DETROIT — Toyota’s Avalon is a conservative, large sedan that over the years has been a comfortable niche automobile for older drivers — at least that is what it seemed to be. But the model I test drove was actually sort of snazzy.
We had the 2018 Avalon XLE premium. It had a leather interior, eight-way power driver’s seat and a four-way power front passenger seat. Both were heated. There was satellite radio, voice controls, a rearview camera, a sunroof, wireless charging, a premium audio system, smart cruise control, a smart key and push button start and stop.
The car was powered by a 3.5-liter V6 engine that made 268 horsepower and 248 pound-feet of torque. The engine was mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. It had an EPA fuel efficiency rating of 21 mpg in the city, 30 mpg on the highway and 24 mpg combined.
Customer demographics don’t match but the psychographs do. For the young at heart my test vehicle had paddle shifters. It was also equipped with Toyota’s safety sense; a suite of features that included automatic high beams, smart cruise control, pre-collision warning with pedestrian detection and lane departure alert with steering assist.
The Avalon was quick, it was responsive, it handled well and it was comfortable. Acceleration was good. The car accounted itself well on the expressways here and though it was a sizable sedan it didn’t outsize most cars on the road. It was easy to handle. There were three driving modes: Eco, Normal and Sport.
In the press material Toyota said “selecting Sport mode yields quicker throttle response and enhanced electric power steering feel, and raises transmission shift points. On downshifts, it “blips” the throttle, as the driver of a stick-shift sports car would.
“Selecting Eco Mode prioritizes fuel efficiency by balancing driving performance, air conditioning function and fuel efficiency. Normal mode gives the best balance of everyday performance and comfort.” I left the car in normal for the duration of the test drive. I really didn’t find anything to quibble about.
What made me think the Avalon was snazzy was its interior. There are three color themes; we had the almond. It was crème colored seats trimmed in chocolate. The passenger cabin was quiet; Toyota used acoustic glass for the windshield as well as side glass. And they injected foam into the A, B and C pillars and the rocker panels.
It was a rich-looking interior, right down to the smoked chrome used to trim the center stack while a glossy trim framed the shifter. It was nicely done. The Toyota Avalon was a very nice car and it is beginning to have the air of a premium sedan which Toyota has always billed it since the Avalon was introduced to this market 20 years ago.
The sticker of my test car was $37,539. It had an upscale feel that suggested that it cost at least $10K more.
Frank S. Washington is editor of AboutThatCar.com.