Can’t afford a large premium Lexus sedan? Then consider a large premium sedan in the form of Toyota’s flagship sedan – the Avalon, which has undergone a bold redesign, inside and out for the 2011 model year. This latest iteration Avalon showcases a distinctive new exterior style along with an interior that features a richly restyled interior with new technologies and a host of convenience amenities. The restyling took place at Calty Design Research in Newport Beach, Calif., while assembly takes place at the Toyota Motor Manufacturing Kentucky, where the Camry, Camry Hybrid and Venza are also put together.
The dynamic new exterior starts off with a more substantial grille, flanked by state-of-the-art projector headlamps. The hood is broad and uncluttered, creating the sense of a lowered center of gravity that also aids in emphasizing the wide stance of the Avalon. Fog lamps are now integrated into the trapezoidal front bumper, allowing for a wider illumination angle. Out back, dual exhaust pipes are intergrated into the lower bumper’s trapezoidal form, and a single Avalon logo is positioned above the license plate housing. Taillights have been reshaped to reduce airflow turbulence, and incorporate stop, turn and side marker functions. Unique LED light pipes in keeping with a recent popular trend feature dark aluminized side with both clear and red lenses for a custom look.
The 2011 Toyota Avalon is a luxurious, premium sedan that seats five adult passengers in roomy comfort. Avalon is available in two grades of trim: the Base Avalon and Limited. Both trim levels are well equipped with an impressive inventory of standard features and equipment. Included as standard fare are: eight-way leather-trimmed power driver’s seat; a back-up camera; dual zone automatic climate control with air filtration, a moonroof and 17-inch alloy wheels. The Limited models up the ante with an 8-way passenger’s seat with lumbar support; a driver’s seat cushion extension, Rain-sensing wipers, Smart Key and cooled leather seats. Additional upgrades are available for the Limited – items such as a JBL Synthesis sound system and heated front seats. Navigation is optional for both trim levels.
Despite serving up ample doses of horsepower, Avalon delivers outstanding fuel economy ratings. Power for all Avalons comes from a 3.5-liter, DOHC, 24-valve with dual VVTi and Toyota Direct Ignition. The efficient powerplant is positioned in an East/West orientation and delivers 268 horses at 6,3200 rpm along with 248 pound feet of torque at 4,700 rpm. The engine meters motive force to the front wheels via a six-speed ECT-I automatic. The Avalon rates as an Ultra Low Emission Vehicle, and is expected to deliver 20 mpg in city driving, and 29 mpg when operating on freeways.
Safety features abound – seven airbags, including a front knee bag for the driver and front side curtain airbags for both seating rows; Vehicle Stability Control; ABS; Electronic Brake Force Distribution; Brake Assist; and Traction Control.
My test 2011 Toyota Avalon came in Limited trim, sporting a Sizzling Crimson Mica exterior, complemented by a two-tone light Gray and Charcoal interior accented by faux, satin-finished wood trim pieces. The base price was set at $35,485 while options, which included; the Navigation and Premium Audio System; carpeted floor and trunk mats; emergency assistance kit; V.I.P. glass breakage sensor, rear bumper appliqué and Delivery Processing and Handling Fee kicked the final count and amount to $38,188.
SUMMARY: The 2011 Avalon is positioned well above the popular Camry and rightfully so, since the level of comfort and convenience warrant such placement. The rear seating provides plenty of legroom for those in the 6 and a half-foot range, even when behind forward passengers at the same height level. The rear seats also recline for added comfort, and there is a power rear sunshade to protect rear occupants from undesirable levels of heat and light, which retract automatically when reverse gear is engaged. A rear center armrest with cupholders and storage may be folded down when there are only two rear passengers, and there is a trunk pass through provided as well.
The steering wheel both tilts and telescopes, but with separate controls, and features controls for Bluetooth hands-free phones, the audio system, climate system and the information center. The new instrument panel displays attractive and easily legible gauges that utilize graduated white illumination with white pointers, that are set inside smoked lenses, trimmed by deep chrome rings. The Nav system provides real-time traffic prompts – invaluable for trouble-free commuting (if there is such a thing).
Acceleration is crisp and power output is plentiful with smooth gear changes delivered by the 6-speed automatic gearbox. Handling attributes are positive and confidence inspiring, but keep in mind, that the Avalon, though luxurious, is not a luxury sport sedan. It is however, an ideal vehicle for traveling in comfort with sufficient cupholders and storage for added convenience and security for all occupants.