2013 Toyota Avalon XLE HD Video Review

Avalon has been called the car that out-Buicks Buick (and we’re talking about the old Buick folks).  Room and comfort have been it’s strengths, not canyon carving or fashion sense.  Keep in mind the first one- which rode upon a stretched Camry platform- had a bench seat.  Up front.

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The new 2013 Avalon comes standard with something it’s never had before- style.  Oh, and that waterbed-like ride quality?  Gone.  While Toyota has not given us a budget A7, they want to be known for more than just practical reliable cars.  President Akio Toyoda, a known automotive enthusiast, insists that the company must inject some soul into their cars from now on.  I like this guy.

Like everyone in the industry, Toyota is targeting a younger buyer. There will be no “early-bird special” jokes, no references to AARP cards here.  Loyal Avalon buyers have stuck with the car for many years now and the new shape is meant to introduce some new blood to the model.  Toyota says focus groups prove current owners and newcomers alike love the sheetmetal.

Not Just New Style, A Hybrid Too

The design might be a surprise, but new a hybrid powertrain shouldn’t be.  Avalon is still based on the Camry architecture (stretched 1.7 inches), so the same Hybrid Synergy Drive found in Camry is a natural.  At the press launch in Santa Barbara, CA, I’ve chosen to review only the base XLE V6 model because of time constraints shooting the video.   2013-toyota-avalon-ltd_24  Besides, the V6 will make up 80% percent of sales so it’s the popular choice.  It retails for $31,785 with destination.  Avalon’s price can rise to 42 large fully loaded and generally the hybrid model is an additional $1,750 (though the base XLE adds $2,360).

Avalon’s 3.5-liter V6 makes 268 hp @ 6,200 rpm and 248 lb-ft of torque @ 4,700 RPM.  I don’t need to tell you it is also found in Camry do I?  Didn’t think so.  Fuel economy is good, 21 city, 31 highway on standard grade gas.  FYI, the hybrid version is EPA rated at 40 city, 39 highway.

The only transmission paired to the V6 is a six-speed automatic with manual shifting on the console (my pre-production unit’s shifter had a coarse unrefined feel to it).  Fancier models get steering wheel paddle shifters plus “eco” and “sport” modes that adjust throttle response and steering effort.  Safety technology like blind spot and cross path detection are available.  So is collision warning, lane departure warning, and radar assisted cruise control.

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Acceleration Has Never Been an Avalon Issue

0-60 spools up in a familiar 6.7 seconds according to Toyota.  That’s pretty brisk for a vehicle most peg for a grandpa’s car.  The outgoing car was as responsive as a sofa in the curves, the ride quality is more buttoned down now.  The trick is balance.  Car enthusiasts forget that not everyone wants a high performance handling machine, many folks want comfort.  The improved driving dynamic means that secondary floaty bob is gone.  Avalon isn’t meant to challenge the best sport sedans, but feel free to pack the Dramamine away.   It’s quiet but my ears remember Buick LaCrosse and Chrysler 300 letting a skosh less of the outside world in.  I have not driven Azera so you’ll have to be the judge there.

Think of Avalon is a luxury car?  Positioned between the workhorse Camry and up market Lexus ES350, Toyota prefers the term “premium”.  Rick LaFaso, Marketing Manager for Toyota cars, explains the two markets are different even though the premium and luxury buyer are very similar in demographic.  They both want comfort, features, and room.  The Avalon buyer though is willing to forgo the logo and brand prestige of a BMW, Cadillac, Mercedes or, ahem, Lexus badge.  There are many reasons why wealthy people have money, one is that they don’t spend it.

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The Inside Story

Toyota makes a big deal about the sheetmetal, they should talk up the interior some too.  Fans of stitching will love this car, it’s everywhere in the cabin.  Chrome trim adds to the substantial rich look, the leather is nicely grained.  Gauges are bright and clear, especially the info screen in the middle of the cluster.  Also well done is the Intellitouch console surface.  Yes, buttonless touch surfaces have been done before, but this one has excellent sensitivity and the material gets a unique appearance and feel to it.  A shout out to my homies back in Minnesota, Toyota says it works with some gloves.

USB and power ports are in the eBin- like those electronics valets they sell at Brookstone- is just forward of the column shifter.  The design has a slot in the lid for charging cords that helps to keep things phones and iPods neat and tidy.  The base audio system sounds fine, audiophiles will want to upgrade.  Toyota’s Entune system that runs apps like Pandora using the data plan in your smartphone is found on higher trim levels.  Same goes for cooled seats.  Heated chairs are standard up front, they’re well contoured and comfortable.

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Want a panoramic glass roof or electric parking brake? Avalon does not offer them.  At least Bluetooth connectivity, smart key and dual zone climate control are standard.

Room For Friends

Toyota research says Avalon owners place a premium on entertaining friends.  It has always had a decent sized back seat so as expected, knee foot and leg room are not a problem.  Even with the svelte new silhouette, neither is headroom.  While it will most likely be occupied by another couple, a third adult will be perfectly fine on a trip to the charity auction because of a nearly flat floor.

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Rear passengers get side torso airbags, always a plus.  There’s storage in the doors, both seats get pockets and there’s a place to stash drinks and get comfy with a fold down armrest.  Higher trim levels get a remote rear sunshade, a rear climate zone and heated bun warmers.  My only real gripe is that there’s no power port to charge electronics.

Maybe You Prefer to be Driven

Now that Town Car is out of production, Toyota has plans for the livery market.  While at first it seems a stretch (no pun intended), I can see the hybrid version making a strong showing considering half the taxis in Seattle are Priuses.

A quick check of the trunk finds a good-sized space with some undulations that might hurt the usefulness some (sorry, no TP trunk test, I’m out of town).  A few bags of golf clubs should drop in no sweat, that’s what counts in this class. There is a ski pass through but that’s it, the seatbacks are fixed to help structural rigidity.  Avalon gets a spare tire, not all cars do these days.  Hinge arms are shielded to protect from scrunching cargo.

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The Design Factor

Toyota’s making a very big deal about it so let’s dissect the design.  Avalon’s svelte shape gets a dash of “four-door coupe” attitude ala Audi A7, Mercedes CLS, Volkswagen CC and Hyundai Sonata.  The back three quarter’s view is the most flattering to my eye, with tasteful LED taillamps and a great C pillar that reaches back towards the rear.

Moving to the front, the lower intake owes a little to Aston Martin.  The upper chrome bar on the other hand is pure corporate Toyota.  This part appears to have come off of a Camry and clutters up the overall effect.  Side scalloping is kept to a minimum.  The overall design might be bold for Toyota but Avalon remains somewhat understated compared to Elantra, Optima and LaCrosse.  Let’s call it a cautious but appealing step forward.

A Quick Peek at the Hybrid

Inside and out, the gas/electric version looks remarkably similar to the gas-only model.  There’s no eco friendly bamboo trim on the inside or anything to that marketing effect.  Avalon is based on the same architecture as Camry so naturally the Hybrid Synergy Drive powerplant is the same.   2013-toyota-avalon-xle_11  The gas engine and electric motor team up for 200 total horsepower and the transmission becomes a continuously variable unit.  As always, a nickel metal hydride battery in the trunk eliminates the pass through and reduces cargo volume a skosh.  Hybrids get subtle blue Toyota logos for those who don’t know how to read the “hybrid” badges on the lower front door and rear.

If you want to understand the dynamic of the hybrid, I suggest looking at the Camry hybrid video.

Home Grown Attitude

Toyota is pitching Avalon’s American connection pretty hard.  Designed and manufactured in the good old US of A, the lion’s share of the content is sourced here too.  It will be exported from Georgetown Kentucky to Saudi Arabia and South Korea as well.

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Toyota plans on moving some 75,000 copies of their largest sedan, far more than the outgoing car.  Spy shots of the upcoming Corolla show a silhouette with more rake to it, much like Honda’s Civic.  It’s a sign that Avalon is kick starting a Toyota design renaissance.  Adding some driving passion should help grab buyers that stayed away from the brand.  It might have been sleep inducing in the past, but the 2013 Avalon might turn into a wake up call for the competition.

FULL GALLERY BELOW.  ALL STILL PHOTOS PROVIDED BY TOYOTA.  TOM ATTENDED A TOYOTA SPONSORED EVENT FOR THIS STORY.

18 Comments

  1. Royalorgans says:

    Hi Tom, I would like to know if you think this car has the appeal for a 31 year old bachelor who wants luxury with sporty style and good fuel economy. Would this car appeal to the young ladies? would it look good in a college setting without coming off to ostentatious, What do you think of the fuel exconomy compared with the Hyundai Santa Fe sport.

    • TV says:

      The front drive Santa Fe 2.0t and Avalon V6 have identical EPA fuel economy- 21 city, 31 highway.

      To be blunt, the ladies will be attracted to Audis, BMWs and Mercedes, which would be more ostentatious on a college campus. But really, go with what the girls like, it will make you happier, right? The Volvo S60 might be the perfect middle ground for you now that I think about it.

      Good luck!

  2. gregd01 says:

    I assume that the steering wheel telescopes on a car as pricey as the Avalon. Correct?

  3. slalemand says:

    Oh, you want to give this new web site for Bloggers a check out (In Beta still)

    - http://www.mifilter.com/beta.html

    Karl

  4. slalemand says:

    Here’s hoping it’s as nice as I’m hoping it is. I have 1 on order (sort-of), but now they say the Nautical Blue won’t be available until after the first of the year?

    In any case, thanks for the nice review. I for one would like more infor on:

    - Ride quality (compare to the out going model)
    - The interior sound (compared to the out going model)
    - Wind noise at highway speeds (compared to the out going model)

    Over-all, would the average person like it more then the current model they have, and way.

    The interior does seem to be very nice and a BIG step up.

    Thanks, and unless I see something else I like more (That I can afford or justify – I’ll be smiling while driving my New Avalon.

    Karl

    • TV says:

      The only Avalon I can compare it to is a neighbor’s that I took a spin around the neighborhood in (hey, I gave him a ride in the Boxster).

      As I said, the ride quality is more buttoned down and not as floaty. It’s still comfortable.

      I didn’t take Bob’s on the highway so I can’t tell you about road noise comparison or wind noise. My guess is you won’t be disappointed. Avalon is quiet and most modern cars don’t suffer from wind noise.

      Spending that kind of money you should be cross shopping LaCrosse, Azera, and 300. All great cars. You are cross shopping right? That’s a lot of money.

      • slalemand says:

        Cross shopping to some degree. My local Toyota dealer purchases some $25,000.00 in promotional products from us a year, so that leans me towards Toyota’s, not to mention, 2 Avalons, 2 Camry’s, 2 Tercels and 1 4-runner later, ALL with NO repairs. Notice I said no repairs, not no major repairs:)

        Avalon number 1 had 67, 000 miles after 15 months and I traded it for the current one, which will have 40,000+ miles on it when I trade it in.

        The Camrys: One had 35,000 + miles on it, and it was not comfortable enough on long drives, which I do a lot of. The older Camry (2003, which is my wifes car, has 69,000 miles on it.

        The Tercels and 4 runner I can’t remember the far back:)

        These were cars purchase after owning some 30 other cars over the years.

        3 Park Avanues (one had 337,000 miles on it, when I finally got the the point where it wasn’t safe or cost effective to fix)

        Chevy’s, A Ford (man what a mistake that was), a few Oldsmoblies, Other styles of Buicks, (Cutlasses, Lesabre and wagons) – several Pontiac boats (Oh those were great cars), Pontiac GTO …

        300 – I might drive one just cuz.
        Lacrosse was nice, but just not what I wanted
        Azera almost ended up in the driveway, but

        If not the Avalon, I would give serious consideration to a late model used LS 460 L, but I’m thinking the upside, would be off-set by the downsides.

        In any case, thank you.

        Skip

  5. neel says:

    Tom when are you going to review the 2013 audi q5, I heard it’s refreshed for 2013 and it even says that they’ve updated the mmi system. I hope that it’s true and the graphics become 4th gen type. Reply fast and please review the 2013 q5 after the ATS I beg you!!!!

    • TV says:

      Hi Neel,

      Sorry, it’s going to be awhile before I can get to the Q5. There are too many all new vehicles out for me to look at so refreshed models are on the back burner right at the moment. I have the new Accord, Altima, Spark. and Malibu Turbo on my hard drive waiting to be edited and I haven’t even driven the new Fusion, C-Max, Escape, Encore, and a handful of others.

      I’m just one guy with a wife, kids and too little time. You might be able to commiserate… TV

  6. Facepalm says:

    By the way, Tom, I couldn’t help but notice your voice sounded a bit different in the voice-over narrations for the video review. Were you slightly sick when you recorded your lines? Just wondering.
    To me, it sounded different to your previous video reviews right off the bat.

    Also, is Intellitouch a similar system to MyFord/Lincoln Touch and CUE (I’m not knowledgeable in this area but I’m guessing it is)? And how do you think it stacks up with MyFord/Lincoln Touch and CUE?

    And for the record, I’m not sure I like the Aston-Martin-ish part of the front fascia either, but I do like the rear end/taillights… Simple but nice. The interior is very good, too.
    Maybe I will change my tune about the front once I see it in person. Cars almost always look better in person, in my opinion. I’m sure the new Avalon’s face will be a head-turner for one reason or another.

    • TV says:

      I have a bad cold. Lost my voice for a few days, delaying the review.

      Intelitouch is less of an interface concept like MyFord Touch or CUE, and more a name for a smooth buttonless panel. It’s much like the concept of the Volt’s center stack but with better sensitivity.

  7. Smeg says:

    Your reviews are so good Tom. Probably the best, most thorough all-around normal-user reviews available.

    As for the new Avalon, it looks decent given its somewhat aged target market, and everything is nice outside except I can’t stomach that new Toyota corporate look up front. It is so unappealing to me as to be repulsive, whereas the rest of the Avalon almost reminds me of an A7 in profile (quite handsome) and it has a good looking tail. Do wish Toyota has the guts to offer a hatch like Audi did, though. Still, any front end I can’t stand the sight of makes a car a non-starter for me (that means you, current/last gen smiley Mazdas and beak-laden Acuras, as well as sea-creature Infinitis and now Toyotas).

    Tom, will you ever be reviewing the ATS with the 2.0 manual? I checked out the 2.5 auto (terrible engine/tranny for this class) but want to know your opinion on the interior. The style was nice, but to me some of the pieces felt really cheap (instrument panel hood and whatnot) but all the other reviews go on about how great it is. I was seriously not impressed qualitatively, and the drive was lackluster at best. I was far more impressed with Focus ST (lame electronic aside – CUE is pretty good).

    • TV says:

      Good comments Smeg, thanks for participating.

      My next review is the ATS, sorry the V6/auto was the only engine offered. Until it posts I’ll just say my opinion of the interior is more positive than yours. My tester’s was well done.

      • Smeg says:

        My guess is 3 packs of TP in the trunk of the ATS. But trunk space is no deal breaker for me. Lack of TP in a car, however, may be. :P

        I’ll go back and check out the ATS again early next year – the one I saw was the first delivery in Austin, I think, so it may have had some issues. Haven’t yet decided if I want to buy another car yet, and if so what. None of them grab me at the moment as being particularly exciting or extraordinary, or offering any real relative value. I have the fortune of being not too restricted to a price range or specific vehicle type, but despite having a lot more options I’m just not seeing *the* car. Good thing is I am in no hurry.

  8. Facepalm says:

    Great video! Love how you managed to fit Evil Twin in!