2005 Toyota Avalon Touring
2005 Toyota Avalon Touring. Click image to enlarge

Review and photos by Greg Wilson

Think back. When’s the last time you saw a Toyota Avalon? Not sure? Okay, can you remember what a Toyota Avalon looks like? I’ll give you a few seconds…

I thought so.

The fact is, Toyota’s second-generation, top-of-the-line luxury car just isn’t very memorable. Which is too bad, because the 2004 Toyota Avalon is a perfectly good luxury car based on the Camry platform with excellent reliability and above-average comfort.

But boring is boring, no matter how you slice it, and even the most conservative buyer wants a little passion in their automobile. To re-invigorate the Avalon’s stodgy image, Toyota has completely redesigned the 2005 model, endowing it with sleeker, sportier styling, a more powerful V6 engine, a roomier interior, more safety features, and a new sporty ‘Touring’ trim level.

As well, Toyota has dropped the base price of the XLS model by almost $6,000! – from $45,830 to $39,900. The better-equipped Touring model will retail for $41,800. This price-drop is significant given that the new Avalon has been improved in almost every respect.

To my eye, the new Avalon’s styling flows better than the 2004 model which has a rather bulky rear-end. With its standard 17 inch tires and alloys, dual exhausts, and streamlined profile, the 2005 Avalon is more contemporary, if not particularly adventurous. Toyota’s stylists have to walk a fine line between pleasing traditional conservative buyers who want a low-profile Toyota luxury car (instead of a high-profile Lexus) – and those buyers who want more emotional styling.

2005 Toyota Avalon Touring

2005 Toyota Avalon Touring
Click image to enlarge

But styling concerns shouldn’t distract us from the Avalon’s superb new platform and powertrain, which will be shared with the next-generation Camry and other Toyotas. The Avalon is a trailblazer for this new platform and powertrain and I’m sure we’ll be hearing a lot more about it in the future.

135 mm longer, 35 mm taller, 30 mm wider, and with a wheelbase that is 100 mm longer, the 2005 Avalon is considerably roomier than the previous model, particularly at the rear where rear passengers now have 40 mm more rear legroom, reclining rear seats with an adjustment lever on the side of the seat cushion, and an almost-flat floor with no centre hump. My only beef was the lack of footroom under the front seats for rear passengers.

The interior has a luxurious appearance: leather seats and woodgrain trim in the XLS (metal trim in Touring model) are standard, and the new 60/40 split rear seats fold down for trunk access, and there is a ski pass-through behind the centre rear armrest.

2005 Toyota Avalon Touring
Click image to enlarge

The previous six-passenger interior layout with a front bench seat is no longer available – both the 2005 XLS and Touring models have standard five-passenger seating with front bucket seats, centre console, and floor shift lever instead of a column shifter.

With it’s wide cabin and generous legroom and headroom, and large doors that open wide for easier entry, the Avalon feels like a limo. In fact, Toyota has already had inquiries from fleet limo operators who currently use Lincoln Town Cars. Hmm.. I wonder if we’ll see a stretched Avalon soon?

The 2005 Avalon’s new dash includes folding silver-coloured covers that hide most of the controls from view and air vents that close completely, giving the dash a cleaner appearance. The round gauges are now brightly backlit, and a 7-inch screen in the centre of the dash provides information on time, outside temperature, odometer, average fuel consumption, driver and passenger temperature selection, and audio functions. The screen can also be used for the optional DVD-based navigation system.

2005 Toyota Avalon Touring

2005 Toyota Avalon Touring

2005 Toyota Avalon Touring
Click image to enlarge

The Avalon’s standard audio system is a 160 watt AM/FM/CD/cassette with six-disc in-dash CD player and nine speakers. Optional is a 12-speaker JBL audio system with in-dash 6-disc changer and cassette, and rear subwoofer with 8-channel amplifier and digital signal processor. New for 2005 are a tilt and telescopic steering column, and a new centre sliding armrest.

Toyota has addressed two problems cited by current Avalon owners: “windows fogging up” and “rear defroster”. A more powerful heating and air conditioning system heats up or cools down the interior faster and clears the windshield faster, while a 20% more powerful rear defroster decreases the defogging time. As well, the seat heaters now have 7 levels of adjustment instead of one.

Under the Avalon’s hood is an all-new, never-been-seen-before all-aluminum 3.5 litre V6 with 280 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque, up from 210 horsepower and 220 lb-ft of torque in the previous 3.0 litre V6. This engine features twin overhead camshafts, four valves per cylinder, dual variable valve timing that operates on intake and exhaust camshafts, and a dual-stage variable intake manifold. The throttle is electronically controlled.

For a luxury car that isn’t really meant to be a performance car, the 2005 Avalon’s straight-line performance is quite remarkable: In a smooth rush, the Avalon accelerates from 0 to 100 km/h in 6.6 seconds while offering better fuel economy and reduced emissions when compared with the previous 3.0 litre engine. Official fuel consumption figures are 11.0 L/100 km (26 m.p.g.) city, and 7.3 L/100 km (39 m.p.g.) – which Toyota claims is best-in-class.

Personally, I find it amazing how engineers can extract more power from larger displacement engines while reducing fuel consumption and pollution at the same time.

Greg Wilson driving the 2005 Toyota Avalon during dynamic testing
Greg Wilson driving the 2005 Toyota Avalon during dynamic testing. Photo: Paul Williams. Click image to enlarge

My only complaint with this engine is that there is almost too much torque on take-off, and without the optional traction control (which is only available on the XLS model), it’s easy to spin the front tires, particularly on wet or slippery surfaces.

The 3.5 litre engine is mated to a new standard five-speed automatic transmission with a manual, sequential shifting capability for those times when you want to shift yourself. This is a very smooth, capable transmission that works in harmony with the new V6.

The suspension is all independent: front MacPherson struts and rear multi-link. Combined with a wider track, this suspension provides the Avalon with surprising agility for such a big car. My only complaint is that the firmer suspension and low profile tires on the Touring model don’t soak up potholes and pavement breaks very well.

Brakes are discs all around with ABS and electronic brake force distribution – but VSC (stability and traction control) is optional on the XLS and not available on the Touring model.

2005 Toyota Avalon Touring
Click image to enlarge

As with the previous Avalon, cabin noise and vibration are minimal, and Toyota has further reduced noise by redesigning the A-pillars and side mirrors, and introducing new low-profile aerodynamic windshield wipers. The Avalon’s new one-piece blades have no joints and are less likely to get frozen in the winter. As well, new washer nozzles improve windshield cleaning.

Standard airbags include dual-stage front airbags, new front knee airbags, new larger side airbags that protect the head and torso, and side curtain airbags to protect the heads of both rows of passengers. As well, the new body has been strengthened for greater protection in side or frontal impacts.

With its new lower pricing, improved styling and performance, roomy interior, and Toyota reputation, the 2005 Avalon is suddenly back in the limelight, and will make a tempting alternative to its competitors, the Chrysler 300, Buick Allure, Ford Five-Hundred, and Nissan Maxima.

Built in Georgetown, Kentucky, the 2005 Toyota Avalon goes on sale in Canada on February 28th.

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