2019 Toyota Avalon
Japan’s version of ‘American’ family sedan
- 박재승 (email@example.com) --
- 03 Dec 2018
By James Park
There was a time when full-size sedans ruled the North American roads. Such dinosaurs as Chevy Impala, Ford LTD, Oldsmobile Delta 88, Buick LeSabre and such were big, roomy and comfortable. My father’s 76 Impala had the trunk huge enough to swallow a month of groceries for a family of four.
Back then, ‘Made in Japan’ label was not yet the badge of excellence. Japanese automobiles that were slowly trickling into the market did not, at first, grab the attention of the middle-class suburban families.
This writer wonders if during those early years, a Toyota executive might have imagined building a large family sedan that could rival something like the Impala. I do remember when the first Avalon was introduced in 1994, one of the American car magazines praising it as the “Impala that Chevrolet should have built.”
Things usually go in cycles, but for now, the utility vehicles have taken over and the sightings of full-size mainstream family sedans are about as rare as decorum among the American politicians.
Still, the Avalon lives on as Toyota’s not insignificant achievement of beating the Americans at their own game. The corporate pride alone can keep this vehicle in the Toyota lineup for a long time.
In fact, the latest 2019 Avalon is the fourth generation model. Still big, roomy and comfortable, it is now even more luxurious, sophisticated and attention-grabbing than the model it replaces.
In this writer’s opinion, the Avalon has more graceful lines than that of the Camry. Its wide front grill, especially in the Limited trim, is reminiscent of a baleen whale. Still, the car looks substantive without being heavy. In the XSE guise, it does reasonably good job of appearing to be sporty as well.
The car’s interior looks and feels luxurious and the centre console/divider that incorporates the tablet-like screen adds that avant-garde French flair to the cabin. Cream’s Crossroads (Live at Winterland, 1968) sounds even more soul-stirring blasting out of JBL audio’s fourteen speakers.
Heated and cooled leather seats are all-day comfortable. Visibility is good all around and all the controls are fairly intuitive and easy to comprehend. Apple Carplay comes standard but Android Auto is not yet available. Highly sought out electronic nannies as blind-side monitoring, lane-keep assist, forward collision mitigation, rear cross-traffic alert, etc. are incorporated into Toyota Safety Sense package.
For now, the Avalon comes in two flavours. The sportier XSE starts from $42,790 before taxes and fees. The looks are supported by 19 inch alloys, side skirt, rear spoiler and chrome tipped exhaust pipes. The Limited, which starts from $47,790, puts more focus on luxury with LED lights, 18 inch wheels, subtler exterior but more standard options inside.
Both models come with 3.5 litre naturally aspirated V6. This tried and true power plant generates 301 horses and 267 lb-ft of torque. Instead of the previous six-speed, the new eight-speed transmission sends power to the front wheels.
The Limited test-vehicle provided to this writer, aside from that fabulous JBL audio system, also boasts dual-zone auto climate control, head-up display, 360 degree camera, etc. among the long list of standard equipments.
While many manufacturers are switching to force-fed motors, Toyota is unique in carrying on with normal-breathing mills for most of its lineup. The 3.5 V6 has been around for ages and is as dependable as Swiss railroad system and develops sufficient power for everyday use. The eight-speed transmission, however, does not want to downshift as eagerly as it up-shifts to save fuel.
Thanks to more rigid platform than before and the multi-link rear suspension, the big Avalon is actually quite responsive in its handling and goes around corners with confidence. As a family sedan, its suspension is tuned more for comfort and smooth ride. However, the car is surprisingly light on its feet and its steering is accurate, if not as wonderfully communicative as say, the Porsche Cayman.
Then again, this car, even in XSE guise, is not a sports sedan and never meant to be one. As a quiet and comfortable family cruiser, the Avalon has few equals. In the market saturated with all kinds of CUV/SUVs, it is refreshing to see a big sedan like the Avalon still holding its ground. (James Park is a member of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada.)
2019 Toyota Avalon Limited
Engine: 3.5 litre V6
Power: 301 hp/267 lb-ft
Transmission: 8 spd auto
Fuel: 10.9 litres per 100km (city), 7.6 litres (highway)
Best: comfortable and sophisticated interior
Worst: lazy transmission
Competition: Nissan Maxima, Kia Cadenza, Ford Taurus, Chrysler 300
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