2014 Toyota Avalon
2014 Toyota Avalon
The Toyota Avalon was completely redesigned for the 2013 model year, offering more responsive handling while maintaining excellent ride quality. A smooth, powerful V6 engine comes standard, while a hybrid gas-electric powertrain is optional for better fuel economy and extremely low emissions. The Avalon is fairly easy to operate, and the standard leather interior is comfortable and attractive. It's very easy to live with.
The Avalon is designed in Southern California, engineered in Detroit, and built at Toyota's plant in Georgetown, Kentucky. It's the most American-made car that Toyota has ever offered.
With Toyota being known for vanilla design, the striking Avalon is almost shocking. But it's precisely what Toyota's top executive, President Akio Toyoda, the grandson of the founder, had in mind when he promised to pump new passion into the brand.
The Avalon has an expensive look and feel, muscular and refined, with styling you might expect from the latest Ford or Hyundai. The profile could be mistaken for a Ford Fusion, or the coupe-like roofline for an Audi A7. The interior boasts a near-luxury level of refinement, including hand-stitched leather. The large touchscreen adapts the latest version of Toyota's EnTune infotainment system, and the LCD screen atop the center stack replaces many knobs and buttons.
Avalon is available with two powertrains, mainly the 3.5-liter, 90-degree V6 engine with Variable Valve Timing with Intelligence that produces 268 horsepower at 6200 rpm and 248 pound-feet of torque. It delivers excellent fuel economy for its horsepower and 3400-plus pounds, EPA rated at 21/31 city/highway mpg. Toyota says it does 0 to 60 mph in 6.7 seconds, quite quick. It's smooth getting there.
The Avalon Hybrid will draw buyers wanting the best fuel mileage they can get in a big sedan. It uses a four-cylinder engine and an electric motor that make a combined 200 horsepower. It uses the latest Toyota Hybrid Synergy Drive, and is EPA rated at 40 combined mpg, eye-popping numbers for a full-size sedan. It accelerates from 0 to 60 mph in around 8 seconds, quite decent. Avalon is the first full-size Toyota sedan to offer a hybrid gas-electric powertrain.
The 2014 Avalon comes in seven models. Avalon XLE ($31,340) comes standard with heated, leather front seats, eight-way power driver's seat, four-way power front-passenger seat, 6.1-inch touch-screen display, two-door Smart Key, heated mirrors, mirror turn signals, 17-inch alloy wheels. New standard equipment for 2014 includes a rearview camera, and three-blink auto-off turn signals.
Avalon XLE Premium ($33,195) adds a rearview camera and moonroof, three-door Smart Key, auto-dimming mirror with compass, garage door opener, three-button Eco Switch.
Avalon XLE Touring ($35,000) includes fog lamps, 18-inch alloy wheels, blind-spot monitor with rear cross-traffic alert, navigation system, paddle shifters and EnTune Display Audio.
Avalon Limited ($39,650) upgrades further with premium perforated leather heated and cooled front seats, 10-way power driver's seat, eight-way power front-passenger seat, heated rear seats, three-zone climate control, 7-inch high-resolution touch-screen audio, with navigation, Entune and JBL, JBL Premium HDD audio, color HVAC screen, Safety Connect, rain-sensing wipers, rear sunshade, HID headlamps, LED Daytime Running Lights, puddle lamps, ambient lighting, auto-dimming outside mirrors.
Avalon Hybrid XLE Premium ($35,555), Avalon Hybrid XLE Touring ($37,750), and Avalon Hybrid XLE Limited ($41,400) are similarly equipped. (All prices are Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Prices and do not include $810 destination charge.)
The optional Technology Package ($1750) for Avalon Limited and Hybrid models adds Dynamic Radar Cruise Control, automatic high beams, and Pre-Collision System.
Safety features standard on all Avalon models include Toyota's Star Safety System, 10 airbags, whiplash-lessening seats, three-point seatbelts, LATCH child-seat anchors, child-protector door locks, anti-theft system with alarm and engine immobilizer. Optional safety features include Safety Connect, Pre-Collision System, Blind Spot Monitor with Rear Cross Traffic Alert.
Walkaround and Interior
The Avalon looks wide and aggressive, at least when compared to the previous generation that we'd gotten used to, from 2005 to 2112. There's a sense of kinetic energy that no other Toyota sedan has. It feels compact and tight, one inch lower than before, and with overhangs cut by 0.6 inch in front and 1.8 inches in rear. Still, there's 4.6 inches more total overhang on the Avalon than there is on the Ford Fusion.
The Avalon's face is really a face. It bears similarity to the Fusion, which itself came from Aston Martin, but it's not as good-looking because the big trapezoidal grille with chrome bars is lower, under the traditional graceful Toyota swept-back wing-like grille, now a mere moustache over a gaping mouth full of braces. The selfie is framed by lights, at the top corners there are wraparound projector headlamps, and at the bottom sharply swoopy foglamps.
The body is sculpted with character lines stretching through the hood and from the front wheelwells to the tips of the taillights. There are half-windows at the back of the sloping roof to give rear seat passengers a broader view of the world passing by so quietly and smoothly. Toyota succeeds in making form and function partners in the new Avalon.
With some sedans having a coupe roofline, function is lost. But Toyota's California designers used the 111-inch wheelbase to sculpt a curvaceous exterior while providing excellent room for heads, legs, hips and shoulders. The seats are firm, maybe too firm. Rear seat passengers have 39.2 inches of legroom, which is 0.9 inch more than the Fusion.
The Avalon is fairly lavishly outfitted, with hand-stitched leather and no cheap plastic like that drawing criticism in other models, namely the Camry. Unfortunately the wood trim looks too much like plastic. Elegant ambient lighting is standard on the Limited, for 2014.
The layout is almost cockpit-like. Things are in correct positions, including the large touchscreen used for the EnTune infotainment system with navigation, audio and Bluetooth. It also enables access to smartphone-based apps such as Pandora, Bing, iHeartRadio, and services like fuel pricing, stock reports, traffic and weather data.
Without navigation, the same screen is used for audio and other features such as the rearview camera. On this screen, the image is big and crisp. A second screen with capacitive touch operates the climate control system.
Cargo capacity is good: 16 cubic feet of trunk space, 14.4 cubic feet for Avalon Hybrid models. Folding down the back seats provides more cargo space and room for longer items.
Driving an Avalon Limited for three days in spring in the dark and damp Pacific Northwest, we quickly grew to love the automatic high beams, that come with the $1750 Technology Package. We can't recall one time where the eye went wrong, unlike other systems we've experienced. The package also includes Dynamic Radar Cruise Control (which we also relied on, worry-free), and Pre-Collision System (which we didn't test and hope we never do).
We first drove the Avalon on Toyota's suburban Detroit test track, where we discovered how much of an improvement it was over the soft boulevard cruiser that defined prior generations. In fact, now it might be too firm, at least for the old buyers, if not everyone. The ride definitely makes you aware of dips and uneven spots on the freeway, especially with the firm seats.
Toyota took significant steps to firm things up, in the redesign. More braces and welds to increase chassis rigidity for sharp handling and a smooth ride, along with new springs and stabilizer bars. There's very little body roll (lean), and virtually no torque steer on this front-wheel-drive car, not even with aggressive launches. (Torque steer is the tendency of the front wheels to turn under hard acceleration, felt as a tug on the steering wheel.) Stand on the Avalon accelerator, and it takes off in a straight line.
The electric power-assisted steering system errs on the power side, making it a bit light, although Sport mode tightens it up. The suspension gets no firmer in Sport mode, however, and for canyon-carving or sport-sedan pretending, it needs it. But we liked the Dynamic Rev Management, which is particularly useful with paddle-shift models (Touring and Limited).
At 268 horsepower, the 3.5-liter V6 provides excellent power. It's mated to a 6-speed automatic. The shifts are almost completely transparent and there's no hunting even under aggressive driving. With powertrains like this, who needs 8-speed automatics?
At an EPA-estimated 21/31 mpg City/Highway, or 25 mpg Combined, the Avalon gets great mileage for a full-size sedan. The Avalon Hybrid, at 40 mpg Combined, is awesome. Those are the numbers of tiny subcompacts with tiny engines.
The Avalon Hybrid package teams a four-cylinder engine with a pair of electric motors using essentially the same Toyota Synergy Hybrid drive found in the Camry. It's about a second-and-a-half slower than the V6 Avalon from 0-60 mph but it still delivers enough power to give the driver confidence passing or getting onto a freeway.
Avalon Hybrid's 2.5-liter inline-4, for the technically minded, uses the fuel-saving Atkinson Cycle and itself develops 156 horsepower and 156 pound-feet of torque. The electric motor brings that up to an even 200 hp. Toyota claims the Avalon can operate on battery power alone. But this is no plug-in. You'll be lucky to get a full mile if the battery is fully charged. While the Avalon Hybrid can technically operate in electric mode at speeds up to 25 mph, that's rare. It'll usually fire the four-cylinder engine up well before then, especially if you've got a heavy throttle foot. A neat trick with the Hybrid is the ability to maintain climate control even when the gas engine is shut off.
Summary, Prices, Specs
The Toyota Avalon brings fresh design to a full-size sedan. Handling is taut and ride quality high. The 3.5-liter V6 is smooth and powerful, while the Hybrid boasts 40 mpg. The Avalon is an easy car to own.
Paul Eisenstein filed this NewCarTestDrive.com report after his test drive of the Avalon in Detroit. Sam Moses contributed to this report.
|Model Line Overview|
|Model lineup:||Toyota Avalon XLE ($31,340), XLE Premium ($33,195), XLE Touring ($35,000), Limited ($39,650); Avalon XLE Hybrid ($35,555), XLE Touring Hybrid ($36,750), XLE Limited Hybrid ($41,400)|
|Engines:||268-hp 3.5-liter V6; 200-hp 2.5-liter I4 paired with twin motor/electric generator system|
|Transmissions:||6-speed automatic (V6 models); Synergy Hybrid Drive CVT with planetary gears (Hybrid models)|
|Safety equipment (standard):||Star Safety System, 10 airbags, whiplash-injury lessening seats, LATCH child seat system, tire-pressure monitor|
|Safety equipment (optional):||Safety Connect, Pre-Collision System, Blind Spot Monitor with Rear Cross Traffic Alert|
|Assembled in:||Georgetown, Kentucky|
|Specifications As Tested|
|Model tested (MSPR):||Toyota Avalon Limited ($39,650)|
|Standard equipment:||leather-trimmed perforated multi-stage heated and ventilated front seats; 10-way power driver's seat, 8-way front passenger's seat; driver's seat memory; three-zone climate control with air filters; Intelli-touch climate controls for HVAC system; Premium HDD Navigation with EnTune; Backup Camera; Cruise Control; premium leather tilt/telescope steering wheels with controls for cruise and Bluetooth; heated rear seats; fold-down rear seats; wood grain-style interior trim; white ice interior ambient lighting; Smart Key system; power door locks; power windows; power rear window sunshade; auto-dimming rearview mirror with compass, maplinks and Homelink transmitter; eBin sliding electronic device holder with dual power outlets; rain-sensing wipers; acoustic windshield; dual chrome exhaust tips; aluminum door sills; HID headlamps; foglamps; LED taillights; color-keyed auto-dimming outer mirrors; power tilt/slide moonroof; 18-inch alloy wheels|
|Options as tested (MSPR):||Technology Package ($1750), wireless charging capability ($200), carpet mats ($225)|
|Gas guzzler tax:|
|Price as tested (MSPR):||$42635|
|Engine:||3.5-liter dohc 4-valve V6|
|Horsepower (lb.-ft @ rpm):||268 @ 6200|
|Torque (lb.-ft @ rpm):||248 @ 4700|
|EPA fuel economy, city/hwy:||21/31 mpg|
|Track, f/r:||62.6/62.2 in.|
|Head/hip/leg room, f:||37.6/55.1/42.1 in.|
|Head/hip/leg room, m:||in.|
|Head/hip/leg room, r:||37.9/54.6/39.2 in.|
|Cargo volume:||16.0 cu. ft.|
|Suspension, f:||MacPherson strut, stabilizers|
|Suspension, r:||MultiLink, stabilizers|
|Ground clearance:||5.5 in.|
|Curb weigth:||3461 lbs.|
|Brakes, f/r:||ventilated disc/solid disc, ABS, Brake Assist, electronic stability control|
|Fuel capacity:||17.0 gal.|
|Unless otherwise indicated, specifications refer to test vehicle. All prices are manufacturer's suggested retail prices (MSPR) effective as of November 5, 2014.Prices do not include manufacturer's destination and delivery charges. N/A: Information not available or not applicable. Manufacturer Info Sources: 800-331-4331 - www.toyota.com|