2019 Toyota Avalon: First Drive Review

© Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc.No Boring Cars
For the new 2019 Toyota Avalon, Toyota designers spiced up the looks with two distinctive designs giving different personalities to the luxury and sport trim levels. The largest and most luxurious model in Toyota’s lineup, previous Avalon models have been critiqued for being too conservative — perhaps even boring — and Toyota is intent on shaking the boring label. Designed at the automaker’s CALTY studio in Detroit and built in Kentucky, the new Avalon shows Toyota’s commitment to the midsize sedan at a time when other manufacturers are abandoning sedans in favor of more crossover SUVs.

© Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc.Exterior Design
The fifth generation Toyota Avalon offers a more aggressive exterior look for XSE and Touring trim levels, while the XLE and Limited versions possess a more refined look. Built on the Toyota New Global Architecture K sedan platform, the new Avalon features a longer wheelbase and shorter overhangs with the cabin silhouette pulled toward the rear, longer rear quarter glass and a more tapered C-Pillar. The XLE and Limited feature a dark gray grille with chrome trim as well as machined silver headlight bezels and body-color mirror housings. The XLS and Touring include a piano black mesh grille; machine-finish and black wheels, black mirror housings; black headlight bezels; and a trunk lid spoiler.

© Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc.Model Lineup
The 2019 Toyota Avalon is offered in four trim levels and both V6 and hybrid drivetrains. The base trim level is the XLE, followed by the sporty XSE, the luxurious Limited and performance-oriented Touring. The Avalon Hybrid is offered in XLE, XSE and Limited trim levels. The starting price for the Avalon XLE is $35,500 (not including destination charge), followed by the XSE at $38,000, Limited at $41,800 and Touring at $42,200. The Avalon Hybrid starts at $36,500 for the XLE, with the XSE priced at $39,000 and the Limited at $42,800.

© Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc.Avalon XLE
Standard equipment for the 2019 Avalon’s base trim includes dual-zone climate control, an 8-way power driver’s seat, heated front seats, Hydrographic engineered wood interior trim, Softex trimmed seats, a 7-inch multi-information display, a leather-trimmed steering wheel, an 8-inch touchscreen with Entune 3.0 Audio Plus and 17-inch silver-painted alloy wheels. Safety technology includes the Toyota Star Safety System, Toyota Safety Sense, Pre-Collision System with Pedestrian Detection, Lane Departure Alert with Steering Assist, Full-Speed Range Dynamic Radar Cruise Control and Blind Spot Monitor with Rear Cross-Traffic Alert.

Avalon XSE and Touring
Avalon XSE adds a black rear spoiler, dual exhaust with quad chrome tips, aluminum interior trim, a power moonroof, Softex trimmed seats with perforated Ultrasuede inserts, a premium leather-trimmed steering wheel and 19-inch black-painted machine finish alloy wheels. Avalon Touring adds ventilated front seats, a heated premium leather-trimmed steering wheel, paddle shifters, aluminum pedal covers, a 10-inch head-up color display, ambient lighting and Entune 3.0 Premium Audio with JBL with Clari-Fi, Dynamic Navigation and App Suite.

© Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc.Avalon Limited
The top-level Avalon Limited features genuine wood interior trim, a 10-inch head-up color display, ambient lighting, quilted premium leather-trimmed seats, heated/ventilated front seats, 8-way power front seats with 4-way power lumbar, heated rear seats, a heated premium leather-trimmed steering wheel, Entune 3.0 Premium Audio with JBL with Clari-Fi, Dynamic Navigation, App Suite and 18-inch super chrome alloy wheels.

© Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc.Under the Hood
The 2019 Toyota Avalon is powered by a new 3.5-liter V6 engine producing 301 horsepower and 267 lb-ft of torque, combined with a new 8-speed Direct Shift automatic transmission — a 33-horsepower increase over the previous model with improved fuel economy. The Avalon XLE is rated at 22 mpg city / 32 mpg highway / 26 mpg combined; the XSE, Limited and Touring variants are rated at 22 mpg city / 31 mpg highway / 25 mpg combined. Avalon XSE and Touring trims offer optional paddle shifters. Drive mode selection includes Eco, Normal and Sport, and Avalon Touring offers five choices: Eco, Normal, Custom, Sport and Sport +.

© Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc.Avalon Hybrid
The new Avalon Hybrid is powered by the next-generation Toyota Hybrid System II that combines a 2.5-liter Dynamic Force 4-cylinder engine with two electric motor generators for total system output of 215 horsepower. One electric motor generator acts as the engine starter and charges the battery, while the second electric motor generator drives the front wheels and captures energy through regeneration during braking. Power is delivered through a continuously variable transmission with sequential shift mode. The compact battery pack is positioned under the rear seat, and Avalon Hybrid offers the same cargo capacity as the gasoline version — the rear seat sits a mere 10 mm higher and the center of gravity is lower.

© Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc.Advanced Lighting System
The 2019 Avalon’s slim headlight design features full LED lighting for all trim levels, with a three-reflector design for the XLE and XSE for daytime running lights, low- and high-beam. The Limited and Touring receive a Laser Ablation design with two thin lighting elements, Adaptive LED cornering lights and sequential Dynamic Auxiliary Turn signals. The laser ablation process produces transparent areas within the lens that creates a pattern within the headlight and gives of a metallic shine. The LED taillights also incorporate laser ablation for Limited and Touring to create a three-dimensional effect and also include Dynamic Auxiliary Turn signals.

© Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc.Inner Space
Avalon’s interior design features a tiered instrument panel that flows into the door panels, as well as a standalone center stack that is angled slightly toward the driver housing a standard 9-inch capacitive touchscreen. Soft-touch materials are used with piano black and satin chrome accents as well as simulated wood trim for XLE, aluminum for XSE / Touring and genuine wood for Limited.

© Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc.On the Road
Ride comfort is important to current Avalon owners, and the new Avalon will not disappoint the current fan base, yet it still feels controlled and responsive. The powerful 3.5-liter V6 provides strong acceleration and the 8-speed automatic does a good job of keeping the engine in the right range, whether accelerating or cruising. The biggest surprise is the Avalon Touring with Adaptive Variable Suspension, which adds a Sport+ mode and shows its best impression of a sport sedan on twisty two-lane roads. Sport+ offers firm suspension, responsive steering and sharp power delivery for a level of performance and fun-to-drive factor not expected from Avalon. The paddle shifters make an audible clicking noise when shifted manually, letting passengers know when the driver takes control of the shifting.

© Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc.Avalon Hybrid
Although the Avalon Hybrid power delivery is not as smooth as the V6 and also noisier, the fuel economy is very impressive for a car of this size, delivering more than 40 mpg in city or highway driving. Avalon Hybrid offers full EV mode for low-speed driving, and the gasoline engine kicks in automatically to provide additional power with aggressive acceleration at speeds above 25 mph. The battery seems to recharge quickly once the gasoline engine is operating, so EV mode is usually available. The Avalon Hybrid has plenty of power with the extra torque boost at low speeds from the electric motor.

Right for You?
At a time when other auto manufacturers are turning away from sedans, Toyota shows its commitment to the large sedan via the new Avalon. If there really is a gap between the fully-loaded Toyota Camry XLE and the Lexus ES from Toyota’s luxury brand, the Avalon fills the void. The new Avalon really has a presence and the effort to eliminate boring design doesn’t feel excessive or overwrought as it does on some other models, but the result is new look that is both elegant and interesting, while still somewhat conservative. The Avalon Touring injects an element of sportiness that is unexpected and may only appeal to a small group of buyers. It really is the car for a buyer who is looking for a step up from the Camry but doesn’t want or need the prestige of a Lexus badge.

© Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc.Rating: 8.5
Pros: New expressive design; two great powertrain choices; still offers the comfort Avalon owners expect.
Cons: No all-wheel-drive option; paddle shifters noisy.
Bottom Line: Toyota proves it’s serious about sedans with this new Avalon offering a more expressive design, better performance and improved fuel efficiency.

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