The all-new 2019 Toyota Avalon is a far cry from the first Avalons to reach America years ago. Smaller, less powerful and not very upscale, they were more suited for driving in Japan, although a definite step above lower-line Toyotas sold here.
Actually, the front-drive Avalon is designed and assembled in the United States, in Georgetown, Kentucky. It comes as the $42,200 Touring model I tested or as Limited, XSE and XLE models that range in price from $38,000 to $42,800.
Comfort and Convenience
The new Avalon is longer, lower and wider than before. Even rear passengers can stretch, especially those behind the front passenger, and there’s a huge trunk. Flip-down rear seat backs with opener levers in the trunk for security reasons greatly expand the cargo area. Those who feel the large piano black mesh grille is a bit much can just stick a license plate in its center, which is what some Lexus owners do.
My test Avalon had a silent upscale interior with soft-touch materials and lots of storage areas, but gauges were difficult to read in sunlight. Among standard features were a push-button start, power heated and ventilated front seats, heated tilt/telescopic wheel, dual-zone automatic climate control with rear-seat vents and a power sunroof.
The infotainment system includes a 9.0-inch touchscreen that can be easily used. There’s also lots of dash-area control buttons that also can be quickly used if a driver wants to bypass the screen. There’s also an Entune 3.0 premium audio with Amazon Alexa and Apple CarPlay compatibility.
Want more? Authentic materials, such as available Yamaha-sourced wood trim and authentic aluminum pieces, are offered.
Many Avalons likely will be bought by older family oriented folks, so safety features are important. The Avalon Touring thus has a standard pre-collision system with pedestrian detection, dynamic radar cruise control, lane departure alert with steering assist, a Smart Stop feature, blind spot monitor and cross-traffic alert.
There are gas and hybrid versions of this sleek sedan. The one I drove had a 3.6-liter V-6 with 301 horsepower and 267 lb-ft of torque. There’s also a 215-horsepower hybrid version with a 2.5-liter, 215-horsepower four-cylinder and a compact battery pack set behind the rear passenger seat (instead of the trunk) for a lower center of gravity.
The engine works effectively with an eight-speed automatic transmission with manual shift control. A driver can choose “Eco” (economy), Custom or Sport/Sport+ driving modes via a button in the large console, but the Eco mode is fine for most regular driving. Steering gets awfully heavy in Sport+ mode.
The Avalon’s steering feels nicely weighted, and the ride is smooth. The linear-action brake pedal causes the anti-lock brakes to bite soon and hard. Handling is secure with such features as sport-tuned variable suspension. The new rear multi-link suspension allows such things as a wider rear track, lower center of gravity and an aggressive stance. Revised trailing arms have a higher position for better bump absorption, although sharp road imperfections can be felt. Toyota tilted the shock absorbers forward for a suppler ride, and bushings on trailing arms and arm joints help mask road imperfections.
Estimated fuel economy of the V-6 is 22 miles per gallon in the city and 31 on highways. Top hybrid economy is an estimated 43 in the city and 44 on highways. Toyota recommends 87 octane fuel for the Avalon Touring.
The Avalon Touring’s performance is good, but not outstanding. That’s not surprising, as it leans toward refinement than being an out-and-out hot rod. I don’t think Toyota wants it to be particularly fun to drive. It’s still very pleasant, though. Still, the Touring’s large black 19-inch alloy wheels with low-profile 40-series tires, dual exhausts with quad chromed tips, piano black mirror housings and rear spoiler might fool some. There’s also an engine sound enhancer.
The new fifth-generation Avalon shows that sedans are still a pretty good deal, despite the lemming-like major move toward small SUVs and crossovers. Major rivals are becoming scarce, as the Ford Taurus and Chevrolet Impala cease production. Current competitors include cars like the Nissan Maxima and Chrysler 300.