The mythical island of Avalon features prominently in Arthurian legend, as the place the King went to recover after an epic battle, and where Arthur’s sword, Excalibur was forged. At various times, it has been suggested Avalon’s true location was near Scotland, Australia, or Italy. In other words, if the place ever was real, no one knows where to find where it stood.
No one save for Toyota, who will happily introduce a plot twist and tell you Avalon is halfway between Toyota-town and Lexus-land, where you’ll find a luxury sedan that’s a bit nicer than a Camry, but not quite as fancy as an ES 350.
If you had asked us back when the Avalon was introduced in 1994, we wouldn’t have guessed it would still exist 20 years later, but here it is, fresh from a makeover to update the fourth generation of Toyota’s big sedan, introduced as a 2013 model.
Those updates are of the blink-and-you’ll-miss them variety: outside there’s a new grille and headlights (now standard LEDs) and LED daytime running lights. Toyota says the taillights are new, too, but if there’s a difference, it’s so subtle we can’t see it in a side-by-side look at photos of old car and new.
Toyota’s interior designers massaged the dash with a new, larger central touchscreen, updated gauge cluster, and more convincing wood-grain trim.
So what makes the Avalon worth writing about? Certainly not the car’s popularity in Canada: Toyota Canada sold fewer than 800 Avalons this year. Indeed, this car’s reason for being is that Americans like big, cushy sedans, and Toyota USA sells enough (over 50,000 last year) to warrant shipping a few north of the border for buyers somehow left unimpressed by the latest Camry. If you do find yourself wanting such a big, cushy sedan, let’s see if you can handle what the Avalon has in store.
As before, power comes from Toyota’s excellent 3.5L V6, sporting familiar power ratings of 268 hp and 248 lb-ft of torque. Funny we should say sporting, because the engine is the only thing remotely sporty about the Avalon. It’s a smooth, powerful motor that has perhaps never had a more fitting home. Get hard on the gas from a stop, and you’re limited only by the grip afforded by the front tires. Once they hook up, the Avalon accelerates briskly and with just the scarcest aural evidence that said acceleration is the result of anything mechanical.