2019 Toyota Avalon Review

Still a Comfy Cruiser and Proud of It

With bolder design, a big ol’ serving of advanced technology and brand-new underpinnings, Toyota is looking to shatter its Avalon four-door’s elderly image like a hip bone after a slip-and-fall.

This stalwart sedan has been totally overhauled for 2019. Riding atop the company’s versatile TNGA platform, which it shares with plenty of other recently updated models including the Camry and Prius. Several key dimensions have changed; width, track, and wheelbase are all up slightly, though the exterior overhangs have been trimmed for a sportier stance.

Injecting further spunk into this boulevard cruiser, Toyota offers things like an available 14-speaker sound system, adaptive dampers and will even fit an intake-sound generator to certain models with the V6 engine so it can broadcast a bit more mechanical music. Despite the new look inside and out, this family-friendly four-door still strongly emphasizes comfort, with a library-quiet cabin and best-in-class rear-seat shoulder, head and legroom.

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Lucky No. Seven

As before, Avalon is the Toyota brand’s flagship model in America. And no, I’m not making a nautical joke here referencing land yachts; that’s what they say in their own press materials. Simply put, it’s the most luxurious sedan to wear an upside-down sombrero logo.

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The fifth-generation Avalon will be offered in four different trims: XLE and Limited as well as XSE and Touring. The former two models focus more on luxury and feature a wide, ribbed grille; the latter duet tries to be sportier and is dressed with mesh up front… lots and lots of mesh.

SEE ALSO: 2018 Toyota Camry Review – VIDEO

Beyond this, there will once again be a hybrid version of the Avalon, perfect for all you hyper-milers out there. These partially electrified examples will be available in three trims: XLE, XSE, and Limited. Add it all up, and there are seven flavors of the car to choose from, something for nearly every sort of sedan shopper.

You’ll Love its Looks… Or Not

One thing about recent Toyotas is that they look distinctive, for better or worse. The Prius, Camry, and Corolla feature massive grilles front and center. The new Avalon furthers this extreme styling trend.

“Technical beauty” was the car’s design theme, which stands for performance and purpose as well as exhilaration and emotion. In short, you’ll either love the way this car looks, or you won’t.

Aside from its front, the remainder of the Avalon’s body is much more conventional, far less controversial. Depending on model, wheels measure between 17- and 19-inches.

Inside, the cabin is handsome and well laid-out, dominated by center console that sweeps upward, integrating the infotainment screen at the very top. Materials quality is high and build quality faultless.

Tech Savvy

Defying its geriatric reputation, the new Avalon is laden with advanced technology. Qi wireless charging is standard, as are five USB ports and blind-spot monitoring. A 10-inch color head-up display, the segment’s largest, is on the options menu.

If all that’s not enough, Toyota Safety Sense P is included at no extra charge. The brand’s suite of advanced driver aids bundles helpful amenities like pedestrian detection, adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitoring and more, features that should be hugely beneficial to drivers of all ages. For extra cash, you can also get a Panoramic View Monitor with Alert, which shows a 3-D overview of the car and can take the stress out of maneuvering in tight spaces. Intelligent Clearance Sonar is also optional. It alerts the driver to nearby obstacles, particularly while parking.

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For added safety, all-LED headlamps are available while Limited and Touring examples are fitted with sequentially illuminating turn signals, which look really cool while simultaneously increasing visibility.

Perched atop the center stack like a rainbow lorikeet on an avocado limb is a bright and colorful nine-inch screen, which is home to Toyota’s Entune 3.0 infotainment system. On the plus side, it offers gesture support like pinch-to-zoom and is Amazon Alexa enabled, but that’s where the good news ends.

Entune 3.0 must be one of the most tortuous infotainment offerings on the market today. On top of its overall sluggishness, the menu structure is more convoluted than the F35 jet fighter’s wiring diagram. In fact, my video producer and I spent better than 10 minutes each trying to cancel route guidance. Ultimately, we never figured out how to it and just muted the system. It’s a good thing Apple CarPlay is standard in every version of the Avalon, otherwise, you’d be hopelessly lost, which you’ll probably be if you own a Google-powered smartphone since Android Auto is not offered at any price.

But one thing that’s not terrible about this car is the back seat, which offers scads of leg and headroom. Oh, and two USB ports. The car’s trunk is also suitably gigantic.

Mechanicals Madness

As before, the Avalon has a 3.5-liter gasoline-burning V6 bolted between its front fenders. Smooth running, this engine is good for an adequate 301 horsepower and 267 foot-pounds of torque, significant increases compared to what under the hood of today’s model. Supposedly, an intake-sound generator makes it throatier, but I really couldn’t hear any difference at all. The car is super quiet.

A smooth and responsive eight-speed automatic transmission is also standard, helping enable more-than-respectable acceleration along with decent fuel economy. The car is rated at 22 miles per gallon city, 32 highway and 26 MPG combined.

Not surprisingly, the hybrid variant is dramatically more economical than mainline models. With a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine, nickel-metal-hydride battery, a pair of electric motor-generators and tons of computer software tying it all together, these cars should deliver 43 miles per gallon in urban motoring, and 44 on both highway and combined driving cycles. These figures have increased by up to 4 mpg compared to the 2018 model.

Smooth Operator

The new Avalon’s steering is fine with a quick-enough ratio, but it still isolates you from the road, providing minimal feedback about what the front tires are doing. This machine’s suspension tuning is also more conservative than the Alabama state legislature, meaning the ride is smooth, composed and quiet, just as it’s always been. But don’t think this car is a handful; fortunately, there’s absolutely nothing sloppy about the way it behaves, even over bumpy terrain.

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Touring models come standard with Adaptive Variable Dampers. Brandishing 650 different adjustment steps, they can react in as little as 20 milliseconds to changing road conditions. But cycling through the various driving modes yielded nothing; I could not for the life of me notice any difference whatsoever. The ride quality never seemed to change, whether carving corners or loafing along in a straight line.

In simple terms, this machine feels like a bigger, slightly fancier Camry: stately if a bit sedate.

The Verdict: 2019 Toyota Avalon Review

Despite Toyota’s best efforts to transform the normally sedate Avalon into something more exciting, this machine is still a smooth, refined, quiet and spacious four-door. So, despite the aggressive exterior styling, it’s pretty much business as usual.

As for pricing, the 2019 model starts at $36,395, a figure that includes $895 in delivery fees. That represents a minor $250 increase over last year’s model, a hike that’s supposedly offset by a claimed $1,700 worth of extra equipment. This car should begin arriving at dealerships late this spring.

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