Friday, November 9, 2012

Review Toyota Avalon

Toyota wrote a love letter to the AARP and called it Avalon. A stretched Camry, the Avalon replicated the classic American car with a vast rear seat, a column shifter, and a front bench seat. Even the name served up a warm bowl of nostalgia, simultaneously conjuring up the old movie house on Main Street, Hugh Downs, and a backrub from Jessica Tandy. Soft, comfortable, and spacious, the Avalon chased the Big Three right down the big-car rabbit hole.
Toyota is now maintaining that the new, redesigned 2013 Avalon is a car for those who have yet to notice their first liver spot. It’s worth noting that Toyota made that same claim in 2005 after slipping a 3.5-liter V-6 into the contemporary Avalon; we welcomed the extra power, but the car’s soft suspension and casual roll control failed to connect. That didn’t stop us from giving the ’05 Avalon a comparison-test win against some admittedly ineffectual competition. But the recycled claim that this new Avalon isn’t just for old folks may actually hold water: Its chassis has been slipped a Viagra, there’s an emphasis on driver involvement, and the styling marks a clean break from yesteryear’s examples.
The exterior design seems to borrow from a number of sources, including Hyundai, Lexus, and Infiniti—and its grille placement and shape recalls that of the second-gen Chrysler Sebring—but the net effect is a sedan that doesn’t immediately conjure images of applesauce and cribbage. That’s a good thing. On the driving front, the stiffened suspension keeps body roll in check, and the previous car’s acceleration squat and earth-plowing dive under hard braking are things of the past. The steering now requires effort, and even more weight can be dialed in by hitting the Sport button located between the seats. Jack LaLanne himself would be pleased by the Avalon’s transformation from flabby and sloppy to tight and athletic.
Power remains the same at 268 hp, but muscle was never the Avalon’s problem. The familiar 3.5-liter V-6 and six-speed automatic are standard and carry over from the outgoing car. Paddle shifters are fitted to the top two trims, the Avalon Touring and Limited. The previous car hit 60 mph in 6.6 seconds when we tested it a couple of summers ago, and the new Avalon should easily match or beat that time despite having a taller final-drive ratio because weight is down by approximately 100 pounds, according to Toyota. The structure is stiffer than that of the previous version, too, which has helped make powertrain, suspension, and road noise even more hushed than before—and decidedly Lexus-like. We had a chance to sample new and old models back-to-back, and the latest Avalon feels more modern, more solid, quieter, and more expensive.