Tom Crosby: Toyota Avalon to get major upgrade in 2019

Tom Crosby

The last time Toyota’s flagship Avalon received a major redesign was in 2013 and after some annual tweaks, the Japanese automaker made no noticeable design changes to 2017 and 2018 editions.

Instead, a major redo is scheduled for 2019 to boost sagging sales, meaning those who crave Toyota’s full-size luxury sedan will have plenty of bargaining options for 2017 and 2018 models. Since being launched in 1995, Avalon has been often favorably compared with Lexus, Toyota’s upscale luxury brand in quality and reliability. The entry-level Lexus ES 350 costs thousands more than the entry level Avalon XLE.

We test-drove the 2017 Avalon Touring, slotted below top trim Limited and above base XLE, XLE Plus and XLE Premium trims with minor options. (There is also a hybrid version). All-wheel-drive and some Lexus-like options are unavailable.

For 2017, Toyota standardized its previously optional SafetySense suite of top driver safety aids, helping Avalon receive overall top crash safety scores. As big brother to the popular, best-selling Toyota Camry, Avalon’s full-size interior is more spacious and outfitted with high-grade materials, including in our test-drive black and white stitched leather seats, black woodgrain interior trim with shiny chrome accents.

Avalon showcases a quiet interior, cushioned ride and responsive handling on 18-inch tires wrapped around black alloy wheels that provide confident grip in curves and turns. Drive-mode choices include Sport, Eco and Normal. On a 365 mile comfortable interstate-only trip, we averaged 29.2 miles per gallon (mpg) in Eco mode, keeping up with traffic that usually exceeded the speed limit. Sport mode using manual paddles adds excitement with quicker steering response and a firmer suspension.

Inside, gauges are easy to read, the forward tilted smallish 7-inch screen easy to reach to activate most functions with 8-app icons, and occupants enjoy sounds from Toyota’s entire Entune suite of audio and voice controls.

Voice recognition is excellent and navigation audio directions clear and timely. Wireless Smartphones can be charged and taller rear passengers enjoy a concave headliner to go with ample legroom for pleasurable long trips. Storage spaces are plentiful. An eBin below the dashboard has plug-ins for electronic devices. The driver visor extends and there is a spare tire.

Outside, the familiar Avalon profile employs a long, sleek look with a level beltline, minimal chrome and high arch fenders flush with wheels. Cargo space is spacious with rear seats folded.

LIKES: Spacious, comfortable, quiet, handling, ride, cargo space

DISLIKES: Smallish touchscreen, no all-wheel drive

BOTTOM LINE: Reliable, wallet-friendly full-size sedan luxury with good resale value from top auto manufacturer

FACT FILE

2018 TOYOTA AVALON 4DR TOURING

Base price w/destination charge $38,535 ($39,857 as tested)

Curb weight 3,549 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 paddles

EPA Rating 21 mpg city/30 mpg hwy

Range 17.2-gallon tank, regular

Performance 0-60 in just over 6 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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