by Jared Rosenholtz
You’ve reached retirement age, generated a healthy nest egg, packed up your house, and moved to Boca Raton, Florida. The Avalon has long been the chariot of choice for the Boca jet set who don’t care enough about cars to purchase a flashy vehicle like a Bentley or Rolls-Royce and would instead prefer to spend their hard-earned dollars on cruises, flashy vacations, and fancy 5:00 PM dinners. Then, when the grandkids visit, still have a spacious rear seat to chauffeur them around in.
This has been the narrative since the Avalon arrived on the market back in 1994, but Toyota isn’t just ready flip the script, it wants to burn it to the ground. Now in its fifth generation (introduced in 2018 as a 2019 model year), the Avalon wants to be more than a baby boomer’s buggy. The full-size sedan segment, much like its target demographic, is starting to dwindle as buyer’s switch to more popular SUVs and crossovers but Toyota is ready to inject new life into the market with what is easily the best Avalon to date.
2019 sees the Avalon completely redesigned for the introduction of the fifth generation model of Toyota’s largest sedan, with improved dimensions now placing it above most midsize competitors.
With a complete redesign for the 2019 model year, Toyota’s gone aggressive with their styling, with a large two-tier grille and sharp styling cues. The lower two trims feature LED reflector headlights while higher trims receive full LED setups, all of which feature LED daytime running lights. LED taillights are also standard on all. On the XLE, the grille surrounds are chrome, while higher trims receive gloss black detailing. Higher trims also receive a sunroof as standard - available as an option on the base XLE.
The XLE rides on 17-inch alloy wheels, while the Limited makes do with 18-inch items and the XSE and Touring with 19-inch machine finished alloys. XSE and Touring models also receive a piano black spoiler, while the XSE gets sporty quad exhaust tips. We particularly loved the 19-inch wheels of our Touring tester because the spokes look like a surgeon’s scalpel.
With 2019’s redesign, the Avalon has grown in size, now measuring 195.9-inches long while riding on a 113-inch wheelbase, fitting firmly into the full-size sedan category. Measuring 56.5-inches in height, the Avalon boasts 5.3-inches of ground clearance, while at 72.8-inches wide the Avalon boasts a squat stance. A relatively low coefficient of drag of 0.27 Cd is impressive for the segment, aiding improved fuel economy. Curb weight, however, is the enemy of efficiency, and the Avalon is no featherweight at between 3,560 and 3,660 lbs in non-hybrid form.
Eight exterior hues are available for the Avalon, with all available across the line-up. Sedate colors include Wind Chill Pearl and Harbor Gray Metallic, while more exciting colors include Ruby Flare Pearl and Parisian Night Pearl. This year’s palette represents a paring back from the 2018 model, with only three of last year’s options continued over to the newly designed Avalon. Both Wind Chill Pearl and Ruby Flare Pearl carry an extra cost of $395.
Our Touring trim test model came finished in a stealthy shade of Harbor Gray Metallic, which blended into the background without calling attention to itself. Harbor Gray is far from the most interesting color available but we think it suits the Avalon nicely. If you want to make a bolder statement, we’d spend the $395 on Ruby Flare Pearl paint.
All non-hybrid Avalon models make use of the same engine, gearbox, drivetrain combination, boasting a 3.5-liter V6 developing 301 horsepower and 267 lb-ft of torque. Power is routed to the front wheels via an eight-speed automatic as standard, with no option for either a manual gearbox or an all-wheel-drive alternative. Subaru offers all-wheel-drive exclusively, while the Chrysler 300 gives buyers a choice of rear- or all-wheel drivetrains.
With no differences across the range, the Avalon’s performance is steady, managing the 0-60 mph dash in the six-second range, quicker than last year’s model by virtue of an additional 33 horsepower. Others manage it quicker, but then again, the Avalon isn’t meant to be a performance sedan, more of a big luxurious bruiser. In real-world driving, the Avalon’s drivetrain is eager to deliver power, even if the 0-60 time does not reflect it.
A single engine finds a home beneath the hood of all non-hybrid Toyota Avalons, with the 3.5-liter 2GR-FKS V6 being called for duty. It is an evolution of the same V6 that’s done duty since 2005 but with the addition of Toyota’s latest fuel injection systems, combining direct and port injection, it gets an extra 33 horsepower this year, taking the total to 301 hp, while torque rests at 267 lb-ft. All trims make use of an eight-speed automatic gearbox, with manual shift mode via paddle-shifters behind the steering wheel. It is worth noting, however, that like most Toyota vehicles, the Avalon does not offer a "true” manual mode. Instead, the transmission will only shift to the highest gear the driver sets using the paddles.
Some turbocharged rivals may have the Avalon outgunned but Toyota’s V6 engine feels stout, delivering smooth power with minimal effort. This engine is also employed by the Lexus ES 350, where it feels far more detached from the driver and delivers an additional one horsepower. Toyota actually pumps engine sound back into the cabin in Sport Mode to make the drive feel more connected to the driving experience. We enjoyed the V6’s throatiness, especially through the tuned exhaust baffles on our Touring model. The Avalon only requires regular 87-octane gas, which is a major benefit over its Lexus counterpart.
Toyota’s eight-speed transmission puts down the power well but with 301 hp on tap, it’s easy to trigger tire squeal from the front rubber. We wish Toyota would include a true manual shift mode but when left to its own devices, the eight-speed does a nice job of knowing when to execute shifts.
There’s no way of sugarcoating it, the previous generation Avalon drove like a bag of pudding with a steering wheel. This new model feels radically different thanks to its new TNGA platform underpinnings. We’ve seen this new architecture on the smaller Camry, where it transformed one of the most sedate sedans in the segment into one of the most fun to drive. It’s still no alternative to a sport sedan with rear-wheel-drive but the Avalon is no longer a car built for retirees only.
The Avalon Touring trim was the first Toyota ever to include Adaptive Variable Suspension, which can tighten up in Sport+ Mode to minimize body roll and provoke a sportier ride. We never felt the suspension become too stiff, even in Sport+ mode, but it does make a noticeable difference in vibration levels on harsh road surfaces.
Changing between the drive modes, which include Eco, Normal, Sport, Sport+ (exclusive to Touring trim) and Custom, alters the Avalon’s personality profile without transforming it into a fire-breathing monster or boring snoozefest. We happily switched between Normal Mode when we were cruising in traffic and Sport+ Mode when the roads opened up.
The entry-level XLE is the most economical non-hybrid Avalon, by virtue of lower levels of specification and smaller wheels, managing EPA-rated mileage estimates of 22/32/26 mpg on the city/highway/combined cycles. Higher trim lines drop those figures to 22/31/25 mpg respectively. The more efficient XLE also boasts a smaller gas tank, measuring at 14.5-gallons to the remaining trims’ 15.8-gallons. In turn, it’s the thirstier Avalon’s that claim the highest range, with a theoretical 395-mile range possible in mixed driving conditions.
Opting for the Avalon Hybrid comes at an 86 horsepower penalty but you will see mpg figures of 43/43 city/highway. In our real-world testing, we found it difficult to match the Avalon’s EPA-rated mpg figures, falling just shy by about one mpg in each category.
Few rivals can match the Avalon’s blend of quality and spaciousness in the full-size sedan segment. An attractive design is paired with quality materials and great perceived build quality. Seating for five is, as expected from a mid-bordering-on-full-size sedan, generously proportioned, with ample headroom and legroom for even taller adults in the rear seats. Seats are supportive, too, ensuring comfort on long drives and family holidays. The power sunroof on all models but the base trim does, however, cut into front occupant headroom a little, but it’s no major inconvenience. Toyota’s Entune infotainment system has taken a step forward in the Avalon and now features Apple CarPlay, although the lack of Android Auto is still a frustration. Elsewhere in the Avalon, storage is on par for the segment, giving the Avalon a well-rounded interior appeal.
Toyota’s previous attempt to jazz up the Avalon’s interior with touch-sensitive buttons went over about as well as senior citizen playing a GameBoy. This interior redesign is a major step in the right direction in terms of design. All occupants will feel like they have their own space without feeling stuffed together.
The Avalon’s seats offer a nice amount of support but could do with more lower adjustment for taller drivers. The lengthy 113-inch wheelbase affords 40-inches of rear legroom, which is two inches more than the Camry but the same as the Honda Accord. As a people hauler, the Avalon shines above most SUVs in a similar price category.
Step into the Avalon, and you’ll immediately notice an elevation in quality over the smaller Camry. Most of the interior materials feel premium except for two cheap plastic pillars blocking the wireless charger area. On the Touring trim, the chairs are wrapped in a combination of grey leather and suede and on our tester, combined with sporty orange stitching as-optioned on our tester. Buyers can also opt for a black leather/suede combination but we enjoyed the lighter material color. Combined with heated and ventilated seat, our chairs remained cool even on 100-degree Florida days.
In the trunk of the Avalon, there are 16.1 cubic feet of storage capacity or about enough for a dozen shopping bags. It’s about par for the segment with numerous rivals offering about the same, and the trunk lid opens wide and exposes a broad, deep load bay for easy loading. The rear seats fold down, too, which gives the extra capacity for longer items when needed.
Inside the cabin, there’s a fair amount of storage space for smaller personal items. A large center console cubby is paired with decently sized cupholders and a storage box beneath the center armrest. The glovebox is averagely sized, but the door pockets on all four doors are large enough for most people’s needs.
Available in four trims, specification and equipment levels are high throughout the Avalon range. Right from the bottom, you’ll receive automatic LED headlights, keyless entry and ignition, dual-zone automatic climate control, power adjustable heated front seats, an auto-dimming rear-view mirror, rearview camera, and a Wi-Fi hotspot. On higher trims, the features pile on, with ventilated front seats, heated rear seats, and a heated steering wheel all available on the Limited trim, while the Touring trim gives you adaptive suspension and active noise cancellation. Toyota’s Safety Sense suite of driver aids is equipped to all trims, incorporating forward collision warning, lane keeping assist, adaptive cruise control, and blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert.
Toyota’s Entune infotainment system has never been class leading but its most recent iteration makes some major improvements. The Avalon houses its various features on a nine-inch touchscreen, which feels large and easy to navigate. Apple CarPlay comes standard but Android Auto is only recently starting to appear in the Toyota lineup. Our tester came equipped with built-in navigation linked to a 14-speaker JBL premium sound system. The whole system can be slow to respond at times but is one of the easiest systems on the market to master.
As the Avalon is all-new for 2019, reliability issues are yet to rear their ugly head. However, there has already been one recall for 2019 Avalons for problems with the airbag control unit that may result in airbags not deploying in the event of an accident. Toyota’s 36-month/36,000-mile basic warranty and 60-month/60,000-mile powertrain warranty is applicable to all Avalon models. We noticed no serious issues during our week of testing and with Toyota’s impeccable track record, we’d expect the Avalon to be bullet-proof mechanically.
The Avalon scores favorably with government safety agencies, with the NHTSA awarding it an overall score of five out of five stars and the IIHS awarding it the status of being a 2019 Top Safety Pick + when equipped with certain headlights. It scored notably high in all IIHS tests.
Key to the Avalon’s IIHS TSP+ award are the LED headlights equipped to higher trims, but there’s an array of standard safety features that all improve overall safety. A complete package of ten airbags includes rear seat-mounted side airbags and knee airbags for both front occupants. Advanced safety features as standard include lane departure warning and blind spot detection, but also include pedestrian detection for the forward collision avoidance system, automatic high beams, and adaptive cruise control.
We’ve never been excited at the thought of a new Avalon but this new 2019 model finally ditches the vanilla, plane-jane vibe it has had since its inception. At long last, the Avalon has evolved into a car to be enjoyed by people who don’t have an AARP card. SUVs and crossover are all the rage right now but we still think there’s a place for comfortable sedans like this in the market. Rear seat space is fantastic and the ride comfort is still soft enough to keep elderly bones from getting bruised up.
Yes, the Avalon still lacks the aggression and finesse of a rear-wheel-drive sedan like a Dodge Charger or Kia Stinger but it will no longer put you to sleep from behind the wheel. We think the 2019 Avalon is night and day different from the car it replaces and finally seems worthy of consideration as more than the perfect retirement vehicle.
The Avalon range comprises four trims, the cheapest of which is the XLE at an MSRP of $35,650 before tax, licensing, registration, and a destination charge of $930. From there, the XSE starts at $38,150, while the Limited carries an MSRP of $41,950. The fully-loaded Touring trim is priced from $42,350 before the addition of any packages. Numerous dealer incentives are available, so it pays to shop around.
The Avalon range comprises four trims: XLE, XSE, Limited, and Touring. All models are powered by the same 301 horsepower 3.5-liter V6 and are equipped with an eight-speed automatic transmission.
The XLE kicks things off, equipped with 17-inch alloy wheels, automatic LED headlights, keyless entry, dual-zone climate, heated power front seats, and simulated leather upholstery. It also boasts a Wi-Fi hotspot, nine-inch touchscreen infotainment system, and eight speakers, as well as the Safety Sense suite of safety features.
The XSE is a sportier alternative and boasts 19-inch alloy wheels, piano black exterior enhancements, a sunroof, rear spoiler, paddle shifters, aluminum trim, microsuede seat inserts, and augmented engine noises.
Equipped to the Limited you’ll find 18-inch alloy wheels, a heads-up display, leather upholstery, ventilated front seats, heated rear seats, a heated steering wheel, wood interior trim, a wireless charging pad, navigation, and a 14-speaker JBL sound system.
At the top of the line-up, the Touring includes all the aforementioned, an adaptive suspension, Sport- drive mode, a sport exhaust, and active noise cancellation.
|XLE||3.5-liter V6 Gas||8-Speed Automatic||Front Wheel Drive||$32,086||$35,650|
|XSE||3.5-liter V6 Gas||8-Speed Automatic||Front Wheel Drive||$34,336||$38,150|
|Limited||3.5-liter V6 Gas||8-Speed Automatic||Front Wheel Drive||$37,756||$41,950|
|Touring||3.5-liter V6 Gas||8-Speed Automatic||Front Wheel Drive||$38,116||$42,350|
While all Avalon’s are well-equipped, Toyota offers several packages across the range. Available on the XLE is a JBL sound upgrade for $680, a Moonroof Package at $1,000, or a combination of the two at $1,680 called the Moonroof Package with options. Of those, only the JBL Audio Upgrade is available on the XSE, while it comes standard on the Limited.
Available on the Limited and Touring trims, buyers can opt for an Advanced Safety Package for $1,150 which adds a bird’s eye view camera, perimeter scan, and intelligent clearance sonar with rear cross-traffic auto-braking.
Toyota sells the Avalon in four trim levels (three of which are also available with the hybrid drivetrain). The XLE and Limited trims heir on the luxurious side of the spectrum while the XSE and Touring are more sporty in nature. We loved our Touring trim tester and it is the one we’d choose. The adaptive suspension, exhaust tuning, engine sound enhancement, and gorgeous 19-inch wheels. As-tested, our Avalon rang in at $45,580, which seems reasonable compared to a similarly-optioned SUV. If you value having a more aggressive looking sedan with a sportier vibe, the Touring trim is the Avalon to have until the TRD model arrives later in 2019.
The Toyota Avalon and Lexus ES share a large portion of their underpinnings. But while similar, the Lexus is intended to be more luxurious, and it definitely is, with soft leather upholstery and a classier design inside and out than the Avalon. It rides a little softer too, devoid of the sporty inclinations on the XSE, although the F-Sport is a little more aggressive. The ES is only marginally more expensive than higher trim Avalons, though, while offering comparable specification with a few extra luxury amenities.
Both models perform identically, despite Lexus rating the ES as having a single horsepower more than the Avalon. We'd easily sacrifice that extra horse for the ability to run 87-octane fuel in the Avalon. The interior of the ES is where the two are really set apart, with a greater focus on luxury and a trunk that’s larger by 0.7 cubic feet. If your budget is tight, an entry-level Avalon is ideal, but if you have the money to spend, you’ll be happier in the Lexus for not much more cash.
Toyota is one of a few manufacturers with two nicely-sized sedan models. But the Avalon is stretched out, larger in all aspects compared to the Camry, and it makes this difference known inside where rear passengers are given increased room and levels of comfort. It also hosts a more demure interior design, while the Camry is aiming at a younger audience with an attractive design and sportier driving dynamics. It lacks the hness of the Avalon but still rides well, although it exhibits livelier handling. While the top-spec Camrys may utilize the same engine as the Avalon, lower derivatives make use of an underpowered four-cylinder, but in turn, achieve better gas mileage. Both models are brilliant, but the real question is what you’re after in life. If you want to enjoy driving at the expense of rear passenger comfort (only marginally so), then the Camry is an exceptional choice at a substantial discount, but if you’re all for comfort and luxury, the Avalon is worth spending a few thousand dollars more on.