Toyota's nearly full-size sedan, gets its most extensive changes since it was introduced as a 1995 model, including new styling, more power and a roomier interior.
The front-wheel-drive Avalon is based on the Toyota Camry, and both are built at Toyota's Georgetown, Ky., plant. However, the Avalon was styled in the United States and is built only in Kentucky, while the Camry also is built in Japan. The Avalon is therefore classified a domestic vehicle by the federal government.
Toyota introduced the Avalon to give Camry owners a larger sedan to move up to and to draw owners of full-size cars away from domestic brands.
The 1995-99 models had plain-vanilla styling compared to the 2000 Avalon, which has a large vertical-bar grille, steeper rake to the windshield and rear window and a more dramatic rear appearance highlighted by large taillights.
Wheelbase is unchanged at 107 inches but overall length is an inch longer at 192, nearly 4 inches longer than the Camry.
Toyota says there is more shoulder room this year thanks to a 1-inch width increase and more headroom because the roof is an inch higher. The seats are relocated and the instrument panel is 4 inches further forward, adopting the cab-forward design pioneered by the Chrysler LH sedans.
Both the base XL and pricier XLS models are available with front buckets and a three-place front bench that increases seating capacity to six. Four adults have room to lounge in the Avalon, but three in either the front or back seat is still a tight fit.
The trunk holds 16 cubic feet of cargo, and a small pass-through section in the rear seatback allows carrying long objects such as skis.
Under the Hood
Avalon comes with the same 3.0-liter V-6 engine available in the Camry and standard on the Lexus ES300. In the Avalon, it produces 210 horsepower, 10 more than last year, and teams with a four-speed automatic transmission. The Avalon weighs less than 200 pounds more than V-6 Camrys, so the engine delivers similar acceleration and fuel economy in this application.
Side-impact airbags for the front seats and anti-lock brakes are standard on both models. Traction control, skid control and emergency braking assist are optional on the XLS.
Though the Avalon isn't nearly full-size on the outside, it comes pretty close on the inside, making better use of the available space than some full-size domestic sedans. It lacks excitement but is smooth, quiet, refined and well made.