Priced at $36,800, the 2013 Avalon XLE comes equipped with standard features like a large colour display to adjust the nine-speaker audio system with text-to-speech and email-to-speech capabilities as well as the standard navigation system. Leather seating, smart key with push-button start, paddle shifters, dual-zone automatic climate control, power adjustable driver and passenger seats, and power moonroof are all standard equipment on the 2013 Avalon XLE.

First Drive:  2013 Toyota Avalon toyota reviews first drives
First Drive:  2013 Toyota Avalon toyota reviews first drives
2013 Toyota Avalon. Click image to enlarge

By comparison, the 2013 Lexus ES 350 starts at $39,500 and doesn’t include real leather upholstery or a navigation system.

The Avalon Limited, priced at $38,900, adds heated and ventilated front seats covered in premium leather and power adjustable 10 ways for the driver and 8 for the passenger, LED daytime running lamps, blind spot monitoring system and rear cross-traffic alert system.

Furthermore, a Premium package ($41,850), which includes three-zone independent climate control, 11-speaker JBL premium audio system, pre-collision warning system, dynamic radar cruise control and automatic high beams, can be added to the Avalon Limited.

The Avalon interior is a nice way to spend an afternoon, as we found out recently during the Avalon press launch in Ann Arbor, Michigan. With premium finishes, hand-sewn pieces, and smoke chrome trim surrounds, it is a rich feeling and exceedingly quiet environment. Competitively, the Avalon fares well, being the only vehicle in its segment to feature navigation, paddle shifters, back-up camera, passenger knee airbag, and rear seat side airbags as standard equipment.

First Drive:  2013 Toyota Avalon toyota reviews first drives
First Drive:  2013 Toyota Avalon toyota reviews first drives
2013 Toyota Avalon. Click image to enlarge

The Avalon is powered by the same 3.5L six-cylinder engine offered with the Camry V6 and the Lexus ES 350, producing 268 hp and 248 lb-ft of torque. This is a strong V6 engine that returns surprisingly good fuel economy (8.3 L/100 km combined city/highway). Unlike the Camry and the Lexus, the Avalon will not be offered in Canada with a four-cylinder gas/electric hybrid drivetrain.

But the Avalon is equipped with three drive modes: Eco, Normal and Sport. The Eco Mode prioritizes fuel efficiency by reducing throttle response, engine performance, and air conditioning function. Sport mode helps create a more engaging driving experience by increasing steering effort and throttle response.

The Avalon is a big, comfortable car and its front MacPherson strut, rear dual-link suspension is set up to balance ride comfort, cornering ability, and agility. Despite its size the Avalon’s electric power steering and suspension tuning provide a ride that is super quiet and smooth, but without sacrificing feedback and cornering ability. The big car exhibited minimal body roll, decent feedback, and competent stopping power.

The Avalon has a big car load of active and passive safety gear including Toyota’s standard Star Safety System, which includes Vehicle Stability Control (VSC), Traction Control (TRAC), Anti-lock Brake System (ABS), Electronic Brake Force Distribution (EBD), Brake Assist (BA), and Smart Stop Technology (SST). As well, the Avalon can be equipped with a blind-spot monitoring system, rear cross-traffic alert system, dynamic radar cruise control, and a pre-collision system. This latter system reduces the impact of an impending collision by reducing vehicle speed.

In addition, the 2013 Avalon has 10 standard airbags including front air bags, front seat-mounted side airbags, knee air bags for both driver and front passenger, rear seat-mounted side air bags and side curtain airbags.

I may not have written flattering prose about the Toyota vehicles I’ve driven this year, but with the new Avalon, flattery isn’t necessary. Anyone thinking that they have outgrown their Camry should have a look at the Avalon before moving on to Lexus or some other luxury brand. They may find it has everything they need and at a price that doesn’t break the bank.

The 2013 Toyota Avalon arrives in dealerships in mid-December.

Pricing: 2013 Toyota Avalon
Avalon XLE: $36,800
Avalon Limited: $38,900
Avalon Limited w/Premium package: $41,850
Freight & PDI: $1,565

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