2014 Toyota Avalon
2014 Toyota Avalon
2014 Toyota Avalon
2014 Toyota Avalon. Click image to enlarge

Review and photos by Tom Sedens

I’m not going to lie and say I was excited to review the Toyota Avalon. After all, this is the car that emulated your father’s (actually, probably your great-grandfather’s) Buick for years, and was marketed to the nearly dead.

But Toyota made some changes to the Avalon last year. Huge, sweeping changes. And they’re not shy about it. They want you to know the Avalon is an all-new car, with a new attitude and with new capabilities. So… is it really?

Choosing an Avalon is very simple. There are only two models, the “entry-level” XLE (normally a high trim level for Toyota) and the Limited.

The changes are very evident long before you get into the car. Toyota has done a fantastic job in updating the Avalon on the outside. Smooth lines flow from front to back. You’ll find the occasional curve, although the styling certainly won’t pass for sensuous. And what’s this? Nifty “double-eye” low beams and HID headlights, not to mention signature LED driving lights? A handsome kink toward the rear side window trim? Good looking 18-inch wheels shod with low-profile 225/45s filling those fenders? A stylish rear end with eye-catching details and tail lights?

Though it’s a mature looking car (my tester’s “sizzling” crimson mica didn’t help), Toyota has added some interest (a pleasant change) and even some aggressive characteristics to spice things up. It looks worlds better than any Avalon before it, and in my opinion, it’s a slick, good looking sedan.

Under the hood, is Toyota’s 3.5L V6. Relatively old technology, and appearing in many of their vehicles, it’s a good engine. Strong, relatively linear and responsive and reasonably fuel efficient, it puts out 268 hp at 6,200 rpm and 248 lb-ft of torque at 4,700 rpm. All that to drag around a surprisingly light (for its size) 1,605 kg (3,538 lb) car. The power makes its way to the front wheels through a six-speed automatic.

Mileage is rated at 9.9 L/100 km in the city and 6.4 L/100 km on the highway. I averaged 12.0 L/100 km during my time with it. There was a ton of back-and-forth city driving as it was during a two week Christmas break. The Avalon has a 64L tank.

Materials in the Avalon are very, very nice. There are soft-touch plastics everywhere, as well as upholstered, stitched materials and a suave wood trim. Also, the styling surprised me. First of all, it’s a major departure from the past, and frankly, it’s a nice step into the future.

Headroom in the front is good for my 5’10″ frame, but someone much taller might start to feel the squeeze. The cabin feels large, open and spacious.

The heated and cooled leather seats are very comfortable, and offer a surprising amount of bolstering for a cushy car. Both front seats are power-adjustable and the driver’s side has a two-position memory setting.

I liked the Avalon’s steering wheel – it’s grippy and comfortable with a surprisingly fat rim. On it, you’ll find controls for the media system, phone, hands-free and driver information screen functions.

2014 Toyota Avalon2014 Toyota Avalon
2014 Toyota Avalon. Click image to enlarge

Ahead of you sits a pod with two large, clear gauges – between them is a narrow, vertical driver information screen. Though it seems a bit cramped, it’s sharp and easy to read and provides access to fuel economy, trip meters and other goodies.

There’s not so much a centre stack as what I’d call the chin – it juts out of the dash as it drops down, reminding me of Lord Farquaad from Shrek. This panel holds a responsive 6.1-inch touchscreen that handles the audio system, navigation, phone and smartphone app functions, as well as the back-up camera. The screen is surrounded by flat, soft-touch buttons for major audio system functions. These flat buttons are completely offset by the addition of two humungous knobs – one for volume, one for tuning. You could probably use them even if you had all your fingers amputated. At the bottom of the chin is a dual-zone automatic climate control system which gets its own sharp, well-designed LCD screen.

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