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Manufacturer’s Website
Toyota Canada

Review and photos by Michel Deslauriers

Photo Gallery:
2013 Toyota Avalon Limited

Since its introduction in 1995, the Toyota Avalon has been synonymous with bland styling, a marshmallow ride and a general lack of driving excitement. The 2013 Avalon breaks from tradition, totally redesigned and seeking to attract a younger clientele with inspiring sheet metal, a well-appointed interior and new onboard technology.

Who buys an Avalon anyway? No need asking Toyota for statistics, as I firmly believe older folks, who mostly prefer soft suspension settings, a sober appearance and plenty of elbow room, are more partial to the car than younger people. On those accounts, the Avalon scored.

However, as Toyota is trying hard to lower the average age of their clientele, the 2013 Avalon received modern yet elegant styling to please a wider audience. Personally, I think it works.

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

While not as striking as some other large sedans like the Ford Taurus, the Dodge Charger, the Chrysler 300 and the redesigned 2014 Chevrolet Impala, the Avalon follows the current fashion trends with a creased hood, a wide-mouthed lower-body grille, LED daytime running lights and a steeply raked rear window. The result is a car that is elegant and classy, yet has an edgy, modern appearance that more age groups can appreciate.

Two trim levels, XLE and Limited, are available in Canada. Both benefit from 18-inch alloy wheels, a power sunroof, power-adjustable and heated mirrors with integrated turn signals, a smart key system, fog lamps and dual exhaust outlets. The Limited is the subject of this test, which also gets mirror-mounted puddle lamps, rain-sensing wipers, HID headlights and the aforementioned LED lighting technology.

Like its exterior, the 2013 Toyota Avalon’s cockpit features a mix of modern and old-school styling. The woodgrain trim on the dash and the chrome trim surrounding the centre stack and air vents give the Avalon a retro touch, while a new climate control interface houses touch-sensitive buttons; the type we’re seeing more and more of in Ford and GM products.

Those buttons respond fairly well to finger poking, even with gloves on. However, rotary knobs for setting the temperature are still the easiest to operate while driving, and this novelty in the Avalon might not please everyone.

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

The sound system does get volume and tuning knobs, though, in addition to the standard nine-speaker system, a 6.1-inch touchscreen, Bluetooth phone and streaming audio connectivity, a USB port and satellite radio.

Our test car was equipped with the Premium Package, which adds an 11-speaker JBL stereo, rear-seat climate controls, heated rear seats and a power rear window sunshade. The sound quality is very good, and the wheel-mounted controls are well laid out. On the other hand, the display could be bigger; you can get an 8.4-inch touchscreen in Chrysler products, for example.

Interior space is quite generous in the Toyota, which isn’t really a surprise considering its outer dimensions. One noteworthy aspect is the amount of rear-seat legroom, which allows passengers to stretch out their legs and be more comfortable. Up front, the seats could use a little extra lateral support, but otherwise they’re nicely accommodating.

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

One sole engine is offered in the 2013 Toyota Avalon; in Canada, that is. The company’s familiar 24-valve, 3.5L V6 is on duty here, producing 268 horsepower and 248 lb-ft of torque, and it’s connected to a six-speed automatic with – hold on to your prune juice – paddle shifters. Yes, you read right; wheel-mounted shift paddles in an Avalon.

And they work well, serving up quick upshifts and downshifts. However, this isn’t a sport sedan and doesn’t try to pass as one. Yet the car is more dynamic and engaging then ever before, and that’s because Toyota blessed it with variable-assist steering that provides better response and a greater feel of the road. In addition, the suspension strikes a nice balance of ride comfort and sportiness, obviously emphasizing comfort.

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