Tom Crosby: 2016 Toyota Avalon continues as flagship sedan

Tom Crosby

Tom Crosby

Avalon is Toyota’s flagship sedan and while it hasn’t changed significantly since a 2013 major overhaul, it still remains a comfortable full-size sedan with smooth acceleration and an elegant looking cabin.

For those addicted to the Japanese automaker, the Avalon is often compared with the company’s Lexus ES350, which costs several thousand dollars more and adds the cachet of the upscale Lexus name. But prudent buyers will find most ES qualities in the Avalon, which costs only $390 more today than the remodeled 2013 Avalon XLE Premium trim.

On a lengthy trip in our 2016 XLE test drive, the refined suspension mitigated most highway imperfections, the expansive cabin and cargo space held passengers and luggage comfortably and miles per gallon hovered in the 29-30 mpg range. There are six Avalon trims, base XLE, XLE Plus, XLE Premium, Touring and Limited, as well as a hybrid. All are front-wheel drive only and all use the same 3.5-liter, 268-horsepower engine.

This year the Touring Sport was discontinued and a sport suspension added to the Touring trim. The XLE Plus was inserted between the XLE and XLE Premium trims and the front fascia was slightly modified on all models. Our tester offered three driving modes: Eco to save fuel, Normal, and Sport to relieve behind-the-wheel boredom with manual gear shifting via steering wheel paddles. Handling was responsive although the Avalon is not designed for sharp cornering. Outside, the look is upscale and our tester’s silver-like color was exotically named Parisian Night Pearl.

Inside, a technology-friendly interior uses a 7-inch touch screen that can be swiped and customized using Toyota’s prized Entune infotainment system that includes iPhone integration with Siri Eyes-Free and links with various apps, plus it can record 20 minutes or radio for later repeat listening. The standard navigation system is voice activated but sometimes misunderstands address commands that thankfully can be manually inserted. Plug-ins and storage space exist in an eBin below the dashboard.

Visually pleasing almond color leather trim inside, much of it resembling the Nike Swoop, combines with smoke and glossy chrome accents and soft-touch materials for an elegant look.

Storage spaces are plentiful, although rear seats have a pass-through and don’t fold. A blind spot monitor and rear camera safety features complement Toyota’s standard Star Safety System. However, dynamic cruise control and emergency collision braking are options. The Avalon received top crash protection ratings.

LIKES: Mpg, looks, comfort, handling, spaciousness, power, cabin
DISLIKES: Safety options needed, spotty voice recognition
BOTTOM LINE: Elegant and perfect for long trips

FACT FILE
TOYOTA AVALON XLE PREMIUM 2016

Base price with destination charge: $36,685 (as tested)
Curb weight: 3,461 lbs.
Wheelbase: 111 inches
Length: 195.3 inches
Width: 72.2 inches
Engine specs: 3.5-liter, V-6, DOHC
Horsepower: 268 hp at 6,200 rpm
Torque: 248 ft.-lbs. at 4,700 rpm
Transmission: 6-speed automatic with manual steering wheel shift paddles
EPA rating: 21 mpg city and 31 mpg highway
Range: 17-gallon tank, regular
Performance: 0-60 in under 7 seconds

Tom Crosby is a former journalist and communications director for AAA Carolinas. He has been reviewing cars since 1996, and has been active in traffic safety issues for more than 30 years.

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