Somewhere in the land between Camry and Lexus lies the Toyota Avalon: a holdout in a world where large family sedans are rapidly being replaced by SUVs, where its aspirational interior quality is outshone by its own cousins and where the competition is packing more punch. The Avalon is an odd duck. It doesn’t really fit anywhere any more.
But that’s not the whole story.
After all, the industry is rife with low-volume niche models that pull in only a certain crowd. And while we might talk a lot about the more enthusiast-accepted of those models why should the more comfort-oriented folk have their niche ignored?
Thankfully, Toyota doesn’t care what anybody else thinks. If you want a large, well-appointed and comfortable sedan from the old school, they’ll get you into one. Besides with the recent styling revisions and an upgrade to the interior trim (namely more convincing wood on the dashboard) the Avalon is very much a nice rig. If you are the sort of person who enjoys sedans, who likes a large car, who likes interior quality and doesn’t mind skipping a few of the mod cons – why should you have to buy an SUV?
I think Toyota realizes that. So while other brands try to improve the “sporty” credentials of their barges, the updates for 2016 have given the Avalon more of the characteristics most familiar to long-time drivers of large family sedans.
When I drove the 2015 Toyota Avalon in a comparison test with the 2015 Chevrolet Impala I said that it offered better handling and bump absorption than the Impala. Overall it was more composed. Driving it this time around I experienced some trouble settling the Avalon back down over large bumps. It rode gentler yet was still agile for its size but that pogoing seemed more pronounced. Looking through the 2016 press release Toyota touts a new “comfort tuned” suspension setting, so this is likely what I’ve experienced. The ride is softer, but it’s also a little spongier.
A Gentleman’s Contest: 2014 Chevrolet Impala LTZ vs 2013 Toyota Avalon Limited
This edition also had trouble maintaining traction, even mild throttle inputs would set the front tires spinning. It was cold enough for the 18-inch winters (around two-three degrees) so I wouldn’t blame the tires. Even handing the tiller over to more feather-footed drivers returned a lot more wheel spin than expected. It’s not like the Avalon is a powerhouse. The 3.5 L V6 is good for 268 hp and 248 lb-ft of torque – which is reasonable but hardly tire-frying stuff. My guess is that the comfort suspension allows too much pitch, so when you accelerate the front gets light as the rear springs submit too willingly.
The solution? Tread lightly. Deliberate movements are rewarded with smoothness.