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  • First Drive: 2019 Toyota Avalon

    Posted on April 23rd, 2018 ninarussin

    Flagship sedan is new from the ground up

    By Nina Russin

    2019 Toyota Avalon

    2019 Toyota Avalon

    When Toyota introduced the first Avalon for the 1994 model year, it was generally regarded as a stretched-out version of the midsize Camry. Over the past 25 years, the Avalon has acquired its own personality as a premium sedan aimed at older buyers looking for more space, but also more amenities.

    The newest Avalon that debuts for the 2019 model year carries this concept to the next level. It is the first to feature the automaker’s aggressive new styling along with a completely new powertrain, enhanced active safety and infotainment. All models, both gasoline and hybrid, are front-wheel drive.

    As in past years, the Avalon is bigger than the Camry although it is still considered a midsize sedan. The new car has a longer wheelbase and wider track than the outgoing model with shorter overhangs. It is also lower, lowering the center of gravity for better high-speed performance. The profile is, similar-to its competitors, coupe-like.

    Toyota hopes that the fifth-generation Avalon will turn heads, especially those of younger buyers wanting a luxurious vehicle but not necessarily ready to make the jump to Lexus.

    2019 Toyota Avalon

    2019 Toyota Avalon

    Competing against the Nissan Maxima and Buick LaCrosse, the gasoline model comes with a standard 3.5-liter V-6 engine rated at 301-horsepower with 267 pound-feet of torque and eight-speed automatic transmission. An available adaptive variable suspension adjusts within 20 milliseconds to road conditions and the driver’s style, capable of varying between 650 settings.

    Buyers who opt for the gasoline/electric hybrid get a 2.5-liter engine that pairs with two electric motors to deliver 215 net horsepower, with city and highway fuel economy at 43 and 44 mpg respectively.

    There are four grades of gasoline sedans, three for the hybrid. Pricing for the gasoline-powered XLE starts at $35,500 excluding the $895 delivery charge; the hybrid version starts at $36,500. The upscale Touring grade available only as a gasoline powered car is priced from $42,200.

    Designed, engineered and built in the US

    2019 Toyota Avalon

    2019 Toyota Avalon

    Since the Avalon is targeted towards the North American Market, Toyota utilized its CALTY Southern California design team and engineering group in Saline, Michigan to develop the production model. The Avalon is built at Toyota’s Elizabethtown, Kentucky plant alongside the Camry.

    The front-end incorporates Toyota’s trapezoidal grille, with slightly different treatment for the gasoline and hybrid models. A new LED slim headlamp design on Limited and Touring grades features laser ablation that gives the lighting a distinct appearance both illuminated and off. Adaptive cornering lamps increase foreground illumination by 60 percent.

    In profile, designers pulled the silhouette peak back and raked the C-pillars. Wheels ranging in size from 17-to-19 inches dress up the exterior and create a large footprint for high-speed performance. New ‘jet-fighter’ shape LED tail lamps punctuate the back end along with quad chrome exhaust tips.

    For the hybrid, engineers relocated the nickel metal hydride battery pack under second-row seats, lowering that vehicle’s center of gravity and freeing up trunk space as compared to the outgoing model.

    Test drive in Southern California

    2019 Toyota Avalon

    2019 Toyota Avalon

    At a recent media event, I had the opportunity to drive both gasoline and hybrid models along the San Diego coastline, on area freeways and some two-lane roads through hillier inland areas. Both styling and performance deliver as promised: the newest Avalon is a car that will stand out, living up to promises of enhanced power and luxury.

    My driving partner and I jumped behind the wheel of the gasoline XLE first, heading east from the coast towards Escondido. The new 3.5-liter V-6 engine works solidly in concert with the eight-speed automatic. Power off the line and in the 20-to-50 mile-per-hour range drivers use merging into high-speed traffic is excellent.

    Engineers enhanced structural rigidity throughout the chassis, enabling them to make the A-pillars slimmer for better visibility out the front. The electric power steering system is tuned on the soft side, which is typical for Toyota vehicles. Drivers will notice this most in terms of on-center response at speed. However, they should not feel disconnected from the wheels, and should be able to comfortably perform an emergency evasive maneuver should that need arise.

    2019 Toyota Avalon

    2019 Toyota Avalon

    Although our test car did not have the adaptive variable suspension, the four-wheel independent setup consisting of MacPherson struts up front and multi-link rear setup did a good job of isolating both driver and passenger from rough road surfaces.

    The hybrid also delivers excellent power. Since electric motors reach peak power at very low speeds, acceleration off the line is much better than one would expect, considering the car’s horsepower rating. Although fuel economy isn’t as good as the Prius, it’s a big jump from the gasoline model that could translate to considerable savings for buyers with long daily commutes in stop-and-go traffic.

    In the Toyota tradition, the interior is pleasantly quiet, with the new model featuring active noise control to cancel out any wind or road sounds. A new engine sound enhancer amplifies the growl during hard acceleration.

    Plush interior

    2019 Toyota Avalon Interior

    2019 Toyota Avalon Interior

    The new Avalon interior maintains the elegance of prior generations but with a bit of spice, thanks to a lush new cognac color. Seats are quite comfortable with a separate lower lumbar adjustment for the driver.

    The sedan’s extended wheelbase translates to more room in the back, so rear-seat occupants can stretch their legs and have enough hip room to stay comfortable on longer drives.

    Both the gauge cluster and large center stack screen are easy to read in a variety of lighting conditions. The audio system has separate knob controls so users don’t have to go multiple clicks into the screen to change channels.

    The car’s only Achilles heel seems to be the navigation system, which we found difficult to operate. We had a hard time getting the Apple CarPlay to sync. This may have had something to do with reception due to overcast skies and the canyon roads.

    Standard safety

    The Toyota Avalon comes with ten airbags, Toyota Safety Sense with pedestrian detection, antilock brakes, traction control, tire pressure monitoring and a rearview camera. A bird’s eye camera and intelligent clearance sonar with mitigation is optional.

    The all-new Avalon arrives in Toyota dealerships this spring.

    Like: A stylish, solidly-built midsize sedan with extra second-row legroom and hip room plus enhanced performance.

    Dislike: Navigation via Apple CarPlay interface was confusing.

    Quick facts:

    Make: Toyota
    Model: Avalon
    Year: 2019
    Base price: $35,500 excluding the $895 destination charge.
    As tested: N/A
    Horsepower: 301 HP @ 6600 rpm (gasoline model)
    Torque: 267 lbs.-ft. @ 4700 rpm (gasoline model)
    Zero-to-sixty: N/A
    Antilock brakes: Standard
    Side curtain airbags: Standard
    First aid kit: N/A
    Bicycle friendly: No
    Off-road: No
    Towing: No
    Fuel economy: 22/31 mpg city/highway

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