2015 Toyota Avalon Limited Road Test

2015 Toyota Avalon Limited

Toyota’s flagship starts acting more its age.

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Typically, twenty-one year olds are most concerned with proliferating the latest social media app and partying, not making sure the PVR is set to capture Perry Mason reruns and being mindful that one’s patent shoes and belt are the same hue of white. Yet that is precisely the kind of stuff the young Avalon has been burdened with since it burst onto the scene in 1994, the product in Toyota’s lineup tasked to catering to the geriatric set. Built as an answer to the floaty land yachts built by the likes of Cadillac and Buick, the Avalon was always anonymous, blending into the background as easily as roadside guardrails. Things took a particularly bad turn for the worse in the model’s second generation, when it became a bleating, slab sided appliance, complete with optional bench front seats and column gear shifting.

Nowadays, even Cadillac and staid ol’ Buick, two brands who’ve always counted the blue-haired set as some of their core customers, actually make stuff that doesn’t feel like a living room on wheels any longer. The target in this segment is one that doesn’t tend to move all that often, but expectations have clearly changed. Cadillac is making edgy, beautifully crafted vehicles that are actually fun to drive, and even Buick has followed suit, offering up the handsome Lacrosse and showing us exciting things to come with the Avenir concept.

PROS: Easy on the eyes, actually enjoyable to drive, Lexus kit at Toyota pricing.

CONS: No steering feel to speak of, do ANY phones support inductive charging out there?

THE VERDICT: After 21 years of hanging out at the shuffleboard court, the Avalon rediscovers its inner youth.

Aware of the changes taking place in the segment, Toyota wisely saw fit to unleash a more relevant fourth generation Avalon on the motoring world in 2013. Almost overnight the Avalon has shed the embodiment of shuffleboard team transportation device to something that is actually enjoyable to drive. We often talk about finding unexpected joys in cars we don’t expect to deliver such an experience, and the Avalon is definitely one of them. Perhaps the young’uns will embrace this vintage as readily as they would a Camry.

Stylistically, it still airs on the side of caution, but it’s easily miles better than any Avalon before it. The roof now traces the familiar coupe-like silhouette we see on so many big luxury cars these days, but rear passengers rejoice; you won’t have to scrunch down so your hair doesn’t brush the headliner and leave you sporting a nice cowlick when you arrive at your destination. You’re left with the overall feeling of being able to stretch out comfortably- the Avalon has seriously commodious dimensions, and an equally large trunk. This is an engineering feat of sorts because the Avalon is about 25 centimeters shorter than some of its competitors, and it rides on a relatively clipped wheelbase of 282 cm. These tidy dimensions mean that the Avalon is a comparative featherweight next to its biggest rivals, tipping the scales at a svelte 1631 kilos.

Those numbers mean the Avalon is a surprisingly enjoyable car to drive. Turn the steering wheel and something magical happens- it will where you asked it to and will round corners pretty darn well. Suspension calibration vastly favours comfort over sport, but this Avalon is agile and lithe in a way its predecessors (and most of its competitors) have never felt. Other dynamic treats wait in the wings too- the brakes have a crisp feel to them, and the 3.5 litre V6 makes terrific use of each and every one of its 268 horsepower. If you place steering feel in high regard you’ll lament its utter absence but the rack does have a good sense of where the front wheels are pointed and tracks faithfully straight on the highway.

Hustling the Avalon down a twisty two lane isn’t the point, however capable it may be. No, the Avalon does the “Lexus Lite” thing exceedingly well, where if you closed your eyes you’d have no clue that you weren’t in one. Only the price and some (very few) surfaces belie your decision go for the Toyota flagship rather than more prestigious Lexus. The interior is seriously hushed and all-around comfortable, from the excellent stereo to the way all the switchgear works without ever having to consult an owner’s manual. This is a car that’s always whispering “relax” in your ear.

Our loaded-to-the-gills Limited model was always willing to spoil us, including such niceties as an exhaustive suite of drivers-aid technologies, LED headlights with automatic control and Qi wireless induction charging (only if it’s supported by your phone.) And for the first time ever in an Avalon, yes, those are paddle shifters behind the steering wheel, and they’ll even rev-match on downshifts. For the first time in its life, the Avalon just might be starting to act its age.

 2015 Toyota Avalon Limited— Specifications

  • Price as tested: $44,733
  • Body Type: 4-door, 5 passenger sedan
  • Powertrain Layout: Front engine/front-wheel drive
  • Engine:  3.5-litre V6, DOHC, 24 valves
  • Horsepower:  268 @ 6,200 rpm
  • Torque (lbs-ft.): 248 @ 4,700 rpm
  • Transmission: 6-speed automatic
  • Curb weight: 1,631 kg (3,595 lbs)
  • Observed Fuel consumption: 13.2L/100km (18 mpg)