By on April 24, 2018

Like a normal person, I spent my final waking moments last night reading the comments on Monday’s 2019 Toyota Avalon review. I’m either a masochist or a narcissist.

The new Avalon is a large car with a long list of features, and an even longer list of debatable issues stemming from its revamp, so I hope the review proved useful. Around here (and on Twitter … and maybe on the street, too), I’m known as a the guy with a depraved fetish for large, traditional, conservative sedans. Oh yeah … the staider, the better. Why do you think the powers that be sent me on that first drive?

I wear the badge with pride and, truth be told, I’ve always been a fan of the Avalon — maybe it’s a byproduct of my dear, departed ’94 Camry, combined with a childhood spent watching 1960s and ’70s spy and cop shows. Whatever the cause, there’s nothing unappealing about a roomy, comfy sedan with plenty of power and industry-leading longevity. Dependability, as I’ve said before, isn’t unsexy.

It’s because of these preexisting feelings that I found myself in agreement with a great many of your comments (and there were a great many of them). One complaint kept popping up, though. Based on your feedback, it’s clear the most controversial aspect of the new Avalon is its Eurasia-sized grille.

And no wonder. Aggravating transmission aside, the new Avalon’s biggest gamble is undoubtedly its polarizing face. I was legitimately gobsmacked when it debuted. Ever since that day, I’ve cracked jokes about Toyota going further with this styling trend, extending the grille onto the hood and front fenders.

“Maybe it doesn’t have to end at the front,” I tell my colleagues.

I kid (sort of), but time and exposure turned the Avalon’s mouth from jarring to familiar — for this scribe, anyway. When the 2013 Avalon showed up on the scene, I considered that grille uncomfortably broad, but now it may as well be a Dodge Neon. Time has a way of nurturing acceptance.

Lexus takes a lot of heat for its signature spindle grille, but even those universe-bending openings seem normal now — especially on traditional sedans like the ES and GS. I’ll take a larger grille over a smaller one. Remember when traditional grilles all but disappeared in the early 1990s? The Ovoid Era was not the pinnacle of automotive styling, and I applauded the gradual return to big snouts — though I’m left wondering just how far automakers can take it. Is the new Avalon the high water mark of this trend? Is it even possible to have a larger grille?

Let’s have a show of hands, B&B. Are you firmly on the side of big grilles, or has the trend evolved into one of grotesque excess?

[Image: Toyota]

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67 Comments on “QOTD: Eyes Without a Face?...”


  • avatar
    MrGrieves

    Grotesque excess. I can’t imagine having to clean bugs out of that thing in the summertime. And what happens if someone “taps” you when parallel parking (or regular lot parking, for that matter)? Being fair, the Avalon grille works better for me than the hourglass-tapered Lexus predator mask grille.

    • 0 avatar
      RSF

      I agree about trying to clean that grill. Probably doubles the time it takes to clean the car, and you still have an ugly grill to look at when you’re done!

      • 0 avatar
        Lou_BC

        There was a story out of Alberta Canada about a poor young coyote getting hit and then bound by the grille of Toyota SUV. The poor thing was fine but literally stuck in its teeth.

        https://globalnews.ca/news/3738965/coyote-caught-in-car-grille-released-back-into-wild-by-alberta-officers/

  • avatar
    IHateCars

    The majority of acreage on that grill is non-functional anyways so I don’t see the point. At least a bumper pad of some sort can take a very low speed parking lot impact without shattering a million little plastic fins, necessitating replacement.

    Now I’ll just be over here dancing with myself.

    • 0 avatar
      DanDotDan

      Agreed 100%. I’ve always hate fake stuff on cars: fake scoops, spoilers, etc. Now I have to hate fake grills, too.

    • 0 avatar
      ect

      I don’t understand why so many commenters here continually misspell “grille”. It’s not like there aren’t lots of reminders of the correct spelling.

      Looking at the Avalon grille, it’s almost like Toyota was determined to come up with something that would make the Lexus grille look good by comparison. Which is simply not possible.

    • 0 avatar
      Tele Vision

      Tall hoods are mandated for the safety of pedestrians, most of whom are peering at phones and should be subjected to Darwin’s Law. Check out a 1991 Accord to see what a sedan’s front end should really look like…

      http://image.motortrend.com/f/wot/honda-accord-in-photos-view-a-visual-history-of-the-1976-2013-honda-accord-259043/59284330/1991-honda-accord-ex-sedan-front.jpg

  • avatar
    bullnuke

    Toyota vehicle front clips these days remind me of the “bad guy” cars in films about the dystopian future. These grills just don’t give me a good vibe about the cars that wear them.

  • avatar
    Booick

    All recent toyota sedans have bad grills. Camry is bad too. I dont know what they are thinking. We all remember the original lexus ls 400, ine of the most beautiful designed cars of all time. Grills need to be sized proportionally to headlights and blend together. Very few cars can pull off the mismatched proportion look.

  • avatar
    30-mile fetch

    Excessive. I’d rather see a minimization of grill opening such as the 93 Civic or early Q45, but on today’s tall front ends that might look nearly as jarring.

    The Avalon’s a good looking car aside from the lower 3/4 of the front fascia.

    • 0 avatar
      gtem

      I’ll point to my departed ES300 as an exercise in grille moderation and good taste in general:

      goo.gl/images/YBCSJY

      It’s got a big bottom opening in the bumper but up top it’s really quite subdued. Still there as a styling (and functional) element, but by no means grotesque. With the twin projector lamps and the bottom of the bumper having a slight protrusion near the bottom it has a bit of sport/aggression intentions, but it’s not the whole front end made up of nothing but aggressive and overwrought elements.

      • 0 avatar
        30-mile fetch

        That generation of ES and the one that followed were very clean, elegant looking sedans.

        Scroll so the bottom of the screen hides the lower fascia on this Avalon. Looks good. Then see how much vertical distance exists below that point. Far too much grill. Far too much overall height. It would be difficult to style that well, but the grill isn’t the answer.

      • 0 avatar
        Cactuar

        Yes nice and clean. Same principle as the E38 BMW. It’s a very wide car but the black/grille vs paint ratio at the front is just right.

    • 0 avatar
      jhefner

      My thought exactly; I rather return to no grill than this extreme. One can only hope we have reached “peak grill.”

      I must say though…when I saw the headline, and before I saw the picture, I thought you were referring to the Tesla Model 3. THAT is eyes without a face.

  • avatar

    These subcontinent sized grilles are a trend that I’m not fond of. As someone else mentioned, the proportions are way out of whack and one can look at the original Lexus LS to see what a clean, tasteful fascia can be. Toyota seems to be pushing the limit on this new trend and I can only picture in 2035 we’ll look back and think “what were they thinking back in 2018?” It’s a styling fad that I think will age badly.

    On the contrary, I’m a huge fan of grilleless front ends that were the rage in the 90’s. The ‘96-98 Elantra, Saturn SL, Ford Falcon EF, and even modern Tesla’s come to mind. Clean, simple, and not overwrought

    • 0 avatar
      Dawnrazor

      The ridiculous grills are the 21st-century version of 70s-80s landau tops, wire-wheel hubcaps, and faux wood paneling, and are going to appear equally dated 25-30 years from now.

    • 0 avatar
      ttacgreg

      I’m with you on that 90’s styling paradigm. Trouble is that a grille is another element to design that differentiates cars from one another.

      With the passage of time and newer models, such as this Avalon, I am liking the front end styling of my current generation Prius ever more.

    • 0 avatar
      ttacgreg

      I’m with you on that 90’s styling.

      As time passes, and newer models of particularly Japanese origin come out, I am liking the front end styling of my current generation Prius more and more. So glad they resisted the whale shark look in this case.

  • avatar
    tylanner

    It feels silly debating a decorative and ornamental grill when Tesla exists and is building a different kind of automobile….with no grill….a practical and timeless design…..unbounded by tradition….born of innovation….the first born…

    • 0 avatar
      Dawnrazor

      The breathless cult of Elon marketing hyperbole is a bit over the top, but I’d agree Tesla styling across all their models is elegant rather than gauche and will age well. It is one of the better examples of form meeting function currently on the market, and its consistent application across all their models is one of the things the company is actually doing right.

      They just need to work on improving their fit and finish to a level befitting the prices they charge (at least as good as Porsche, Mercedes, Lexus, and Audi) and get their production capability up to snuff, and they will be as competitive as anyone.

    • 0 avatar
      JohnTaurus

      Why talk about any car other than Tesla?

      Except bad things, just ignore them, no matter how often they come along.

  • avatar
    ajla

    “I’ll take a larger grille over a smaller one.”

    I vastly, VASTLY prefer the looks of something like the original Olds Aurora to that of the new Avalon.

    Overall, I don’t have a universal big grille/small grille/no grille opinion. However, I do not like the current Toyota/Lexus styling at all and I wish they would go back to more conservative designs.

  • avatar
    Land Ark

    The current crop of grilles reminds me of the late ’90s when people were putting custom widemouth fiberglass bumpers on their cars to look like a koi gulping for air.

    http://carphotos.cardomain.com/ride_images/1/3065/4161/7662080001_large.jpg

    I hated them then and I hate them now.

  • avatar
    seth1065

    Ok Toyota we get it, you were pissed we said your cars were boring so you said we will show them. Say what you want about Buick but I will run to a Lacrosse before I spend $1 on these alien looking grills.

  • avatar
    Flipper35

    I have hated the large useless grill since Audi came out with theirs back near 15 years ago?

  • avatar
    B Buckner

    Audi started this trend with the 09 A4. Hated it then. Own one now.

  • avatar
    JMII

    Ugly, hard to clean, ridiculously oversized, and useless (since its mostly blocked off anyway)… what is not to love? Seriously this grill takes the cake – it is horrible! Its like the designers just gave up. I thought cars of the future were going to be sleek, smooth, slippery shapes. Instead we get a Mack truck-like wall of black plastic diamond shapes. Why Toyota? Is paint really that expensive?

  • avatar
    geozinger

    On one hand, we see that Audi started this big grille and the LED running light “eyeliner” trend.

    We also see that everyone (with a few exceptions) have followed this trend.

    It amuses me to think that I long for the (now) relatively rational designs of the mid-2000’s.

    Of course, the pedestrian regulations are what have taken away our “shovel-nosed” cars, never to be seen again…

  • avatar
    tonyola

    Around 30 years ago, the trend was to the opposite – minimal or no grilles. Cars like the Taurus/Sable, Accord, Infiniti Q45, 1992 Crown Vic, and 1988 Passat were setting the trend. They look pretty good now compared to today’s gaping maws.

  • avatar
    NG5

    I think it’s probably getting a bit out of hand if most of the grille is actually solid plastic – the Civic Type R appears to have extra fake vents growing on the back bumper as well. Some of this additional front real estate which I dislike is probably not technically a grille, though.

    I do like some examples. Off the top of my head, many of the current Audis and the Camaro ZL1.

  • avatar
    fr88

    The Avalon front end is hideous beyond all reason. How can anyone get used to such an affront to proportion, grace, and aesthetics. There isn’t even a case to be made for “form follows function” since only a small percentage of the grill acreage allows air into the engine compartment. I don’t care how reliable the car is, I wouldn’t want to drive it 200,000 miles when every time I walked up to the car all I felt was a wave of revulsion at the pointless offense to my eye. If a car doesn’t excite me before I even get into it, I have no use for it.

    The same is true for every Lexus. They all have front ends that look like someone took the Jaws of Life, pinched the grill of a Chrysler 300, and called it a thing of beauty. The Emperor has no clothes.

  • avatar
    e30gator

    It’s not big grills that I have a problem with per se, it’s “fake” grill and vent openings that perplex me.

    It looks like the “grill” on either side of the Avalon’s face does NOTHING to improve airflow into the engine bay, thus serving no purpose other than aesthetics.

    The new Civic’s rear-end treatment is equally ridiculous and excessive.

  • avatar
    Vulpine

    I (and others) have complained loudly enough about the gigantic grills on full-sized pickup trucks that those grills are finally being reduced to something more palatable. So now Toyota (and Lexus) are taking the fat grill too far with their sedans and CUVs? Uh, uh. Nope. You won’t find me behind the wheel of one unless there is literally no other choice available.

  • avatar
    BunkerMan

    I just re-read a review on this site from 2010 about the then-restyled F150. The author mentions the size of the grille and how in your face it is. If only we had known where this was headed.

    The 2010-2012 F150’s grille looks pretty vanilla these days.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    I like what Chevy did with the Impala for 2019 – make the blocked off portion a true part of the styling of the vehicle.

    https://tinyurl.com/y8gp6jk5

    I’ve seen a few in the wild. Looks pretty good compared to having a giant grille and very little of it being necessary.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    I’m calling the grill in the picture above the “Cinerama Edition.”

    Yep, it’s ugly.

  • avatar
    Whatnext

    Like everything else from Toyota/Lexus lately the Avalon is hideously ugly. I thought Avalon customers were supposed to be older and conservative? Maybe VW should park a nice V6 Passat in front of every Toyota dealer!

  • avatar
    detlump

    Having worked with automotive designers (from the engineering side), it was always fun to ask them functional questions. How is someone going to clean that? Where are the BSMs (body side moldings)? They clutter the design. Have you guys heard of brake dust? That wheel looks impossible to clean!

    I told them that before a model was approved, it should be covered in dirt and grime and the designers should have to wash it.

    I wasn’t invited back to the studio after that.

  • avatar
    Cactuar

    What’s interesting is that designers are pushing the lights to the very corners of the cars to give the cars more presence and width. It looks good (see how wide the Civic looks from the front, because of those corner DRL lights, nice one), but then they have all this space to fill in the center. The issue is what to do with this space, they need to find some interesting elements. Unfortunately all they can come up with so far is MORE GRILLE. There aren’t many cars that appear wide and still balance the other design elements between the sides.

  • avatar
    CitizenK

    “Of course, the pedestrian regulations are what have taken away our “shovel-nosed” cars, never to be seen again…”

    Is there an explanation of these regulations anywhere online? There are still vehicles with sloped hoods and quite low front ends…. Prius, Tesla, Porche 911, Boxster and Panamera, Volkswagen Beetle, Corvette, etc. Do these vehicles have an exception from the rules, or is the tall front grill really just a style trend?

    • 0 avatar
      PrincipalDan

      “Shovel-nose” made me think of the late G-body Cutlass Supreme coupe – that slope between the edge of the hood and the front bumper.

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      I personally think it is a red herring to blame regulations for the current styling trends.

      Yes, they might make it very difficult to build a pillarless sedan or something that looks like the original Aston Lagonda, but I don’t think auto stylists are wishing they could create an LS400 on 16-inch wheels and it’s those pesky laws forcing them to make bunker’d grille-monsters on 20s.

    • 0 avatar
      geozinger

      I was referring to mainstream cars, not so much the Corvettes and Porsches of the world.

      More car makers are “harmonizing” their styling to meet EU regs for pedestrian impact mitigation. We now have these lovely cars that have blunt noses whether or not they sell in the EU. I’m not aware of these regs becoming law in the States, though.

      The trend seems to be going that way and suddenly, there’s a lot of space that needs filled. Or not filled, with a grill.

    • 0 avatar
      jhefner

      The pedestrian requirements are for space (I don’t know exactly how much space) between the hood and engine and other hard points underneath. The idea is that upon striking a pedestrian, the high nose launches the unfortunate pedestrian onto the hood, which then has some give to prevent injury.

      These are European regulations, so I doubt the Corvette needs to comply with them. My guess is the other cars have the required space under the hood; the shape and style of their nose conceals the size of it.

  • avatar
    05lgt

    I think they’re desperately trying to add visual height when viewed from the front. Sedans are dying off, replaced by CUVs, SUVs and 4 door pickups. They’re chasing the wrong problem, the difference is the view from the inside, not the appearance from the outside. I’m glad TMC is toning down the Prius look, this is another bridge too far design that will only be fixed by the natural process of rapidly declining sales. The fix for sedan sales decline isn’t to make it look like a truck from the front, it’s to embrace and thrill the sedan buyer who remains in the market.

  • avatar
    sckid213

    I imagine Toyota / Lexus as a smart, exacting, reliable and generically attractive girl who was constantly screamed at that she was a BORING PLAIN JANE. BORING. BORING! BORING!! (But not ugly.)

    Rather than make a few small tweaks to her subtly enhance her appearance, she goes whole hog into plastic surgery – Heidi Montag style – and ends up looking like the catwoman Jocelyn whats-her-name. The resulting grotesque Joker mask is ghastly, while the original boring face looks great by comparison. But too late! The damage has been done.

    Toyota / Lexus styling is desperately overcompensating, and it literally gives me second-hand embarrassment for their entire styling department. Their designs are as overwrought – if not more so – than late ’90s Pontiac.

    And it’s even worse than Pontiac, because I feel like back then Pontiac’s styling was so ridiculous because it was an easy attempt to create an alternative look to Chevy and Buick – throw on cladding and hood scoops! Call it a day! Toyota’s styling is more like acting out in a desperate, insecure attempt to be noticed and accepted. It’s sad. I hope their styling team matures beyond this.

  • avatar
    alfaromeo

    googled “clarkson in wind” image and put it side by side to Avalon front grill, I got a good laugh.

  • avatar
    Johnster

    Remember when cars had bumpers? And dignity?

    Honestly, these ugly gigantic grilles are a poor substitute for functional bumpers to protect the car from minor accidents, like when one cars taps another while attempting to parallel park. You just know that after a month or so you’re going to be seeing these driving down the street with their grille teeth knocked out and most owners aren’t going to get them fixed because they don’t want to spend the deductible.

    Bumpers. What a concept.

    • 0 avatar
      CitizenK

      +1 for functional bumpers. The new Jetta is one of the few recent redesigns where the frontmost element on the vehicle actually appears to be a bumper. For that reason alone I like it, and hope bumpers become stylistically desirable again.

  • avatar
    cRacK hEaD aLLeY

    1) add bent front license plate,
    2) surrounded with either
    A) plastic frame “Another Happy Customer from Toyota of Springfield
    B) Chrome license frame ” I’d Rather Be Golfing”

    Problem solved.

  • avatar
    Peter Gazis

    Doesn’t matter in 3-4 years when I’m in the market for a new car. Large sedans will no longer exist.

  • avatar
    ravenchris

    I did not read the other comments.
    The new Avalon along with the Camry LE are unattractive enough to me that
    I cannot purchase one.

  • avatar
    N8iveVA

    Count me in the “grotesque excess” camp. It’s a shame too because I really like most of the rest of the car. Love the headlights, profile, and especially the way the bottom of the taillights taper in to the negative vertical space of the trunk lid.

  • avatar
    Justice_Gustine

    I wish they all could be California grills.

  • avatar
    Compaq Deskpro

    I like the Lexus predator, it looks damn good in some of their cars, not som great in some others. Huge grills aren’t always bad, but this stinks. I’d like this better as a fish face, with the hood lines culminating in a soft nose based around the Toyota symbol (kind of like the Echo) with the big mouth below it.

  • avatar
    Moparmann

    I had a surrealistic dream last night: I was racing through a long asphalt tube on some type of pitifully slow unenclosed vehicle, being chased by something with a “squinty eyed, angry, agressive gaping maw”. I had nowhere to go, and the tube was non ending. I screamed as it got closer and closer…..and then I woke up! :-)

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