Toyota Avalon Overview

toyota Avalon grillSince its launch in the mid-1990s, the Avalon has been Toyota's main full-size sedan. It has always been a solid performer, with standard V6 power, lots of interior space and a reputation for reliability. Early Avalons were often criticized for their humdrum style, however, especially the first-generation model. That all changed when Toyota gave the Avalon a complete overhaul for the third-generation model. It boasts an upscale and refined design, and major mechanical advancements -- including extra power and a more capable suspension -- have enabled the Avalon's performance to rival that of the best large sedans. Even base versions are equipped with impressive standard features.

Overall, a new or used Avalon is certainly worth considering if you're looking for a comfortable large sedan. Developed and built with American roads in mind, the Toyota Avalon is big, stable and powerful. A 3.5-liter V6 pumps out 268 horsepower and 248 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed automatic transmission comes standard. The front-drive Avalon is based on a heavily modified version of the previous-generation Camry chassis. There are three trim levels: XL, XLS and Limited. Even the base XL comes loaded with standard equipment. The XLS is more upscale, with premium Toyota Avalon Accessories including a moonroof and a six-CD changer. The leather-lined Limited serves as the model's top-of-the-line trim.

toyota Avalon tail lightsUnlike previous Avalons, the current model cannot be had with a front bench seat. But there is ample room in the front and plenty of legroom to stretch out in back, where a nearly flat floor allows three adults to sit comfortably. The materials are all first-rate. Front seat-mounted side airbags and full-length side curtain airbags are standard. Traction control, stability control and antilock brakes with brake assist are also standard on all models. In road tests and reviews, we've found the Toyota Avalon to be an excellent large sedan. Highway driving is luxurious. The V6 engine pulls smoothly and powerfully, while posting impressive fuel economy numbers. The Touring trim handles adequately, but the Avalon should not be mistaken for a sport sedan.

It is a full-size car with qualities that lean toward comfort over athleticism. Downsides to the Avalon are few. Main complaints concern the rear seat (it doesn't fold down to expand luggage capacity) and a slightly dull driving demeanor that some buyers might find off-putting. The current Toyota Avalon represents the third generation, which was introduced for 2005. Changes since then have been minimal. The 3.5-liter V6 was initially rated for 280 hp, but new SAE rating procedures dropped that to the current 268 hp, starting with the 2006 model year. Actual performance was unaffected. A midcycle refresh for '08 replaced the previously mandatory five-speed automatic transmission with a six-speed unit; other changes included new headlamps and a revised front fascia.

toyota Avalon headlightsFrom 2005-'08 a Touring trim slotted in between the XL and XLS. It was basically a sporty Avalon, with 17-inch wheels, a more firmly tuned suspension, an all-black interior and aluminum trim detail. "Sporty" is a relative term, though, since even the "good handling Avalon" is tuned more for comfort and driving pleasure. For '09, stability control became standard across the board. With the second-generation Avalon, sold from 2000-'04, Toyota made a number of improvements over the first version. Available in XL and XLS trims, the second-gen Avalon was roomier and more technologically advanced. Optional stability control (Toyota's Vehicle Skid Control) and brake assist features were added to improve safety.

The 3.0-liter V6 was equipped with variable valve timing, providing a modest power increase over the previous generation with a peak of 210 hp. In road tests, we commented that the second-gen Avalon wasn't a particularly interesting car to drive, but it countered with plenty of dependability, comfort and smoothness. A curvaceous dashboard design further distinguished this model from its relatively staid competitors. The original Toyota Avalon, sold from 1995-'99, came in two trims (XL and XLS) and had a 192-hp 3.0-liter V6 and a four-speed automatic transmission. Minor engine revisions for the 1997 model year saw the output of the V6 increase to 200 hp. For both of these previous generations, Toyota did not make many significant changes.