2015 Toyota Avalon
Toyota's 2015 flagship Avalon is out to attract more younger buyers.
Contrary to some exaggerated reports, not everyone is turning to small SUVs or crossover vehicles. And not everyone can afford--or want--a top-line full-size luxury sedan. Thus, we have full-size "near-luxury" sedans such as Toyota's increasingly popular Avalon.
The front-drive Avalon is Toyota's flagship model and is an alternative to large upscale sedans such as the Buick LaCrosse, Chevrolet Impala, Hyundai Azera and Kia Cadenza.
Matter of fact, the Avalon also is an alternative to the admittedly more expensive Lexus ES. You might bet that the person who's to become the "millionaire next door" would buy the Avalon instead of the Lexus to get much of what that Lexus offers while saving money.
For further variety and attract younger buyers, Toyota is offering the Avalon as a new, limited-production $37, 170 XLE Touring Sport Edition model.
That model has no added power, but features include "Attitude Black" paint, 18-inch black-painted machined finish alloy wheels with 45-series tires and such things as perforated leather-trimmed heated front seats. Toyota says only 2,500 will be built, but the car doesn't seem that compelling to me without extra horsepower and other performance features.
Avalons go from $32,285 to $41,700, with the hybrid gas/electric models starting at $36,470. It comes as the XLE, XLE Premium, XLE Touring, the new XLE Touring Sport Edition and as the Limited.
A Hybrid is offered in the XLE Premium, XLE Touring and Limited grades.
The 2015 Avalon gas and hybrid models add popular comfort and convenience features as standard equipment in more grades.
New and expanded features include a Blind Sport Monitor with Rear Cross-Traffic Alert added to the XLE Touring and Hybrid XLE Touring. Paddle shifters and Sport, Eco and Normal modes (explained below) are offered across the gas-model lineup. Several new colors are added. And all models get second-generation Entune audio. Also, 17-inch alloy wheels now are optional for the Avalon Limited gas model.
I tested the $36,080 V-6 XLE Touring model. Its smooth, quiet 3.5-liter 268-horsepower V-6 delivers an estimated so-so 21 miles per gallon in the city but 31 on highways. Acceleration from 60-80 m.p.h. is a breeze.
Avalon Hybrids have a 2.5-liter 4-cylinder and electric motor that produces 200 horsepower and provides an impressive, estimated 40 miles per gallon in the city and 39 on highways. It should be lively, considering the torque of its electric motor.
In most instances, the solid, beautifully painted Avalon offers nearly all a Lexus does for less money. It's got a sleek body, upscale and impressively roomy super-quiet interior with soft-touch materials and even dual vanity lights for each front sun visor.
Besides going like the wind with its V-6, the Avalon has an impressively supple ride and good steering, braking and handling.
While not a sports sedan in any trim level, the Avalon has above-average roadability.
Rear seatbacks don't flip forward for more cargo room because the trunk in the V-6 models is so large you don't need them, although there is a moderately sized center fold-forward pass-through area for some objects. In fact, the trunk is so spacious many will have to almost climb into it to reach its back end.
On the other hand, the center of the rear seat is too firm for anything but short-trip comfort. It's best left to the hefty fold-down armrest, which contains dual cupholders, or to the pass-through area.
The V-6 works with a smooth, alert six-speed automatic transmission, which can be shifted manually. However, manual shifting is best done with the console shift lever, not the awkwardly placed shift paddles near the steering wheel.
A driver can utilize three driving modes that are activated by console buttons. Pushing the "Eco" button is said to help achieve lower fuel consumption during, says Toyota, " trips that involve frequent accelerating." "Sport" mode is used when more acceleration response and precise handling is wanted, when, for instance, driving on mountain roads.
I used the "Norm" mode most of the time, and it was just fine for most typical urban driving.
Large doors have big handles and open wide to make it easy to slide in and out. Backlit gauges can be quickly read, and controls, including those for the dashboard touch screen, are easy to use once gotten used to.
There are plenty of cabin storage areas, including door pockets and a very deep console bin.
The trunk has enclosed latches to prevent cargo damage and a hefty inside lever to help yank its lid down.The hood raises smoothly on twin struts to reveal a crowded, but nicely laid out, engine compartment.
The Avalon is sexy and luxurious enough to attract more younger buyers--at least more younger middle-aged drivers.