The roadways used to be dominated by full-size sedans. That was because back in 60s, 70s and even 80s, people appreciated the roominess and the feel of large, powerful engines these cars offered. However, these cars also had poor fuel economy and, due to raising gas prices, sales of full-size sedans dropped dramatically. Eventually the traditional rear-wheel-drive full size sedans simply vanished.
Now we have a new generation of full-size cars that offer almost as much interior space without sacrificing fuel efficiency or reliability. The technology has greatly improved the gas consumption of today’s full-size cars, and Toyota has become a leader in this area.
However, many people have forgotten that Toyota even offers a true full-size sedan in the form of Avalon. This is not uncommon for a lot of automakers. A flagship is tasked more with being the face of the brand than it is with selling in large volumes.
Buyers of the Avalon tended to be loyal, long-time customers of the brand. The average age of an Avalon driver was one of the oldest in the market.
Toyota has given the Avalon a major refresh, and it’s one they should be proud of. It should even draw the attention of people that may not normally consider a Toyota sedan.
The Avalon is so good inside and out that it may draw buyers from the likes of Audi and BMW showrooms.
The Avalon used to be a stretched Camry, marketed towards the retirement community. Toyota has decided to take a step in a different direction with the new Avalon. The styling and driving feel tell you this car is no longer aimed at the same demographic. It features smart phone connectivity and has class-leading fuel economy to attract younger buyers.
The large lower grill catches your eye first. Right away there’s no questioning that this is a different Avalon. With a far more aggressive appeal than any previous Avalon, it shows off long sloping roofline and extended C-pillars — almost a sleek, coupe-like look.
To show its high-tech side, the four beam headlights feature “the world’s first Double-eye Projector Ellipsoid System that combines high and low beams into a single unit.” LED daytime running lights are also available.
The backend also gets a sportier look with dual exhausts and LED tail lights set high and wide. This sedan looks about as radical as it can without upsetting all of its current owners.
The same expressive feeling extends in to the cabin. Inside features a combination of hand-stitched leather, chrome and wood accents, and a subdued, matte black dash. The designers mixed the contemporary look of modern high tech devices with traditional craftsmanship.
What should also be noted is the price. The base model, known as the XLE, is very well equipped and starts at $36,800. Something the older and younger clientele will both appreciate.
The dramatic changes didn’t end with just the Avalon’s appearance. The new car drives much more like a modern European sedan than a traditional Japanese one. The Avalons of the past were never considered driver cars, but this one can be.
The standard V6 boasts 268-hp and 248 ft-lbs of torque, which is enough to spin the front tires if you don’t restrain your right foot. This is not an all-new engine, but it is tried and tested and has shown to be extremely reliable. As mentioned earlier, the Avalon’s fuel economy is very good with a combined 8.3L/100km.
Steering wheel paddle shifters are standard and are surprising good in managing shifts up and down. The six-speed transmission receives a taller final gear and new ECU programming with normal, eco and sport driving modes.
Switch to sport mode and the steering feels a little heavier and athletic — it is quite firm and planted overall. Like most Toyotas, steering still feels a bit numb and artificial, but overall it has great handling character.
The most surprising change in the new Avalon is the ride. It’s very smooth and quiet, but the suspension is also tuned very firmly. Therefore, the Avalon corners sharply for a large sedan. However, because the suspension is quite firm, the ride can be a bit harsh at times. It’s a question whether loyal customers will approve of the sprightliness of the new Avalon. Maybe the firm suspension setting could have been made available as part of an optional sport package.
Despite all the changes, the Avalon still offers a roomy, comfortable cabin. Seats are more than comfortable enough for long drives. The artistically shaped, wide format instrument panel features a LCD screen in between the tachometer and speedometer that is intuitive and provides useful
information. With the car’s more youthful persona, most controls have been integrated into a touch panel centre dash. It looks great, but while driving, it can at times be difficult to determine which button you are pressing.
Ergonomics are great, and a lot of the electronic controls are now also more European in style. This may be a significant change for past customers, but nevertheless, this car is still a Toyota and all of the controls are still reasonably easy to use. The rear passengers enjoy a considerable amount of leg and shoulder room. Tall adults will enjoy the headroom as well.
Trunk space is also increased. However, the rear seats do not fold down, only the centre armrest pass-through.
The Avalon is available in two models with the XLE starting at $36,800 and the Limited starting at $38,900.
Standard equipment includes navigation, dual-zone climate control, Bluetooth, keyless entry, push-button start, power adjustable exterior mirrors with memory, and a power moonroof.
Additional features, available as options or on the higher trim, include HID headlights, automatic high beams, heated and cooled front seats, heated rear seats, rear seat climate control, ambient lighting package, JBL audio system, pre-collision system, and radar-controlled cruise control.
Fuel efficiency numbers are 9.9 l/100km city and 6.4 l/100km highway.
The Bottom Line
The 2014 Toyota Avalon is a surprisingly delightful European-like sedan. It is styled progressively, serenely comfortable and sporty enough to change its sleepy, retirement community tradition. However, while trying to lower the average age of its buyers, the Avalon may have tuned the suspension too aggressively for the traditional customer.
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