2011 Toyota Avalon LimitedPosted on September 6th, 2010
Fourth-generation full-sized sedan is the best yet
By Nina Russin
The Avalon is Toyota’s largest passenger sedan, built alongside the Camry and Venza in Georgetown, Kentucky. After sixteen years in production, the Avalon has come into its own, with styling and performance that sets it apart from the mid-size Camry.
When the Newport Beach-based Calty design team took over Avalon’s styling in 1995, what emerged was a more youthful and unique exterior, with performance and handling to match. Toyota builds on this formula for the all-new 2011 model. The fourth-generation Avalon is one of the most refined full-sized passenger sedans on the market.
The Avalon is so well executed, it’s virtually indistinguishable from high-luxury models. The 3.5-liter V-6 engine and six-speed automatic transmission are perfectly matched, combining excellent power with surprisingly good fuel economy.
Considering the amount of content, the chassis is surprisingly light: curb weight for the Limited model is 3616 pounds. Containing its mass enabled engineers to deliver a positive power-to-weight ratio, with 29 mile-per-gallon fuel economy on the highway.
The Limited is the more upscale of two available grades: pricing starts at $35,485, not including the $750 delivery charge. A navigation and premium audio system on the test car adds satellite radio with real-time traffic updates, MP3 and iPod interface, Bluetooth connectivity and a rearview camera ($1450). Floor mats cost $199, bringing the price as tested to $37,884.
The ultimate road test
My husband and I had no idea what we were headed for when we left the Indianapolis airport for Cincinnati the Friday evening before Labor Day. We expected heavier-than-normal traffic due to the holiday. What we didn’t expect was for I-74, the main highway between the two cities, to be shut down due to a jackknifed semi.
Our hundred-mile drive stretched to three-and-a-half hours, as we wove through Indiana’s back roads, trying to avoid the onslaught of angry motorists bailing off of the freeway. In a lesser car, I would have been ready to slit my wrists.
In the Avalon, the detour was an opportunity to see a part of the state I’d never traveled through: twisting rural roads showed off the sedan’s steering and suspension to its ultimate advantage.
Variable valve timing enabled engineers to make the engine both peppy and fuel-efficient. The engine reaches peak torque, 248 lbs.-ft., at 4700 rpm: about half pedal. The sedan’s low-end power translates to excellent acceleration off the line, and in the critical 20-to-50 mile-per-hour range necessary for merging into high-speed traffic.
The Avalon seems remarkably balanced for a front-wheel drive car, with no obvious tendency to under-steer. Standard seventeen-inch wheels provide an ample footprint, enhancing the sedan’s high-speed performance.
Visibility around the car is excellent. I applaud the Calty design team for giving the car a fresh, dynamic exterior without resorting to the narrow greenhouse and overly thick pillars that seem to dominate contemporary styling.
The side mirrors do a good job of minimizing blind spots to the back of the car without interfering with the driver’s forward view. Turn signal indicators make it easier for cars in the adjacent lanes to see which direction the driver is headed.
Over-the-shoulder visibility is good to both sides. The rear backup camera makes it easier to parallel park the full-sized sedan, and back out of vertical parking slots.
The power rack-and-pinion steering system has plenty of low-speed assist while maintaining positive on-center response on the highway. A four-wheel independent suspension consists of a MacPherson set-up on both axles with stabilizer bars. The suspension is remarkably compliant over pothole-filled Midwestern roads. Yet it keeps the chassis pancake-flat in the corners.
High-intensity discharge headlamps provide long, bright beams at night: something I found especially useful on the dark rural roads we took in lieu of the freeway. Standard daytime running lamps reduce the risk of an accident on winding roads with blind corners.
Four-wheel disc brakes stop the car in a firm, linear fashion.
The Avalon’s interior seats up to five adults. Keyless entry and start is standard on the Limited grade, allowing the driver to enter the car and fire the ignition without removing the key fob from his pocket. Access and egress is excellent for both rows of seating.
The car’s long wheelbase translates to better legroom in the second row. There is no floor tunnel to obstruct the middle passenger’s room.
Second-row seats recline, giving passengers in back an extra measure of comfort. The car’s wide track translates to ample hip room as well.
The front seats are on the soft side. I was happy to find an adjustable lumbar support: it made a tremendous difference during our three-and-a-half hour drive. The tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel is wide, but not uncomfortably so, and can easily be adjusted below the sight-line.
Gauges are easy to read in any lighting condition. A digital information display includes ambient temperature, instant and average fuel economy, driving range and trip meter.
Since the weather was temperate, we didn’t test the heated and cooled seats. However the dual climate control works very well: controls are within easy reach of either front seating position. A rear sunshade keeps second-row passengers cool in hot weather. The shade automatically retracts when the driver shifts into reverse, and then returns to its original position.
Engineers did an excellent job of isolating passengers from road, wind and engine noise. The premium JBL sound system has excellent quality, and seems well balanced for both front and rear seating positions.
The navigation system didn’t work as well as I had expected. It miscalculated our route a couple of times, and in some cases, showed us going in the opposite direction indicated by the mirror-mounted compass.
A locking glovebox provides secure storage inside the cabin. The center console includes two cupholders that are large enough for water bottles and a storage bin. An overhead console up front includes overhead reading lamps and a sunglass holder. Two twelve-volt power outlets recharge portable electronic devices on the go.
A fold-down armrest in back includes cupholders for the rear passengers. A rear pass-through extends the cargo area for skis and other long items, without having to fold the second-row seats flat.
The Avalon’s spacious trunk holds the full-sized spare tire. It is large enough for the family’s luggage, groceries, camping equipment and golf bags. Cyclists will be better served with one of Toyota’s crossover or sport-utility vehicles.
All models come with Toyota’s star safety system, which integrates antilock braking, brake assist, traction and stability control in a manner which is invisible to the driver. The Avalon has seven standard airbags, active front headrests, daytime running lamps and a tire pressure monitoring system.
The all-new Avalon is rolling into Toyota dealerships nationwide.
Likes: An attractive and capable full-sized sedan, with excellent power and performance, as well as comfortable seating for up to five adults.
Dislike: Navigation system is difficult to use.
Model: Avalon Limited
Base price: $35,485
As tested: $37,884
Horsepower: 268 Hp @ 6200 rpm
Torque: 248 lbs.-ft. @ 4700 rpm
Antilock brakes: Standard
Side curtain airbags: Standard
First aid kit: N/A
Bicycle friendly: No
Fuel economy: 20/29 mpg city/highway
One response to “2011 Toyota Avalon Limited”
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