In fact, the Accord lines up more with the Avalon than with the Camry. It’s hard for the Avalon to put on airs anymore that it’s upmarket of the Accord, given that both have fake open-pore wood and only the top Avalon model has upholstery from real cows. The Camry falls short of both with a smaller rear seat and a cheaper-looking interior.

      I think that’s why Accord sales have dropped, too – anybody now who wants a car this big opts for an SUV, and the cheaper Civic now has enough room in the wayback to pick off a lot of Camry and Accord intenders. Camry escapes this squeeze only through constant cash on the hood, while Accord may have grown in size and price just enough to join Avalon in irrelevance.

      Toyota’s next question du jour: With the previous-gen Corolla already boasting about as much rear seat room as Camry, how does the next one (likely with the Prius’s improved suspension and chassis rigidity standard) avoid cannibalizing Camry from beneath as Civic is already doing to Accord? I suspect the answer will be overall cheapness and a smaller back seat than Camry, but that GM-style answer will backfire because it will fail to compete with the (literally) more well-rounded Civic.

  • avatar
    make_light

    I actually like this, more than just about any Toyota sedan in the past decade. But my recent 18 Camry rental still had WAY too many whiffs of cheapness, I was kind of shocked. Hopefully they’d be banished in the Avalon but who knows.

    • 0 avatar
      gtem

      I didn’t like the interior in my rental ’18 SE either. Just when we thought Toyota may have learned their lesson with the cheaped out ’07-’11s and ’12-’14s and was finally putting some money back into interior materials with the ’15-’17 cars, we get this.

      Between that and the horrendous front end, Toyota is losing this stalwart Toyota guy.

      • 0 avatar
        slavuta

        gtem, get Mazda6. I guarantee you great interior and exterior

        • 0 avatar
          gtem

          Having just wrenched on an ’09 Mazda3 this weekend, no thanks. Granted it had 156k miles but it seemed premature to need CV boots, engine/trans mount, and the amount of rust starting to creep in. The way the exhaust heat shielding had disintegrated and was just laying on top of the exhaust was troubling as well. Toyota is still king here as far as I’m concerned (having worked on some XV20 and K-platform XV30/40/50 cars).

          But I recently rode passenger in a rental 6 (not sure what trim) and I’m inclined to agree that it was a nicer place to spend time in in terms of material quality, if not quite as much perceived roominess.

          • 0 avatar
            slavuta

            gtem,

            you make me wonder. I had cv boots lasted on Mazda Protege for 16.5 years and 195K miles. My Nissans and Hondas had them broken @ around 100K. Recently changed engine mount on… Camry. Never changed one on Mazda. Quest/Villager was last one I knew had these issues. I have ’10 Mazda3 that lives outside. It does well. If you’re talking of rust that suspension has on it, I noticed it on my ’98 @ 3yo. But in the end I have not replaced a single part in suspension. Even though, it was getting closer to it. And heat shields falling off all exhausts. I had Honda with heat shield “music”, etc.

          • 0 avatar
            gtem

            Hondas and rusty heatshields are two peas in a pod, as are Hondas and torn CV boots historically IMO.

            The rust on the ’09 3 is on the body, most visibly on the lips of the rear quarter panels by the dog leg. But it is starting at the bottoms of the rocker panels underneath the car as well. The car just feels more worn out to drive (steering wheel shakes from that bad mount). Of course every car is different and reacts differently to how it’s been kept and what sort of roads it’s been driven on. In my experience Toyotas various parts just tend to hold up better that cumulatively make the cars feel closer to new as the miles pile on. My point of comparison is another coworker’s ’07 Camry with 140k that he had me give a once over. This is not a terribly well maintained vehicle to be frank, and yet it drove basically like new, with none of the 3’s noted issues (CV boots, rust, heat shields, mount-related interior vibrations) despite similar age and mileage.

            Considering things a bit more, I guess the CV boots at 156k miles maybe is not so bad, considering the wear comes as much from miles as it does from the rubber aging over time. We’ve got it pretty good when I get to complain that the only mechanical/wear issues a car has had in 156k miles is an AC compressor, CV boots, and a motor mount. The rust then, is the only point of real contention.

          • 0 avatar
            geozinger

            I love hearing these stories about these cars that have accessory drivetrain parts failure at mid 150K miles. I’ve had beater Cavaliers that have run 260k+ miles, in our miserable midwestern roads never had a CV joint (much less boot) failure. No tie rods, no lower control arms, not even strut or shock failures of any kind. Yes, I’ve had to replace my wheel bearings before 100K miles on my Ep1 Pontiac, but no issues since then. Finally, this year, after 9 years (& 128K miles) on the roads of Michigan I have some rust appearing on one of the rocker panels.

            I’m actually quite upset by this, but many other cars have it far worse by now. The G6 has not been perfect, but I think it has held up exceptionally well in this environment. OTOH, I don’t put junk parts on my cars and spend the $$’s to keep them on the road properly.

          • 0 avatar
            gtem

            geozinger if you’re still driving at 240k miles on original shocks and struts in a Jbody…they probably needed replacing about 100k ago. Granted, those cars rode so poorly when new it might not have been that noticeable. My family’s old ’90 Civic Wagon was the same way.

            “Finally, this year, after 9 years (& 128K miles) on the roads of Michigan I have some rust appearing on one of the rocker panels.

            I’m actually quite upset by this”

            As you should be IMO.

            My parents ’07 Fit is starting to go pretty good by the rear bumper mounts and rear quarter panels. It only has 85k I think, but is in a “worst case scenario” of being parked in a heated garage, being in a locale that has a large road salt budget and winters with a lot of thaws, and my dad does a horrible job of staying on top of car washes. Their ’09 RX350 is looking as good as ever, we’ll see how it holds up over time.

      • 0 avatar
        30-mile fetch

        I’m curious where the 18 SE seemed cheaper than the 2015-17 that preceded it. I’ve just poked about the new one at the dealership but own a 17, and I thought the 18 was a step up.

        The behavior of the 8spd over the old, nicely behaved 6spd is a big demerit, though, and looks like it infects the Avalon as well.

        • 0 avatar
          gtem

          For me it was the door cards and some of the dash materials. I liked the final facelifted XV50’s dash, improved on the horror-show of the ’12-’14 lower center stack. The ’18 gives me the impression that Toyota is trying to grab attention with a shouty design while further cutting costs and decontenting anywhere that’s even slightly out of sight or not an immediate touch point. So maybe I’m just biased.

          • 0 avatar
            DeadWeight

            Mazda has dramatically improved rust resistance in their vehicles beginning in MY 2005 to 2007, depending on vehicle.

            One point of weakness on Mazdas (and other vehicles including pickup trucks, driven in areas where salt is liberally applied to roadways to combat snow/ice) is the rear wheel wells.

            These vehicles have a 1/3 inch to 1/2 inch v0horizontal “lip” that runs above the rear tires that attracts and traps salt and other debris, trapping it.

            That area needs to be regularly cleaned, and treated with Fluid Film (the heavy coat version), Amsoil HD Metal Protector or CRC Heavy Duty Marine Corrosion Inhibitor (at least monthly applications in wash areas, starting in the November, through March).

          • 0 avatar
            geozinger

            @DW: And this is good how? Another maintenance procedure to be ignored by lessees?

            Sorry, not happening…

          • 0 avatar
            gtem

            “depending on vehicle.”

            Tell you one thing, it most definitely wasn’t the 3s, it wasn’t the Mazda5s, and it wasn’t the 1st gen mazda6. Are you talking about the CX7 maybe?

            I agree with what you’re saying about the fender lips, that is nothing out of the ordinary design wise, and yes your recommended procedure of Fluid Filming these areas is spot on, and is exactly what I do on my old 4Runner.

  • avatar
    Polishdon

    That front end needs some help. That grill overpowers the entire front of the car.

  • avatar
    thegamper

    This car looks pretty good from any angle but the front. As others have noted, the grill just overshoots good taste by an order of magnitude. A huge grill, in itself, not a bad thing, but the fact that this one is so big and has such an irregular shape……difficult to see past….literally.

    • 0 avatar
      Flipper35

      If I were given one I would have to back it into the garage so I wouldn’t see that front end when I walked into the garage.

      What happened to nice looking front clips? Toyota used to be good at this in the 90s.

      Maybe that is the whole issue with sedans now, no one can make a livable front clip.

      • 0 avatar
        TwoBelugas

        “What happened to nice looking front clips? Toyota used to be good at this in the 90s.”

        Exactly. As old as they are, the 97-2001 Camry front still looks “I know what I’m doing, kid” and the 2002-2006 ones look pretty good. 07+? Nope.

    • 0 avatar
      MLS

      Worse still, as noted in the review, most of the grille is fake.

  • avatar
    Dan

    As a big car, it already wasn’t and making it lower only makes it worse.

    As a sporty car, LOL at that, and LOL again at the notion of that being a demerit in the real world.

    As a visually distinct top trim package for the Camry, Toyota did just fine. Sedan deathwatch and all the Camry is still going to move 400K this year and they’ll upsell a heap of these along the way.

  • avatar
    SMIA1948

    It’s “…a taut, rear-drive German,” not “…a taught, rear-drive German.”

  • avatar
    slap

    “Overall, it’s not a bad looking package.”

    Until you look at the front.

    Why drive an ugly car, when there are so many better looking choices.

    • 0 avatar
      VW4motion

      The badge says Toyota. This makes up for 50% of the buying decision for a lot of people.

      • 0 avatar
        highdesertcat

        ” This makes up for 50% of the buying decision for a lot of people.”

        For some it is 100%.

        But I have to wonder, why would anyone buy a sedan in this day and age?

        Seems to me that just about every vehicle on the road around you would be taller and blocking your view.

        • 0 avatar
          FreedMike

          I have no interest in buying anything BUT a sedan, coupe or hatchback.

          And, yeah, the taller vehicles block your view…until you get around them. And that’s easier to do in a smaller, quicker car. There are advantages.

          • 0 avatar
            highdesertcat

            “There are advantages.”

            I saw one of those advantages this morning in town where a smaller, quicker car got around a Tahoe only to be rear-ended by that Tahoe when that smaller, quicker car had to abruptly slam on the brakes to avoid a third car entering the 5-lane boulevard from the left.

            I bet if the driver of that smaller, quicker car had been able to see the side traffic ahead, he would not have passed the Tahoe.

            Ah, yes, a learning experience in every situation, but a hell of a mess for the traffic behind that Tahoe, of which I was one of many.

            Made me late for breakfast with my friends, and p!ssed me off for the rest of this wasted day.

          • 0 avatar
            FreedMike

            Well, you’re talking about someone who doesn’t know how to drive, you know. Of course, that’s not me.

            Besides, if the guy in the Tahoe rear-ends me, that means the gap insurance on my lease kicks in…and it’s adios Jetta, hello GTI. In Tornado Red.

            (Cue giant grin)

        • 0 avatar
          VW4motion

          Agreed, it does seem a bit claustrophobic sitting on the ground in a sedan looking up at everyone. Looking down on the sedans spazzing out trying to get around the taller vehicles is also entertaining.

          • 0 avatar
            highdesertcat

            I drove my ’89 Camry V6 this morning and got stuck in that same queue that involved that Tahoe, so I was down low and two cars behind that Tahoe.

            Rather than scoot around the Tahoe I decided to err on the side of caution and ease up on the go-pedal so I would lag behind.

            Glad I did.

            What a mess! Luckily nobody got hurt. Just a lot of crushed metal.

            But it held up traffic and I missed having breakfast at McDonald’s with my buddies.

    • 0 avatar
      slavuta

      I will look at it all day vs new Accord

  • avatar
    roverv8i

    Agree that the manual mode is useless for sport driving. Not sure what the engineers on this one were thinking. My experience in a 2012 Camry was the same. They are not setup for sport driving, its just a way to easily downshift on a steep grade. The frustrating part is that it will indicate an upshift even if it does not do it. It is more like a preselector. A true manualmatic should only do two things for you; not let you downshift to a gear that you are going to fast for and shift into first when you stop. True that you can also upshift to soon if you are going slow and want to get in the highest gear but instead of indicating a gear that you are not in it should just flash at you and continue to indicate the gear you are actually in.

  • avatar
    CaddyDaddy

    Hey it’s a 41′ Nash but, in a sort of cheap, plasticky kind of way.

  • avatar
    jkross22

    Buick LeSabre T-Type by Toyota.

  • avatar
    mor2bz

    Very unfortunate choices with styling here. Swoopy side panels, angular
    tailights jutting out, orangy pseudo leather, lower roofline – I don’t think so. The older models, barring the sunroofs, were just plain classy.

    You have lost the plot. Now, on to the grill. The score in the ninth is Ford 10, Toyota 0. Ford knew better than to try to out-Maserati a Maserati. You are counting on people to buy the car just because it is a
    Toyota. (I have two myself). But few people want sedans, so you are going to have to have an offering they can’t refuse. This is not it.

    Toyota, hire me to give a thumbs up or down with your studio people before they turn clay into steel. Also, contact me for a brilliant TV episode (Curb Your Enthusiasm) plot that will net you millions. Not kidding. I cannot get through the barriers Actor’s unions put around the stars, but I am sure you can.

    [email protected]

  • avatar
    RSF

    Ugly grill, and I can’t imagine how long it will take to properly clean it.

  • avatar
    mor2bz

    I just read the five principles written by Mr. Toyoda to guide his company.
    Number three was “Always be practical and avoid frivolousness”.

    Wise words; too bad they are now forgotten.

  • avatar
    Vulpine

    EGADS!!! And I thought my “blade shark” was only a fantasy. This thing looks like it’s just preparing to slice any pedestrian it hits into easily swallowed slivers. In some ways it’s a throwback to some of the 40s and early 50s grills… lacking only the shiny chrome bumper.

  • avatar
    romanjetfighter

    Two generation before this had reclining rear seats and the lower door panels had this drawer-like storage cubbies and real leather.

    • 0 avatar
      tonycd

      Worth noting: Bottom model now has vinyl, the middle two have fake suede, the top one has real hides. That’s still a downgrade from past models, though. And that’s a trend at Toyota – even the Lexus ES has plastic upholstery now.

      • 0 avatar
        gasser

        When I was new car shopping in 2016, sitting in the back seat of a Lexus ES350 convinced me to buy a Genesis.
        Lexus: too much plastic on every surface.

        • 0 avatar
          FreedMike

          This. Genesis interiors are VERY nice, particularly the leather upholstery. Not conincidentally, South Korea is one of the world’s major producers of leather.

  • avatar
    spookiness

    I’m at a station in life where I appreciate an Avalon. I just can’t get past the truly revolting styling. Toyota is really trying hard to make their cars as ugly as possible. I usually don’t put that much value on a cars looks, but this I cannot stomach.

    • 0 avatar
      Middle-Aged (Ex-Miata) Man

      I feel the same. I greatly prefer a full-size sedan for my DD, and twice I’ve picked a Kia Cadenza (pause for semi-understandable laughter) over Toyota and Lexus offerings primarily thanks to styling that doesn’t offend the senses like modern Japanese sedans.

  • avatar
    stuki

    Not sure if ‘Yota has caught on yet, but part of the marketing plan when launching a car like this, particularly the hybrid, needs to involve ensuring it’s acceptability for a higher Uber rung than the slightly smaller ad less luxed up volume sellers in the sedan class.

  • avatar
    sgeffe

    At least you can still get a car with the tint brow on top of the windshield.

    Unfortunately, the crappy looking rimless Gentex auto-dim mirror cancer has made its way to Toyota!

    Was hoping this would be a suitable alternative to the Camry V6 if I chose to flip Honda the bird over the turbo trash in the Accord, but I think I’ll pass!

  • avatar
    CincyDavid

    Ugly SOB. I particularly don’t care for the black exterior mirrors on the sportier models…makes me think of a cheaped-out version instead.

    The outgoing Avalon was the only Toyota I found appealing. This one hasn’t sold me yet.

  • avatar
    seth1065

    Like others have said this may have been on the list but no way with that grill just say no

  • avatar
    ponchoman49

    Holy hideous black plastic batman. That front is just outrageous and silly. And it sure doesn’t sound very appealing that the 8 speed in an all 2019 Toyota is still suffering the same unresponsiveness and sloppy gear changes as these units did 4-5 years ago in other manufacturers vehicles. I think I’ll stick to a current V6 Impala with a very smooth shifting transmission, no gimmicks in the V6, lower costs, more pleasing styling and and equally refined driving experience. And as far as reaching 200K I see Chargers, Taurus’s and both W-body and Epsilon Impala’s with 200K all the time and they run as new with original powertrains so isee cars is obviously spitting out CR inspired nonsense.

    • 0 avatar
      geozinger

      Impala (W body or Ep2) FTW!

    • 0 avatar
      gtem

      If you looked at their data, the Taurus and Impala are both represented. We hashed this out last week when GM stalwart Peter Gaiz pulled data out to prove some made up point of his: It’s simply a measure of what proportion of cars registered with a certain model name have over 200k miles. So models with long-running name plates are inherently advantaged as there are more old ones that may have racked up a lot of miles. I don’t doubt that a Charger can easily crest 200k miles (in non-2.7L guise), but they first started selling them in ’05. Versus the Taurus name that’s been around since ’86, same for Camry. But the fact that the Avalon despite being a slower seller relative to the aforementioned midsizers and “only” being around since ’96 comes out the clear champ speaks to two things: 1) they are indeed built like the proverbial brick sh*thouse and 2)at least their first owners tended to be maintenance oriented and took care of their vehicles which is a fair assumption for an Avalon buyer IMO.

  • avatar
    chiefmonkey

    That grille is, um, ugly…

    • 0 avatar
      JMII

      Understatement of the year. This is a serious WTF design statement. Worst front end treatment of a vehicle ever? The mid 90s Buick Skylark coupe finally has to step aside to make room for this horror.

  • avatar
    DEVILLE88

    great way to appear non existant!!

  • avatar
    slavuta

    “There’s still an volume and tuning knob for the audio system, and thank God for that.”

    you mean, “thanks toyota”?

    The Stinger! haha. Stinger is actually pretty small inside. May be “just enough” space. This should be a big car.

    And BTW – good review.

  • avatar
    DeadWeight

    Toyota is in decline with the noticeable cheapening of their interiors, hideous exterior design, etc.

    They had better ramp up the incentive spending to 11 if they hope to retain current market share, because barring that, the market ultimately notices such cheapness and viciousness (even if it’s a delayed reaction, aka borrowed time).

  • avatar
    dividebytube

    I briefly owned a 1997 Avalon that I bought used with 90k miles on the clock. It was competent, and, to put it bluntly, also very boring. My wife ended up hating that car enough that she was glad to see it go.

    I must have had the weirdest stripper version around – leather seats, but base – and very bad stereo – and it seemed like there was no soundproofing. A long haul on the highway would leave one feeling worn out from all the road noise.

  • avatar
    TheEndlessEnigma

    What’s with the Baleen Whale grill look?

    • 0 avatar
      VW4motion

      Love bugs will love that new grill. Car washing places will start charging more for an Avalon to scrub those front the front end.

      Overall this looks like a driver under the age of 60 would buy this car now. Previous models found themselves at the your local Adult Living facilities and over 55 developments way to often. Let’s just say, Florida must have some of the biggest Avalon sales. Toyota is on the right track with this model update.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    Like the dashboard a lot…other than that, I prefer the old model.

  • avatar
    tonyola

    As far as I’m concerned, peak Avalon was the third-generation 2005-2012 version. This model didn’t pretend to be anything other than the Japanese Buick Lesabre, and it offered Lexus quality at a fairly reasonable price.

    • 0 avatar
      bumpy ii

      Meh. My dad has an ’07 and the interior really isn’t amazing or anything IMO. More tarted up but not any better quality than the ’99 Camry he used to have. It definitely wafts down the road, and the V6 has plenty of get up and go.

    • 0 avatar
      gtem

      Nah ’05-’12 was peak cost cutting in the interior in terms of materials, although the exterior styling was exceptionally and unabashedly boat like which I enjoy,and there was the option of reclining seats.

      I’m gonna go with 2nd gen ’00-’04. Best interiors, excellent packaging for passengers and cargo, and the venerable 1MZ/3MZ engines (okay, 3rd gen wins here with the excellent 1GR).

      • 0 avatar
        bumpy ii

        Completely OT, but I’ll admit I’m halfway tempted:
        https://washingtondc.craigslist.org/mld/cto/d/1987-nissan-maxima/6558666267.html

        • 0 avatar
          gtem

          Oh yeah. Man for the price you can’t go wrong! Although I will say I was randomly looking at this gen of Maxima a few weeks ago (while on a nostalgic Siberian JDM-car-runner youtube binge), and stuff like struts are starting to dry up on Rockauto.

          youtu.be/LrnOBl_qX0Q

          That era of late 80s Japanese cars (basically anything ~7 years old and due for Shaken in the early mid 90s) will always hold a special place in my heart!

  • avatar
    DeadWeight

    Peak gen Avalon was Second generation (XX20; 1999–2004).

    …all downhill since then.

    • 0 avatar
      gtem

      DeadWeight beat me too it!

    • 0 avatar

      I can’t live with the bubble styling on those – the whole profile is just so ridiculous. And there are no hard edges anywhere to be found.

      Sort of like the 01-03 LS430.

      • 0 avatar
        bumpy ii

        The overly-upright greenhouse reminds me of a Crown Comfort. Not surprising, since they both had the same missions in life.

        • 0 avatar
          gtem

          Toyota Brevis/Progres: for the man that prioritizes upright rooflines and comfort above all else (close relative to 1st gen IS)

          goo.gl/images/JeEcua

          • 0 avatar

            God, that looks like some Korean attempt at a formal sedan. The front and rear ends make no sense together.

          • 0 avatar
            gtem

            I like the Brevis more of the two. I love that it spits directly in the face of this new Avalon effort of focusing on “sportiness” and “aggressive” styling. The Brevis is like a bowl of mashed potatoes and gravy.

          • 0 avatar

            They’re trying to put too much grand styling on that Brevis, and they don’t have the space to execute it!

            It does look very mushy, and like an LS430 described via phone.

          • 0 avatar
            gtem

            Haha you described it perfectly. It’s throwing a bunch of luxo-boat styling cues on a car that’s just way too short and narrow. You need certain proportions to really make those cues work. And I really like it for trying! Cute as a button.

          • 0 avatar
            bumpy ii

            I would have said Chinese knock-off of a Korean attempt at a formal sedan using a two-generations-old Japanese body shell.

            I do like the color.

  • avatar
    Cactuar

    They really had to resort to this awful front cut line and couldn’t extend the hood all the way to the bumper? Really Toyota? C- for effort.

  • avatar
    TMA1

    The taillight across the trunk with the lettering – did they just take that idea directly from the last Azera? That car’s gone, but the Cadenza is still pretty new and doesn’t look this goofy.

    As for that grille on the sport model, it looks like a parody of an Audi.

  • avatar
    Secret Hi5

    Does the rear seat back fold down? That was a flaw of the current generation Ava

  • avatar

    I can’t get with the gigantor grille, nor the weird concave angles created by the rear end on this thing. I’m fine with the full-width lens as always, but the shape of it makes no sense. Makes me wonder if the rear end will hold onto dirt in all those indentations back there.

    I think 2011 was the last decent looking Avalon, even if the interior quality was a bit down in the dumps. Interior’s better on this one, but the entire center stack (taken together) in that photo reminds me of a bottle opener.

  • avatar
    James2

    There’s not enough black paint in the world to hide all that hideousness.

  • avatar
    dal20402

    Good on Toyota for stubbornly trying to sell into this segment, but the target buyers have all moved on to Highlanders.

  • avatar
    volvo

    I don’t have any experience with Avalon post 1st gen.

    I inherited a 95 Avalon couple of years ago. Other than body dings looks and drives 90% of new. I replaced most suspension components for better ride (still has non existent road feel but does go where you point it without wallowing) but otherwise no major issues at 150K miles. It is my daily driver now and think it may make 200K without any major issues.

    Everything you touch in the cabin including top of the dash is leather and it is amazing how it held up over 30 years of California sunshine exposure.

    In my limited experience the best leather I have experienced in cars was found in 1970s S class MBZ, Jaguars in 1960-1970s and high end Toyotas in the 1990s.

    Sad to hear that the Avalon leather has gone downmarket. Not sure what car still has thick soft leather. Perhaps top line Lexus and MBZ?

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      Nice inheritance. The 1st gen Avalon is a tank. Around here they are often the vehicle of choice for low-income families. I routinely see them still dutifully carrying around kids with 300+k hard miles on the odo.

      If you want good leather these days, you usually have to get optional upgraded leather from a luxury marque. BMW’s Nappa leather, Lexus’s semi-aniline leather, etc. Usually it’s a four-figure upgrade beyond the regular leather.

    • 0 avatar
      gtem

      I think what you’re calling leather on the dash is just Toyota’s very high quality soft touch vinyl from that era. Congrats on the 1g Avalon, they’re stupendously well screwed together cars (arguably edging out the ’00-’04 cars) and definitely on my radar for my next winter beater. I’d really love to find one with a bench seat and column shifter, just for the WTF-factor.

      • 0 avatar
        volvo

        Interesting and I believe you are probably right. That would explain why the dash (glareshield) has not hardened and cracked the way the top back of the rear seats has from sun exposure.

  • avatar
    30-mile fetch

    The LaCrosse has tidier styling inside and out. I don’t think this looks that bad, though. It’s fairly long and low and the profile isn’t extreme. The rear fascia is reminiscent of the GS.

    It certainly doesn’t make me miss the cheap bathtub styling of the 2007-2012 retirement-mobile. I wouldn’t touch that thing with a ten foot pole. I would at least look at this one since it isn’t a bar of soap on wheels and seems to have some semblance of road feel and steering response without being harsh. But then, CPO GS350…

    The new 8 speed is the far bigger demerit. The prior 2GR-FE + 6sp combination performed well and wasn’t exactly a gas pig. Regarding quad exhaust tips: 300hp doesn’t entitle you them, particularly when it is likely no quicker than the prior version with 30 less hp.

  • avatar
    krhodes1

    Hideous, and since it’s a Toyota we will have to look at the darn things on the road forever. Thanks.

  • avatar
    swilliams41

    2 things, who buys an Avalon that wants to hear the engine, much ess FAKE engine noise! Then, who infected the styling department at Toyota. They have some good looking cars though, its called the Lexus LS 500 and the LC 500, the rest look like….I just don’t know.

    • 0 avatar
      Vulpine

      I’ll grant; I hate the spindle grills on the Lexus cars but this is the first time I’ve seen a Toyota grill look WORSE than the Lexus. Toyota is on my burn list; I wouldn’t drive it for anything and I certainly wouldn’t buy one. I don’t care how good they are mechanically, I just can’t stand their appearances. Even the Tacoma looks better than these, so I might buy a truck–if they ever built one to MY specs.

  • avatar
    geozinger

    Toyota is falling into the same trap as GM did some years back, dumbing down their cars to fit a demographic. Toyota has two Buicks now, the Avalon and the ES 350; novocained to the hilt and not true to their mission.

    I’ve long thought Toyota is on the same path as GM was pre-GFC, every year they edge closer. Popular cars, but selling with lots of cash on the hood. Cars that confound their fans. Cheapening and decontenting the rule of the day.

    I’m not quite the target demographic for this car, but close. My earnings were dented greatly by the GFC and my vocation. I like a nice quiet car these days, as opposed to where I was 30 years ago. But, if I were a Toyota fan, I would have to question their decisions.

    • 0 avatar
      30-mile fetch

      Toyota has had two Buicks since 1995 when the Avalon debuted. They’ve always been novocained. That isn’t new, it was their original mission. What’s new here is that they’re expanding the all-things-to-everyone approach of offering softer and “sporty” trims in the same model, combining that with polarizing styling, and doing so in a declining market segment.

      As a Toyota fan, I do somewhat question their decisions (front end styling not least of all), but the low point for this brand was 2007/8 when the cost-bitten interiors started landing like bombshells. Much of the current lineup is a real improvement from that low point, but we’re never going back to 1995 again unless we’re willing to spend $30K for an LE Camry and $50K for a base 4Runner.

      What I’d like to see is the unwise expenditure of capital developing a purely in-house Supra, Celica, MR2, and Corolla hot hatch that live up to the reputation of their forebears. Get some damned soul back into the company; the 2GR-FE was 10 years ago and the IS, GS, and LC500 are either a bit niche, expensive, or extremes of both. At least their offroad division has some residual signs of life.

      • 0 avatar
        geozinger

        The malaise has been setting in a lot longer than the last 10 years. My FIL (RIP) was a huge Toyota fan; he used to preach to me and his kids daily. Then he got his third Camry, a 1997 model. It was his last one, he never told me why, especially after years of proselytizing. He did hang on to his early 2000’s Taco until his passing. But whatever problems he had with the Camry was enough to put him off permanently.

        • 0 avatar
          30-mile fetch

          “Malaise” may be an exaggeration given the context. The domestic brands would probably love to transfer that title to someone else, but they earned it in a customer-alienating way Toyota has come nowhere close to. Cheapening the interiors from the 1987-1996 high point is not equivalent.

          Toyota’s malaise has been allowing competitors to close the gap, but that’s fair enough considering the mechanical durability still seems to be largely there and they don’t charge what they used to.

          I don’t have an axe to grind against other brands. We may have just bought a lightly used Camry, but my favorites in the segment were the Fusion and 6. We may have ended up in the Ford if the second example I drove didn’t groan loudly and suspiciously under throttle. That sort of thing leaves an impression, especially after a CVT Nissan (want an example of Malaise, there’s your huckleberry).

        • 0 avatar
          tonycd

          zinger, he probably felt betrayed. 1997 marked the first year of the 20-year cheapout of the Camry. I remember sitting in one when it was new, and noting the various corners cut throughout: one map light switch instead of two, seats so unsupportive I could feel the power-seat motor through my backside. It was reported at the time Toyota tore down Neons to see how Chrysler cut assembly costs, then emulated their tactics: fewer fasteners of fewer kinds, giant one-piece Rubbermaid moldings for front and rear bumpers, and other shortcuts they’ve retained ever since. Those cars have lasted, but you could always notice the difference from their golden ’92-96 predecessors.

    • 0 avatar
      Dave M.

      They do know their audience though. I can’t stop at a light in Houston without 2-3 Camrys/Avalons/ESs around. People know with minimal maintenance they’ll get 200k miles easily. My sister is finally giving up the ghost on her 2002 Camry at 310k miles for….drum roll…another Camry. I’d say she got her money’s worth…

  • avatar
    ajla

    I know it is almost cliche at this point to complain about Toyota/Lexus styling, but what TF is going on with that front end?

    It looks like it has a hockey puck shoved in its mouth.

  • avatar
    WallMeerkat

    Ever go to the dentist and they make you bite on those plastic mouth openers?

    This.

    What were Toyota thinking? I know big grilles are in fashion, but this just looks like someone was trying to parody the trend and it ended up in production by accident.

  • avatar
    Oldschool

    Toyota has really lost its way. This Avalon is freakin ugly as sin…geeziz..Just early this year I was able to sit inside many different types of vehicles at a local auto show that had every new car/truck/cuv/suv on display for all the attendees to sit inside and get a feel for them all.

    Well to my surprise the new Camry was a major disappointment inside. It looks nice, the dash n all, but once you start touching things, you quickly realize how cheap and ultra plasticky everything is.

    Hollowness in the cabin, close the door and you get a clank and hollow sounding door instead of a nice thud. Flimsy center armrest, and cheap feeling door handles. The entire car felt lightweight and low rent, a major step down in quality compared to their 90’s counterparts.

    The 18 Avalon has a better quality interior than the Camry , but not by much, and personally the Buick LaCrosse felt much nicer inside compared to the Avalon.

    By far, Mazda is making the best looking and feeling interiors, while Toyo and even Honda’s quality has slipped heavily in their current vehicles as far as their interior quality.

    Toyota has slipped big time.

    • 0 avatar
      gtem

      “It looks nice, the dash n all, but once you start touching things, you quickly realize how cheap and ultra plasticky everything is.

      Hollowness in the cabin, close the door and you get a clank and hollow sounding door instead of a nice thud. Flimsy center armrest, and cheap feeling door handles.”

      I had the same general impression from my limited time in a ’18 SE. Forget regression from the 90s, that’s been hashed out to death. I’d call it a regression even from just the model prior (which was no paragon of high quality materials itself relative to past efforts).

    • 0 avatar
      30-mile fetch

      I may have to provide a mea culpa on this one, but before I do I’ll make one final stand: I don’t see the problem with the 2018 interior. “It looks nice…but once you start touching things, you quickly realize how cheap and ultra plasticky” has been a hallmark of midsize sedans for a long time. These are $23K vehicles in base form, you are not getting a 1996 Camry for that asking price. Like most of us, I’ve been in a lot of these: Camrys of every generation. Accord, Fusion, Altima, prior-gen Sonata/Optima, Passat, Mazda6. The only ones that stood out as better than “looks nice until you start touching things” were the current Fusion, Passat, and 6. But the infotainment dial in the Mazda detached and fell into the console just before the test drive, so make of that what you will.

      I think we see what we want to see. Which means I overlook some Toyota cost cutting while others amplify it. This is the nicest one since 2006. People seem to be forgetting what midsize sedan interiors were like ten years ago.

      • 0 avatar
        gtem

        “I think we see what we want to see. Which means I overlook some Toyota cost cutting while others amplify it. ”

        That’s probably it to be honest. My only exposure to a ’15-’17 was likewise a short day rental of an XLE (leather) so that definitely biases things when comparing to the ’18 SE (my wife’s ’12 is likewise an SE). My sister in law has a ’13 XLE Hybrid and that too feels nicer than the ’12 SE from just a few minor revisions: better quality mixed seating materials and I think door card trim, getting rid of the chintzy LE/SE center stack knobs for climate control buttons.

        Of the newer Camrys, hands down my pick of the litter would be a 2017 XLE V6 with a beige interior, with that nice shade of royal blue on the outside, barring that a 4cyl XLE or Hybrid XLE of the ’15-’17 range.

        • 0 avatar
          30-mile fetch

          Incorrect. 2017 XSE. Ultrasuede beats leather every time :)

          Bias is a hard one. If I expect a new Toyota to fall short of the Plush Years, I’m going to notice the hard plastics below the dash equator and door despite every single entrant in the segment doing similar. Even the new Accord, which in $27K LX trim has a urethane steering wheel, hard plastic door trim in the rear, and nasty seat fabric that feels every bit the woven plastic fibers that it is. I’m just grouchy because my home team is a whipping boy in enthusiast circles.

          • 0 avatar
            gtem

            The ’13 Hybrid XLE has the suede inserts in the middle of the seats and they indeed feel great, as close to 1990s Toyota velour as we’ll ever see again I suppose. The ’12 SE has “softex” pleather outers and horrid scratchy fabric sections in the middle where the only thing that comes to mind when you touch them is “fire retardant.”

  • avatar
    Ultraviolet Thunder

    The Duh sisters, Hon and Toyo, are complicit with the infestation of tastless, hideous, blindness-inducing rolling road rabies designs. There is not one shred of design talent in both companies and they just continue to go more hideous. This Avalon is a putrid mess. And that interior has dog feces brown in the most disgusting hue. Total barf central.

  • avatar

    What is it with the Toyota/Lexus designers. It’s like they have a Predator fetish.


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