You have nothing to fear but fear itself-and Toyota.The Big Three domestic automakers have voiced concern during the last few years over Avalon, the full-size sedan from Toyota coming out in November. Yet Toyota was going to build only about 30,000 of them and put a $30,000 price tag on them. The Big Three have always been the force in full-size cars,so how serious a rival could a limited-edition $30,000 car be? Besides, while Toyota makes few mistakes, a couple of its latest ventures proved less than scintillating. The T100 pickup truck fell on its bumper leaving the gate and the Previa mini-van hasn't been able to put a scratch, much less a dent, in the commanding lead held by the domestic vans. However, we test drove the 1995 Avalon and the reason for Big Three concernis obvious, especially when Toyota officials say they intend to build 60,000 Avalons, plus another 12,000 for export to such countries as Japan. Because Avalon is built off a stretched Camry platform and is assembled alongside Camry at Toyota's Georgetown, Ky., plant, Camry output can be scaledback if Avalon demand rises. Avalon is bigger, roomier and peppier than Camry. It comes in XL and XLS versions, with anti-lock brakes standard on the XLS and a $950 option on the XL. Avalon has a 4-inch longer wheelbase and is 3 inches longer overall than Camry. It has 9 cubic feet more space, which you feel in arm, leg and head room upfront and in the rear. The trunk is massive. Toyota calls Avalon "right size" rather than full size. From the outside itlooks like a midsize car. Inside it looks and feels like a full-size model. Avalon is powered by a slightly more powerful 192 horsepower version of Camry's 3-liter, 24-valve, V-6. It's quick yet quiet and teamed with an "intelligent" 4-speed automatic transmission that adjusts to your driving habits. We tested the top-of-the-line XLS. The suspension is soft, but not mushy. You don't feel the tar marks in the road, but you don't lean or sway when changing lanes or making the big loop on the tollway interchange. Dual air bags offer driver/passenger protection. The seats are wide and supportive for long-distance driving. Nice touches include a digital outside temperature reading, dual cupholders and anti-lockout doors that prevent power locks from working when the key's in theignition. But Avalon has some warts, the main one being styling. Stand out in a crowd? Avalon is invisible. Imagination took a holiday. Inside, you'll be shocked. There were at least five shades of beige and brown on the dash and door trim and even in the carpets. Also, the cruise control and wiper stalks block the gearshift lever on the steering column. And the lever has an overdrive button at the tip, which is too easy to press by mistake. The XL starts at $22,758, the XLS at $26,688. In addition to the standard equipment noted ab ove, the XL/XLS have color-keyed bumpers, integrated front air dam, bodyside moldings, flush door handles, 15-inch all-season tires, power outside mirrors, rear-window defogger, air conditioning, map pockets andAM/FM stereo with cassette. The XLS adds power driver's seat, automatic climate control, premium stereo with six speakers, remote entry, intermittent wipers, simulated interior wood trim and aluminum wheels as well as the ABS. Question: Would you choose a Lexus LS400 at $52,000 with all the bells and whistles or make due with the amenities on the $30,000 Avalon and save $22,000? Tougher question: What about A $31,500 Lexus ES300 that's a clone of the Camry or the $30,000 Avalon?
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