The 2013 Toyota Avalon is also equipped with a drive mode system that offers three settings: Eco, Normal and Sport. Like their names suggest, the Eco mode relaxes throttle response and manages the climate control system to maximize fuel economy, while the Sport mode enhances power steering effort and adjusts throttle sensitivity to make the car feel more responsive.

You’ll particularly notice the Avalon’s front-wheel drivetrain when you punch the Sport button and then punch the gas pedal. According to Toyota, the 0–100 km/h sprint is performed in about seven seconds. The muscular V6 has more than enough guts to propel the big sedan, yet is fairly efficient when you revert to Eco mode and drive at a more relaxed pace. At 100 km/h, the 3.5L engine spins at just 1,700 rpm, and the average recorded during our test week was 12.5 L/100 km.

Test Drive: 2013 Toyota Avalon Limited toyota car test drives Test Drive: 2013 Toyota Avalon Limited toyota car test drives Test Drive: 2013 Toyota Avalon Limited toyota car test drives
2013 Toyota Avalon Limited. Click image to enlarge

In the U.S., you can now get an Avalon Hybrid, which uses the Camry Hybrid’s 2.5L Atkinson-cycle four, electric motor and battery pack for a combined output of 200 hp. However, it’s not offered in Canada, at least not for now.

The 2013 Toyota Avalon’s forte is obviously its ride quality. The car absorbs road imperfections without any floatiness and with barely a hint of road and suspension noise. The driving experience remains relaxing, yet more rewarding than in previous-generation models.

Comparisons between the Avalon and the Lexus ES are inevitable. They’re both front-wheel drive, ride on the same wheelbase, are equipped with the same engine and their equipment levels are similar. Apart from their schnozzes, they even look the same. In short, the differences are minimal, so you’d basically be spending a few thousands less for the Avalon; that is, if a luxury-brand badge isn’t all that important to you.

In fact, your choice could depend on what you do for a living. If you’re a sales rep on the road, for example, the brand of car you drive is important. Visit your customers in a luxury-branded car, and they might think you’ll try to overcharge them so you can handle your high monthly payments. Show up in an Avalon, and your customers will likely perceive you as someone with good taste, who isn’t all flash and no cash.

The 2013 Toyota Avalon starts at a reasonable $36,800 in XLE trim, while our Limited tester with the Premium Package is listed at $41,850. That’s on par with nicely equipped versions of the Taurus, the Charger, the 300 and the Nissan Maxima.

The Avalon is refined, comfortable and quiet; however, torque steer is present, and although it’s well controlled, you’ll still feel it every time you mash the throttle in anything but a perfectly straight line. If you like driving dynamics as much as I do, the Charger’s rear-wheel (or optional all-wheel) drivetrain and sportier character should suit you better.

On the other hand, there is no doubt in my mind that the new Avalon will please a broader clientele because it’s much more enjoyable to drive and to be seen in. Toyota is definitely on the right track.

Test Drive: 2013 Toyota Avalon Limited toyota car test drives
2013 Toyota Avalon Limited. Click image to enlarge

2013 Toyota Avalon Limited
Base price (Limited): $38,900
Options: $2,950 (Premium Package)
Freight and pre-delivery inspection: $1,565
A/C tax: $100
Price as tested: $43,515

Competitors
Chevrolet Impala
Chrysler 300
Dodge Charger
Ford Taurus
Lexus ES 350
Nissan Maxima

Crash test ratings
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
Insurance Institute for Highway Safety