Pros-All new. Sleek. Upscale. Roomy. Strong acceleration. Solid handling. Comfortable ride. Well-equipped.
Cons-Gauges hard to see in sunlight. Oversized console. Hard rear-seat center.
Bottom Line-Very pleasant upscale sedan.
The all-new 2019 Toyota Avalon premium sedan is a far cry from the first Avalons to reach America years ago.. Smaller, less powerful and not very upscale, they were more suited for driving in Japan, although a definite step above lower-line Toyotas sold here.
The new fifth-generation Avalon shows that sedans are still a pretty good deal, despite the lemming-like major move toward small SUVs and crossovers. Major rivals include the Chevrolet Impala and Ford Taurus.
Actually, the front-drive Avalon is designed and assembled in the United States. It comes as the $42,200 Touring model I tested or as Limited, XSE and XLE models that range in price from $38,000 to $42,800.
The new Avalon is longer, lower and wider than before. Even rear passengers can stretch, especially those behind the front passenger, and there's a huge trunk. Flip-down rear seat backs with opener levers in the trunk for security reasons greatly expand the cargo area. Those who feel the large piano black mesh grille is a bit much can just stick a license plate in its center, which is what some Lexus owners do.
There are gas and hybrid versions of this sleek sedan. The one I drove had a 3.6-liter V-6 with 301 horsepower and 267 pound-feet of torque. There's also a 215-horsepower hybrid version with a 2.5-liter 215-horsepower four-cylinder and a compact battery pack set behind the rear passenger seat (instead of the trunk) for a lower center of gravity.
Estimated fuel economy of the V-6 is 22 miles per gallon in the city and 31 on highways. Top hybrid economy is an estimated 43 in the city and 44 on highways. Only 87-octane was required for my test car.
The new Avalon has a new platform with a multi-link rear suspension and available Toyota-first Variable Suspension. There's also standard Entune 3.0 premium audio with Wi-Fi Connect, Toyota Remote Connect with Smartwatch, Amazon Alexa Connectivityalong with Apple CarPlay compatibility.
The Avalon Touring's performance is good, but not outstanding. This is a highly refined top-line Toyota, not some hot rod. I don't think Toyota wants it to be particularly fun to drive. Very pleasant, though. Still, some might be fooled by the Touring's large black 19-inch alloy wheels with low-profile 40-series tires, dual exhausts with quad chromed tips, piano black mirror housings and a rear spoiler. There's also an engine sound enhancer.
The engine works effectively with an eight-speed automatic transmission with manual shift control. A driver can choose "Eco" (economy), Custom or Sport/Sport+ driving modes via a button in the large console, but the Eco mode is fine for most regular driving. Steering gets awfully heavy in Sport+ mode.
The steering is nicely weighted, and the ride is smooth. The linear-action brake pedal causes the anti-lock brakes to bite soon and hard. Handling is secure with such features as a sport-tuned front and rear suspension. It's helped by the adaptive variable suspension. The new rear multi-link suspension allows such things as a wider rear track, lower center of gravity and an aggressive stance. Revised trailing arms have a higher position for better bump absorption, although sharp road imperfections can be felt. Shock absorbers are tilted forward to gain a suppler ride, and bushings on trailing arms and arm joints help mask road imperfections.
My test Avalon had a silent upscale interior with soft-touch materials and lots of storage areas, but gauges were difficult to read in sunlight. Among standard features were a pushbutton start, power heated and ventilated front seats, heated tilt/telescopic wheel, dual-zone automatic climate control with rear-seat vents and a power sunroof.
The infotainment system includes a 9-inch touchscreen that can be easily used. There's also lots of dash-area control buttons that also can be quickly used if a driver wants to bypass the screen.
Want more? Authentic materials, such as available Yamaha-sourced wood trim and authentic aluminum pieces, are offered.
Many Avalons likely will be bought by older family oriented folks, so safety features are important. The Avalon Touring thus has a standard pre-collision system with pedestrian detection, dynamic radar cruise control, lane departure alert with steering assist, a Smart Stop feature, blind spot monitor and cross-traffic alert.
Toyota sold 33,580 Avalons last year. With the new version, the figure likely will be higher this year.