It was a great day to be in San Antonio and the edge of the Texas Hill County. Toyota had invited a number of automotive journalists to preview and test-drive the all-new 2013 Toyota Avalon. But this was no ordinary Avalon. This was an XLE mode, Premium trim level, Hybrid that was my primary vehicle for the event. There were, of course, the standard gas models and other trim levels.
Maybe it is because I am approaching ‘geezer’ status, but I really like this new Avalon. Then, again, maybe it is because Toyota is attempting to lower the purchase appeal of the Avalon to a slightly younger age group than us geriatrics. The Avalon is now in its fourth generation and this 2013 model was unveiled at the 2012 New York Auto Show. But it is not the same car any more. It was a full-size sedan that was appealing in its blending of generic styling, smooth operation, elegance, premium interior, and competent handling. It was compared quite often with the Buick, which was not quite a luxury Cadillac, but appealing and impressive in its sedate character. The Ford Crown Victoria was not quite a Lincoln. Now, both the big Buick and big Crown Vic are gone. The Avalon was similar in being Toyota’s most premium sedan that was not quite yet a Lexus.
Now, we are hearing words thrown out such as ‘dramatic’, ‘exciting’, ‘beautiful’, and ‘stylish.’ It has been slightly down-sized, making it more of a mid-size premium sedan rather than full-size. The premium touches are ‘more premium.’ Often, we do not realize something is better in the marketplace because we are satisfied with the current. Perhaps the new Avalon is in that category. The ‘old’ Avalon was somewhat bland, but comfortable. It was almost-premium, but not quite luxury. It was conservative, but not exciting. This ‘new’ Avalon is definitely a vast improvement over the previous models.
The 2013 Avalon is generally priced between $30k and $40k, depending upon trim levels, equipment, and such. The power-plant is the same 3.5-liter V6 engine with a revised and improved six-speed transmission. The reduced weight improves the fuel economy. The hybrid model is new for 2013 and has a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine mated up to an electric motor. Estimated hybrid mileage is 40 mpg. The hybrid will set customers out about $5000 extra, but Toyota’s hybrid technology is certainly proven.
The standard Avalon has three drive modes: Eco, normal, and sport. During the test-drive, I did not notice much difference in the normal and Eco modes. They both performed as I had anticipated, but of course, I was somewhat lead-footed during that day. The sport mode, however, was noticeable because it did add a certain amount of additional pedal response and allowed the car to ‘get-up-and-go’ fairly easily.
Bottom line: You can call me part of the older group that prefers more sedate and dowdy cars, but that would be inaccurate. I like the power and push of a strong engine. This new Avalon almost offers both. It has an athletic ride, a fairly large cabin, a decent price, a lot of technology, and good fuel economy. It is almost a luxury vehicle for several generations of buyers without the accompanying luxury price tag.