Toyota Avalon
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Overall

Who could ever imagine that one of the nicest-looking full-size near-luxury sedans would come from Toyota? Latest Avalon is a quality piece.

Drivetrain

A 268-horsepower V6/six-speed-automatic-transmission combo standard; Camry-based gas-electric Hybrid becomes optional for the first time.

The Avalon gained itself a stellar reputation as a car that successfully “out-Buicked” Buick, and as a bonus, took most of the American brand’s aging customer base. To combat an ever-increasing average driver age, Toyota went radical with the latest version that was launched for the 2013 model year. The styling alone actually looks more youthful than the Camry from which it was spawned. Its crisp lines reflect the car’s slightly more diminutive dimensions — 2.3 inches shorter a bit narrower and not quite as tall — than the outgoing model. The Avalon also weighs about 120 pounds less than the old 2012 model as a result. Unchanged is the 268-horsepower 3.5-liter V6, although Toyota tweaked the engine and installed an updated six-speed transaxle for improved fuel economy (21 city/31 highway versus 20/29). The Avalon also joined the Camry in offering a gas-electric Hybrid model that uses a 156-horsepower 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine working in tandem with an electric motor to produce 200 net horsepower. A continuously variable transmission is standard for the Hybrid: Toyota claims the fuel-miserly sedan will achieve the same 40 mpg city and 39 highway numbers as the Camry, which makes sense as the systems are identical and both sedans are very close in weight. As before, regardless of the engine, only the front wheels are driven. The improved interior features front seats that are more supportive with better side bolstering while the concave-shaped dashboard results in more cabin room. By its very nature the base Avalon shows up with an abundance of standard equipment, although for the full-on luxury experience you’ll need to spring for a premium leather interior, heated and ventilated front and rear seats, larger wheels, navigation/communications systems and an up-level stereo, to list just a few options.

Base price (incl. destination): $32,000
Type: Four-door sedan
Base engine (hp): 3.5-liter DOHC V6 (268)
Optional engine (hp): 2.5-liter I4 combined with electric motor (200, net).
Layout: Front-engine, front-wheel-drive
Transmission: Six-speed automatic
MPG (city/hwy): 21/31
Safety: Front airbags; side-impact airbags; side-curtain airbags; anti-lock brakes; stability control; traction control
Weight (lb.): 3,500