You don’t usually buy a Toyota to be different. In fact, one could argue that Toyota products are the very definition of mainstream ubiquity.
Then there is the Avalon.
I saw one on the road a few weeks ago (honest, I did) and my car-dar did a double take, flashing “Unidentified! Unidentified!” to the receptors in the old cranium.
My initial take: What is this long wheelbase, swoopy and aggressively handsome four-door sedan with the little duck-tail spoiler? The illegitimate spawn of a Ford Fusion and an Audi A7? A secret prototype out for a bit of air?
Uh, no. A rare Toyota. The Toyota Avalon actually got kinda’ cool when we weren’t looking. At least cooler than the previous Avalons that came from the factory with the left turn signal all ready stuck on forever and a built-in homing device set for Scottsdale, Arizona.
Indeed, this fourth-generation Avalon that arrived for the 2013 model year has traded in the chest-high plaid green pants and Velcro runners for something altogether more contemporary. It’s sharply styled, has a high quality cabin and brags such techy features as text and email to voice. It’s also a pretty decent drive.
There is a tautness of body control that comes part and parcel with a ride that could very well alienate a major slice of senior contingent. It’s far from harsh, but neither does the Avalon glide down the road in impervious isolation. You’ll feel most of the road as it passes beneath.
The Avalon’s ace-in-the-hole has always been the silken 3.5L 60-degree V6, here making 268 hp, 248 lb-ft at 4700 rpm and hooked to a smooth-shifting six-speed auto. Power delivery is linear, but it really comes on strong above 3,500 rpm. Put your foot in it off the line and you’ll chirp the front tires and feel a tug of torque steer.
The front-drive only 2015 Toyota Avalon starts at $37,785 for the XLE and it checks most of the boxes expected in this near luxury category. This tester is the $39,880 Limited that adds heated and ventilated front seats with variable cushion length (eight-way power for the passenger), unique alloy wheel finish and auto-dimming side view mirrors with puddle lamps. Also fitted was the Premium Package that bestows automatic high beam, heated rear seats, three-zone climate control, pre-collision warning system bundled with adaptive cruise control, powered rear window sunshade and a very good 11-speaker JBL audio system.
Blind spot warning and a sunroof are standard fare. As heated steering wheels are showing up more in this class of car, my first-world inner spoiled brat was whining on a particularly freezing morning when no button was found to warm the rim.