The 2014 Toyota Avalon, is this week’s test drive. The Toyota Avalon a model which underwent a complete makeover in 2013 that allows it to join some of the big names in luxury offerings, including its sibling higher dollar Lexus ES350.
Avalon continues to distance itself from the Camry, the Toyota model that gave it birth back in 1995.
The redesigned finds Avalon sitting at the doorstep of luxury sibling Lexus ES350, where mechanical duplication makes interesting comparisons. Further, Avalon’s bold step forward now includes an engaging aerodynamic exterior, new front grille treatment, three more highway MPG than 2012’s V6, more rear seat leg room, lighter gross weight and shorter length.
Current 2013-2014 owners already know of Avalon’s discreet luxury offerings, which adhere to a “new Avalon badge” of Toyota elegance. Unlike its 1995 debut as an upgraded Camry, this fourth generation Avalon is now a distinctive Toyota flagship automobile operating in a class with few peers.
Built in Georgetown, Ky., Avalon now delivers remarkable exterior and interior statements, and rides on a 1.7-inch longer wheelbase than Camry. Thanks to this wheelbase stretch, driver and passengers will enjoy more room, especially for rear passengers. As for amenities, all Avalons are well equipped and worthy of the new badge.
With an impressive entry price of just $30,990 for Avalon XLE, this vehicle not only includes many of the same amenities as the entry Lexus ES350, it also features the same Lexus mechanicals and is built on the exact same platform in Georgetown.
Considering Lexus starts at $36,100 while Avalon starts at $30,990, there are 5,110 good reasons prospective consumers should consider when comparing Avalon XLE and Lexus ES350. Since both of these great cars have the exact same engine, transmission, suspension and wheelbase, the main difference is Lexus comes delivered in “black tie dress” while Avalon arrives in a “three-piece dinner suit.” If consumers base decisions strictly on economics and ROI, the assessment clearly positions Avalon as perhaps the best overall buy in today’s luxury car market.
Under the hood, Avalon’s 3.5-liter V6 produces 268 horsepower and 248 lb. torque, resulting in zero to 60 times in the six-second range. Power transfers through a front-drive setup via a six-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters. Power meets the ground thanks to 18-inch Bridgestone Turanza all season tires on lightweight alloy wheels.
Underneath, Avalon features a special “comfort and performance” suspension featuring a new and lighter MacPherson strut setup front and rear, resulting in underpinnings that are fully coil over in nature and, most important, lighter by 100-lbs.
Our Avalon Limited came with a few options, the most expensive a $1,750 Technology Package that features dynamic radar cruise, automatic high beam, and a highly recommended pre-collision system that is worth every penny of the price. Carpeted floor mats add $225, a rear bumper appliqué costs $69, wheel locks are $81 and a wireless charging tray is another $225. The final tally comes to $42,785 with no charge for delivery. Your dealer is waiting to explain all features and options when you visit the showroom.
Whatever extra you might pay for options in other cars comes standard with top line Avalons. Included are safety backup camera, moonroof, seven-inch touchscreen with JBL high end 11-speaker stereo, navigation, iPod, USB, Bluetooth and government crash test “ Five-Star” rated “Star Safety” 10 air bag security. Electronic brakeforce, traction control and four wheel ABS is a given these days, although Avalon then adds to the package with smart stop, cross traffic and blind spot monitoring…which usually is not part of a standard safety feature package.
Since Avalon’s debut 30 years ago, this new fourth generation is, not surprisingly, the best ever. Still, most interesting to this scribe, is Toyota’s dedication to a new marketing direction with Avalon, as it looks to capture a major part of the luxury segment where end users feel more comfortable not flaunting their economic fortunes to a world more aware than ever of the “haves and have nots.”
Avalon, thus, is one of Test Drive’s top recommendations of the year.
Important numbers include a wheelbase of 111-inches, 5.5-inches of ground clearance, 3,461 lb. curb weight, 17 gallon fuel tank, 16 cu. ft. of cargo space and 21/31 EPA estimates.
Likes: New design is really new, Lexus platform mechanicals, quiet ride, comfort, discrete luxury.
Dislikes: Don’t like touchscreens, nothing else.
(Greg Zyla is a syndicated auto columnist).