Early 2010 tested Toyota
's fortitude. Reports of sticking accelerator pedals lead to recalls of thousands of Toyota
North American vehicles, including Prius, the poster child of the automotive 'Green Movement.' Bob Carter, Toyota
Division Group Vice President was in Chicago a few weeks following the incident to debut the next-generation 2011 Avalon
at the 2010 Chicago Auto Show.
"We debated postponing this press event for the new Avalon
," Carter said before the unveiling. Since the show must go on in good as well as character-building times, Toyota
made the right call, pressing ahead with the press event.
The 2011 Avalon
was developed in Michigan, designed in California and assembled in Georgetown Kentucky specifically targeting the North American market. It's the full-size, flagship from an automaker best known for durable small and mid-size products. "The Avalon
's new styling, features and comfort ... will turn heads and continue to offer great value in the segment," Carter said at the Auto Show media preview. Avalon
debuted in the 1995 model year, replacing the lackluster Cressida and challenging domestic full-size entries; an under tapped target for Toyota
. This fourth-generation Avalon
is the first Toyota
to include the redesigned factory-installed version of the accelerator pedal assembly. Those who enjoyed Avalon
's last three incarnations will enjoy Gen 4 as amendments are more evolutionary than revolutionary.
Returning from 2010 is a 3.5-liter, dual overhead cam, 24-valve, V-6 engine mated to standard a six-speed automatic transmission boasting 268 horsepower. It's the sole powertrain in two trim levels: Base and Limited. Earlier generations included more trims, but since Avalon
remains a low-volume build, fewer trims simplifies the process for both buyer and manufacturer. If budgets allow, opt for Limited to experience the full effect for a mere $3,000 more. For a large sedan, fuel economy registers a top-notch 20 miles per gallon city and 29 mpg highway; some of the best numbers anywhere for a full-size. Regular, 87-octane fills the 18.5 gallon tank.
Pricing remains in the same ballpark as Gen 3, but now with a bit more standard content. Our 2011 Limited tester started at $35,485. The only factory option was the $1,450 touch-screen navigation system (available in Limited only) which brought the bottom line to $37,884 including delivery charge ($750) and floor mats ($199). A Base starts at $32,245.
Looking for something unique? How about standard rear seats manually reclining several inches. Pull levers on the sides of the bench slips each side of the backrest about three inches rearward. Pulling the lever again adjusts the back to its original position. A center fold down arm rest contains dual cup holders and opens to a pass-through window. The trade off for the reclining seats is no fold-down seatbacks. A nice touch above are reading lights for rear passengers. Avalon
rates as one of the few Asian sedans with room for three 'real-world' adults including more-than-generous leg room. Headroom remains plentiful front and back. Rear doors swing open wide enough for easy access to the extra leg room and long bench seat. Avalon
delivers a library-quiet interior. The ride is glass-smooth, absorbing bumps with glide-like precision thanks to a long wheelbase, part of a stretched Camry platform. When at idle, the stroking windshield wipers make more sound then the engine. Handling s adequate, but doesn't live up to the better weight balance found in most full-size, rear-drive competitors. The V-6 engine lacks V-8 punch, instead prioritizing fuel economy. Avalon
remains front-wheel-drive which may turn off some Chicago-area drivers desiring winter-friendly all-wheel-drive. As long as the venerable Camry remains solely front-drive, so too will Avalon
Also returning unchanged from 2010 is the overall length (197.6 inches). Styling remains steadfastly conservative in keeping with Toyota
exterior design DNA (Dull, while Neatly Attractive). The hood incorporates a center region arrowed towards the front and bumped up about an inch higher than the sides. Outside mirrors in 2011 smartly include turn signal blinkers. A power moonroof is standard in both levels. Chrome trim surrounds side window frame. Strap-like door handles come standard (chrome-plated in Limited.) A large, rectangular rear window and ample side windows minimize blind spots.
Bold new front grille horizontal bars get flanked by headlights inside eagle-eye-shaped housing. Both head and tail lights now incorporate light piping adding to a signature look. Fog lights are positioned below and far to the sides. A full-size spare resides under the flat-floored, average-sized 14.4 cubic-foot trunk with goose-neck-style inside hinges. Avalon
houses these curved hinges inside box-like units preventing cargo damage, but it's a bit flimsy in structure and looks. Ten-spoke, 17-inch all-season tires adorn Limited while six-spoke varieties are found in Base.
A large, convenient power mirror touch pad is on the dashboard left of the steering column. Below are push-release buttons for the fuel tank and trunk, a better position than the floor. Also nearby is the power button activating the rear sun shade (Limited only). To the right is the push-button start (Limited only). The one-section, decent sized glove box sports velvet-like lining. The stereo includes standard AM/FM/CD and XM Satellite radio (three months of free subscription). Also USB port and hands-free phone capabilities are built in along with Bluetooth wireless technology. No rear-seat entertainment system is offered.
The twin port instrument panel is split down the middle by a digital, vertically arranged secondary gear-shift indicator. Faux wood trim on the steering wheel, doors and dash visually work with the two-tone, soft-touch dashboard. Perforated leather heated and cooled front bucket seats come standard in Limited; leather heated seats are optional in base. Seatbacks are comfortably supportive without being overly stiff. Front door map pockets expand out. The steering wheel includes a cruise control knob at 5 o'clock and center mounted secondary sound and temperature finger controls. The center dash has a flowing arch with a digital clock at the apex and the optional navigation touch screen below. Push buttons align in a row below controlling dual zone ventilation functions. Avalon
comes nicely equipped with standard safety features including seven air bags (with side curtain and driver's side knee air bags), anti-lock brakes, traction control, brake assist and vehicle stability control. The powertrain warranty is good for five years or 60,000 miles.Avalon
distinguishes itself enough from Camry to qualify as a notable "move-up" choice. Since Camry ranks as one of the best-selling cars in the US for decades, satisfied Toyota
shoppers can reward themselves with a familiar platform with more room and bling at a mid-$35,000 price. New 2011 versions started arriving to dealers late Spring.