By Bruce Aldrich/Contributing Editor
Our grandfather’s car has been reborn. For 2013, the fourth generation Toyota Avalon has been redesigned to attract people with color left in their hair. The car looks and drives better because the manufacturer’s President Akio Toyoda wants it that way.
Toyoda’s goal is to put excitement into Toyota automobiles. The Avalon is the first car in the Toyota line to benefit from the new edict, and expect to see design cues from the Avalon in future Toyotas.
The first thing I noticed about the Avalon is new styling. It doesn’t look like any other Toyota. The old, rounded jellybean look is gone. The new car has pronounced wheel arches, a dramatic sloping roofline and a huge new grille.
The interior has been upgraded with better materials and a more modern design. The cheap plastic bits are gone, conveying the feel of an upmarket car. Phone connectivity and the latest safety gadgets like blind spot monitoring, radar speed control and rear cross traffic monitoring are all available.
The difference between the old and new Avalon is immediately apparent when I got behind the wheel. The steering wheel is smaller, leather wrapped and looks like it belongs in a sport sedan. Gauges are large and within easy view. Radio and climate controls are separated so there is no confusion. Controls and switches are large enough for viewing by buyers in their golden years.
However, the touch-activated switches (called IntelliTouch) are sometimes frustrating to use, because a driver can inadvertently touch and change something he or she didn’t want changed. The new Avalon has more than adequate power. The drivetrain is lifted from the previous generation Avalon, but it’s a good one. Wheel spin (limited by traction control) is possible from a standing start. The six-speed transmission shifts smoothly even with the right foot planted.
Toyota added paddle shifters and three selectable drive modes: Normal, Eco and Sport. The Sport mode really transforms the car. The shifts are quicker, the electric assist steering is reduced and the throttle response is quickened. Of course, drag racing isn’t what the Avalon car is all about, but a 0-60 mph time in less than seven seconds isn’t bad. The newly stiffened body structure and revised suspension settings give the new Avalon better handling through curves and over bumps. Toyota says the suspension is optimized for “sporty driving.” This is no performance sedan, but I think Toyota did a good job of balancing performance with a smooth ride.
The new Avalon also comes in a Hybrid version. The hybrid drivetrain is the same used in the hybrid Camry. The Synergy Drive system uses a 2.5-liter gas motor, combined with an electric motor to provide 200 horsepower. The electric motor gets electricity, charged from the gas motor, from a Nickel Metal Hydride battery pack that uses about two cubic feet of trunk space.I preferred the hybrid over the gas models. The hybrid does everything the gas model does with less drama. The constant velocity transmission (infinite gears, unlike just six in the gas car) provides perfectly smooth acceleration and significantly improved gas mileage over the gas models. Expect 0-60 times to be eight seconds flat with highway mpg at 39.
I recommend the new 2013 Avalon if you’re shopping for a premium mid-size car. Consider the quietness, handling dynamics and Toyota’s reputation for quality. Other considerations include the Buick LaCrosse, Hyundai Genesis or Lexus ES.
2013 Toyota Avalon Facts & Figures
Pricing (Gas /Hybrid)
XLE Premium, $33,195, $35,555
XLE Touring, $35,500, $37,250
Limited, $39,650, $41,400
Fuel Mileage (Avalon V6)
3.5 liter, six-speed transmission: 21 mpg (city), 31 mpg (highway).
Synergy Drive 2.5 liter, CVT: 40 mpg (city), 39 mpg (highway).
Contributing editor Bruce Aldrich, a lifelong car enthusiast, is a multi-media journalist who specializes in automotive, travel and sports topics. Visit his websites: TahoeTruckeeOutdoor.com and IMtahoeLive.com.