First Drive: 2014 Toyota Avalon Limited
The Toyota Avalon, it has been around the block a few times… since the mid-nineties. There has always been a subtle hint that it was catered toward the more mature audience. By the looks of the new Avalon, Toyota felt it was indeed time to branch out towards the consumers that was born after the 1970’s. Hence the new sleek and stylish redesign in its 4th generation.
Strangely, we think Toyota has fractured that barrier of the aging cohort. The new Avalon is not only sleek, but perhaps a bit sporty in its coupe-like design. Yet, continues to carry the tradition of class and sophistication. The only thing we found a bit odd to the Avalon’s styling was the large black grille with a chrome lip gloss – it’s still growing us. The Avalon pick up its intricacy through the clever use of chrome – wrapping the fog lights, upper grille, and other parts of the sedan. The unique HID Quadrabeam headlamps add a classy look while the 18” alloy wheels gives a stylish stance against the Magnetic Gray Metallic paint.
From the outside looking in we start to find a whole new world of modern influences and trendy technology. Toyota has been on a role lately carrying a contemporary expression through its line-up. The Avalon is no different featuring a three dimensional leatherette dash. The use of chrome and wood trim is delightfully used throughout that should keep the retired consumer satisfied while the sleek modern touch sensitive infotainment panel and a top notch 7” touch screen Navigation system with Entune should attract the more refreshing consumer. Our tested Avalon was loaded to the nines with the latest and greatest of technology including the $1,750 Technology Package that features Dynamic Radar Cruise Control, Automatic High Beams, and Pre Collision System. Best of all the technology on the market, the Avalon featured a very interesting $200 Wireless Charging station. This did require a special accessory receiver for our iPhone – unfortunately this technology is so new, it’s not readily available at most electronics stores.
Our Avalon arrived in a business-like manner with a black interior containing a comfortable and rooming cabin. Our Limited Avalon came standard with front ventilated and heated multi-way power adjustable perforated leather seats for both the driver and passenger. The rear seats receive a special surprise with not only heated perforated seats, but its own climate control – so all passengers can find their exact comfort levels through a three-zone climate control system. As the driver engages the push button start, the memory driver seat will glide you into position and greet you with beautifully lite crystal white cluster display. There is an underlining elephant in the room that must be mentioned; our tested Avalon nearing the $43k mark started to show its weakness in quality. The front seats were quite firm and there was an abundance of hard plastics throughout the cabin – quality we’d expect from a Camry but not in the Avalon. However, those small issues do not compromise the overall comfort level. Front seats are supportive and well bolstered, and rear seats are mounted high for excellent thigh support. Even with the slopping roof line there is plenty of head room for tall passengers.
There is an unexpected twist to driving the Avalon, and its the 3.5-liter Dual VVT-i V6 that lies under the hood. Connected to an eccentric 6-speed automatic the Avalon creates a sensation of using all of its 268-horsepower. But don’t expect the thrust of acceleration, the Avalon simply accelerates smoothly getting up and going from 0-60 mph in only 6 seconds. Reach 5,000 rpm’s and there is a great sounding grunt from the dual chrome exhaust – not too shabby from what’s supposed to be grandfather clock. The Avalon incorporates 3-driving mode: Eco, Sport, and Normal – each mode modifies the throttle responsiveness and shift points, tuning to your driving specifications. Frankly, the Avalon is best when left in Normal and allow the computers to sort everything out.
Now, the performance figures aren’t what impress us most. It was the way it drives. The Avalon doesn’t feel like a large sedan; there is a connection between the driver and the car. The steering precision is spot on and the steering wheel is comfortably tight and thick. Gear changes are relatively smooth – there are steering wheel paddle shifters; however, we find them pretty much useless, but good to know there is sportiness behind it. Just don’t push too hard, you’ll ruin the fuel consumption of 21 mpg city and 31 mpg highway. We came darn near close to this EPA with 22/29 on Unleaded Plus fuel and a decent range of 350 miles.
What is most enjoyable to the Avalon is how quiet it is. Driving at speeds of 80 mph, cabin is soundless and peaceful. There is very little road and wind noise to be heard. And the suspension is smooth… to a point… right up to the minute there is a bump in the road – that helps from keeping us from falling asleep with all the peace and quiet. The Limited badge on the Avalon features more than just a luxury feel, there is a ton safety equipment as well. The electronic brake assist and smart stop technology provides an excellent stopping distance when a distracted motorist try to ruin your day. Blind Spot Monitoring is always an excellent feature to have, especially for the retirees who don’t know where they’re going. And the Rear Cross Traffic Alert connected to a fantastic 3-mode back-up camera is something every vehicle should include.
From our perspective, Toyota has done a great job, we really like the Avalon. We like the styling inside and out, we like the interior ergonomics, and technology throughout. We especially liked the way it drove. With prices starting at $31,340 the Avalon is made out to be quite a bargain.
|2014 Toyota Avalon Limited:||$39,650|
|Notable Standard Features:|
|3.5L 268HP V6|
|HID QuadraBeam Headlights & LED Tail lights|
|Blind Spot Monitoring w/ Rear Cross Traffic Alert|
|Three-Zone Climate Control|
|7″ Touch Screen Navigation w/ Entune|
|Power adjustable driver & Passenger Seats|
|Heated & Ventillated Front Seats and Heated Rear Seats|
|Qi Wireless Charging Capability:||$200|
|Carpeted Floor Mats & Trunk Mats:||$225|