2013 Toyota Avalon: Grandma’s Car No More-It’s named for Camelot Lore
San Antonio, Texas: One of my favorite car stories is about my friend Bob’s elderly grandmother, who drove a Toyota Avalon. She would take four right-hand turns to avoid a left. For a number of years, I thought of this driver as the demographic for this four-door, full-sized sedan. I surmised that this Toyota model was designed to appeal to older, more cautious drivers who loved rolling along in large and long lumbering boats. Times have changed, cars have changed, and so have my impressions of Toyota’s flagship Avalon. I have an all-new impression of the all-new 2013 Toyota Avalon which, by the way, is named for a mythical island in Camelot lore.
The truth is, the updated Avalon comes in a clutch of models that have luxury, sport-performance, and there are even two versions made for the livery and chauffeured transportation market. Plus, the upgrade makes the Avalon favors its luxury stablemates in the Lexus portfolio; it’s more eye-appealing on the outside and has more charm on the inside, as well. Let’s take a closer look. The all-new Avalon looks beefier and more aggressive from the outside, more refined and modern on the inside and is positioned to appeal to more youthful and adventurous buyers, says Toyota. The redesign makes for a fluid, flowing look that starts at the front grille, a stretched-out arrowhead shape that extends into sharp, wraparound headlamps and a carved-out hood. The low roofline scoops back to a steeply raked rear windshield, while sleek, scooped-out sides add panache and give it a sporty side-profile. The new sedan is both lighter and more aerodynamic than last year’s model. Its sandard wheels are 17-inch aluminum; 18-inch alloys are included on higher-end models, and 17-inch wheels with unique spoke design come with Hybrid versions.
Stepping inside the spacious cabin, you’ll find a sculpted dash and concave space carved out for the front passenger. The interior boasts hand-stitched soft-touch surfaces, a wider instrument panel than in past models and, on hybrid models, a special needle-type information display that is set up for tracking power and regeneration. Leather seats with power front seat adjustments and more supportive foam cushions throughout are standard; heated front and rear seats are available. Avalon’s steering wheel is padded and covered in premium leather and includes audio and cruise control switches, as well as buttons for voice recognition and telephone use and a vehicle-to-vehicle distance switch for Dynamic Radar Cruise Control. Large paddle-shift toggles attached to the steering wheel are included on higher end models. Nifty features include a dual-docking station for two devices or smartphones – wires are tucked in behind the charging tray to reduce clutter. An electronics storage box also is standard, and includes two DC 12V power outlets, an AUX and a USB jack. The rear storage box is big enough for a tissue box and includes a sliding armrest. Dual-zone automatic climate control is standard, along with a display audio system with 6.1-inch touchscreen that includes Bluetooth compatibility, customizable vehicle settings, available rear-camera display, driving information such as fuel consumption and operation of iPod and USB devices. An eight-speaker audio system is standard; nine and 11-speaker systems are also available, as is navigation. A power rear-window sunshade is optional.
Avalon comes with two powerplants: it is available either with a gas-powered 3.5-liter V6 engine mated to a conventional six-speed automatic transmission, or as a hybrid, with a modified version of the 2.5-liter Hybrid Synergy Drive system that also propels the Camry Hybrid. The V6 produces 268 horsepower and 248 lbs.-ft. of torque; 0-to-60 mph time is estimated at less than seven seconds. The automatic transmission can be shifted from D (drive) mode into S (sport) mode on the shift gate, where shifts can be actuated with + or – shifts of the lever. Steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters and a leather-covered lever and shift knob are standard; the V6-powered gasoline Avalon offers three drive modes: Eco, Normal and Sport, and EPA estimates are 25 mpg combined (21 city/31 hwy). The Avalon Hybrid uses a 2.5-liter four-cylinder rated at 156 horsepower that is attached to a hybrid application transaxle that acts as a power-split device between the gasoline engine and two high output electric motors. The transmission operates similarly to a CVT (Continuously Variable Transmission), but allows for switching between, and even combining propulsion sources through the power split device. The electric motors are rated at 105 kW total, and the total system output is 200 horsepower; 0 to 60 time is about 8.0 seconds. The Avalon Hybrid has an EV Mode, ECO Mode and SPORT Mode. EV Mode uses only the electric motor for about one mile at speeds of up to 20 miles per hour. ECO Mode prioritizes fuel-efficient driving by reducing throttle response and energy consumption from the HVAC system to conserve energy; Sport Mode helps create greater throttle response and acceleration. Overall EPA rating is 40 mpg (40 city/39 hwy). We drove both the gas-powered and hybrid versions of the new Avalon along a drive route of more than 100 miles, motoring on freeways and twisty, two-lanes. It is notably different from the model it replaces; it is more modern, more sophisticated and has more personality. Designed, engineered and manufactured in the U.S., it has greatly-improved ride—gone is the soft and wallowy suspension. It has been replaced with linear, well-weighted steering, good acceleration and nicely-modulated brakes. Suspension components include front Macpherson struts and dual-link rear components. Steering is electric power rack and pinion; dynamic radar cruise control, stability and traction control systems are standard, as is ABS and EBD with Brake Assist. Four-wheel discs include an electronically controlled brake system for Avalon Hybrids.
Avalon is available in four versions: XLE, XLE Premium, XLE Touring and Limited. XLE models start at $30,990 with power adjustable heated front leather seats, 17-inch alloy wheels, touch screen display audio, smart key, heated outer mirrors and outer mirror turn signals. XLE Premium models start at $33,195 with additional standard features, such as backup camera and moonroof. The XLE Touring gas model is $35,500, standard 18” alloys, display audio with Entune and navigation, blind spot monitor with rear cross traffic alert and paddle shifters. The Limited gas model is $39,650 and includes premium perforated leather with heated and ventilated front seats, JBL/premium HDD audio, safety connect, rear seat heater, rear sunshade, 3-zone HVAC, puddle lamps, HID headlamps and LED DRLs.