Friday, January 28, 2011

Toyota Avalon Gets a Few Nice Tweaks

The 2011 Toyota Avalon has received a sharply redesigned front end and an upgraded interior and remains a great option for those in the market for a full-size sedan.

The biggest redesign element is the more substantial, wider grille that melds into the tapered new headlights.  There is also a bigger air barrier beneath the bumper.

And Toyota must have had a, well, lightbulb moment when designing the new Avalon, as its taillights now have LED light pipes and its side mirrors feature turn-signal indicators. 

 Toyota has trimmed the trim levels available for Avalon to base and Limited, compared with the previous XL, XLS and Limited models.

The Avalon's power plant is a 3.5-liter, 268-horsepower V-6, linked to a six-speed automatic transmission.  Toyota managed to raise fuel economy to 20 mpg in the city and 29 highway.  In a week of combined driving, we got around 24 mpg.

The interior of the Avalon is now quite striking. The dashboard and controls have been reconfigured and the tachometer is divided and more prominent. The navigation screen in the center console had been obscured by a cover, but that thankfully is gone now. 

 In fact the navigation system, the display and gauges have all been revised to give a sharper look. 

Despite there being only two trim levels, the base is not devoid of niceties. A USB/iPod compatibility, leather upholstery, reclining rear seats, 8-way power driver’s seat, dual-zone automatic climate control and a power tilt/slide moonroof are all featured on the base package.  The Limited gives plenty of upscaleness with a 12-speaker JBL stereo, XM Radio, heated/ventilated seats, power rear sunshade and push-button start.

Toyota says its Star Safety System includes vehicle stability control, traction control, antilock brakes with electronic brake-force distribution and brake assist.  For more safety, seven airbags are standard and include driver and front passenger airbags, driver and front passenger seat-mounted side airbags, front and rear side curtain airbags and driver’s knee airbag.   The optional backup camera is integrated into the voice-activated touch-screen DVD navigation system and also appears in the auto-dimming rearview mirror, Toyota says.

The design of the Avalon remains understated for the most part, but it's not unattractive. 

And its pricing is reasonable -- around $29,600 to just shy of $35,000.

For Toyota, the Avalon remains a comfortable and steady presence in the large sedan market.

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