2019 Toyota Avalon Limited

How are people not buying this car?

Words by: Adam Allen

So then…why don’t we see more examples of Toyota’s Avalon in the wild?

We’re just as flabbergasted as you are. We looked it up, and last year Toyota struggled to move 400 units of this uber-Camry…but why? It’s an excellent vehicle, the price is right- we don’t understand why this car, save for it’s reputation as the archetypal Grandpa’s car, hasn’t sold in greater numbers.

Years ago, Akio Toyoda told the world that the brand’s days of building boring cars are going to be a thing of the past.

There’s probably a good amount of people that scoffed at the notion that world’s leading purveyor of beige cars (a wholly unscientific assertion, to be sure) and the melba toast of the automotive kingdom in the Toyota Corolla would be able to capture lightning in a bottle they had done in the past. Toyota fans en masse sigh and wistfully recall the Celica, Supra, and MR2- indisputable proof the company is capable of great things. We’re not even going to bring up their Le Mans efforts over the last decade or so. Say what you will about staid Toyota, but this Avalon is but another notable distance marker on its road back towards respectability- you can clearly see they’re trying, and that the promise to offer fun cars across the lineup is slowly but surely taking place before our very eyes. Take a good look at this Avalon- no one can deny that even despite a car positioned towards a decidedly older clientele is inching its way back into the conversation as a cool car, even if that isn’t the Avalon’s core mission. This company wide overhaul is evident in the LED lighting which you’ll find fore and aft in our Limited tester. It features sequential turn signals in both the front and rear lighting areas- take that, Audi!- and manages a subtle nod towards playful flourishes you might never have expected from the brand that brought us such pillars of excitement with the Paseo.

The Toyota Avalon is a terrific example of ‘stealth wealth’- it represents the ultimate luxury car hacks you can currently buy.

A quick internet search will show you that ice cubes added to your dryer’s cycle yields wrinkle free clothes, and should you break a glass a slice of fresh bread will help you remove all those pesky shards that will ultimately prevent a bleeding foot weeks into the future. The Avalon is kind of a secret workaround where the luxury car market is concerned- sure, you’re left without a prestigious badge but you get pretty much all the goodness. It feels like you’re in on a secret that very few of your fellow motorists are aware of. There are few cars for sale today- at least, affordably- that offer the exceptional quiet and decadent ride the Avalon provides with little fanfare. Avalon drivers can glean great satisfaction that this car is the automotive equivalent of a cool hand run gently across a fevered brow that doesn’t command a ridiculous sum of money. Take one for a spin and try not to be impressed at the level of luxurious refinement the Avalon offers.

 OK let’s get this straight- Toyota is planning to offer a TRD massaged version of the Avalon? Will wonders never cease!

It’s true- Toyota recently announced that they are bestowing the TRD (Toyota Racing Development) treatment to the Camry, Avalon and others so that any water cooler banter about Toyota being the leading source of vehicular appliances would be quashed immediately. Don’t get us wrong- we will relish the opportunity to drive a tweaked Camry or Avalon- but we think Toyota’s heart, which is admirably in the right place, is perhaps misguided. We wonder: how many buyers of the Avalon are going to go hunting for apexes or are gunning for fastest lap at their local track day? Speaking strictly where the Avalon is concerned, this is a car that seems at odds with being flogged by those who seek performance from their family sedan. It may work for the Camry but the Avalon is a car that gently suggests you don’t rush. Even our tester which had the ability to choose a Sport mode amongst the driving modes available felt kind of wrong, and a full-fledged TRD model would probably make driving the Avalon feel downright weird, not to mention fully out of sorts with the cars mission.

Check that interior though! It’s a serious step up from the brand we most associate with conservatism.

A quick glance at our tester’s interior will reveal an valiant attempt at spoiling owners, a trick learned from selling a ton of similarly equipped Lexus vehicles. Toyota used to call their backlit dashboards in the late 1990’s “Optitron” and make no mistake, they were terrific; some manufactures even today can’t hold a candle to the crisp legibility and it being so readable that even with your eyes closed (a practice we don’t condone) you could get all pertinent info at a glance. We’re not sure what they’re calling it now, but it’s an example the rest of the industry would be wise to follow. The 2019 Avalon features an interior that boasts genuine wood trim and meticulously quilted leather stitching on the door handles. But those are just design triumphs, and you should be rest assured that the same obsessive dedication to touchpoints and ergonomics is intact. This is one modern car that you might never consult the owner’s manual on how to get the most of your Avalon, so intuitive are its controls. This car reminds us that Toyota can still screw ‘em together with the best in the industry.

Pass the Dramamine- nautical body motions are all but guaranteed.

Except they aren’t, and despite trick air suspenders or fancy adaptive units, the Avalon feels like it rides on a cushion of air but never feels floaty. Actually, we were surprised at how well the Avalon proved itself a competent handler. You might not reach for the keys if your road trip specified a diversion on the Tail of the Dragon, but the Avalon will not embarrass itself, proving to be an engaging partner when you consider how much the suspension is geared towards comfort. There is a Sport mode button that ostensibly calls for a more brisk approach the commute- but we found ourselves drawn to the languid comfort provided by Normal mode, and isn’t that what the Avalon is all about? If you want something sporty, buy a different car. But if it’s a supremely comfy car you crave that will rise to the occasion here and there when you want to throw down slightly, the Avalon excels in spades. We have to address the monumentally impressive nature of the drivetrain, which has clearly benefited from years of making cars function as perfectly as possible. Take, for instance, the polish lavished on the drivetrain. The 3.5 litre V6 and the 8-speed tranny always play nice together, and yet we tried to expose the tandem’s weakness. Even through foolish inputs like stepping on the gas pedal aggressively at low speeds and then abruptly jumping out of the throttle, the Avalon’s dirty bits simply crooned “don’t worry, we got this” and smoothed away the bucking we’ve come to expect from most cars.

 What might go wrong?

Throughout our week with the Avalon we waited patiently for the glaring flaws of the car to expose themselves so we could zealously report back to our dear readers about the boring gaffes we felt this car we destined to perform. Instead of a lengthy list of gripes, we have but a few suggestions that we think might morph the Avalon from just another luxury sedan entry into one that demands to be at the top of shopping lists based on its undeniable excellence. With that in mind, we couldn’t let our Limited tester leave the Carpages Garage without a little criticism, and so we’ll begin with the grille. Oh, that grille. Please, Toyota- you can’t possibly think this is remotely pleasing to the eye, especially when you consider that most of it is masked off therefore serving no purpose.  Other than that aesthetic faux pas, there wasn’t much to bother us, save for the way the hood flutters disconcertingly at modest highway speeds and the fact that you can’t get AWD, an omission that will no doubt turn off a few buyers.

Should I buy a 2019 Toyota Avalon?

Don’t you want to be that smug driver, amongst a sea of sheep that vastly overpaid for their entry level luxury experienced that ultimately doesn’t deliver? Yeah, we thought you might. The Avalon surely must be the champion of providing under the radar luxury. If you shy away from the whole chest thumping Type A personality, the Avalon will be the perfect car for you.

 

2019 Toyota Avalon Limited— Specifications

  • Price as tested: $49,662
  • Body Type: 4-door, 5 passenger sedan
  • Powertrain Layout: Front engine/front-wheel drive
  • Engine:  3.5-litre V6, DOHC, 24 valves
  • Horsepower:  301 @ 6,600 rpm
  • Torque (lbs-ft.): 267 @ 4,700 rpm
  • Transmission: 8-speed automatic
  • Curb weight: 1,692 kg (3,731 lbs)
  • Observed Fuel consumption: 11.9L/100km (19 mpg)