Toyotas nearly full-size sedan was restyled and gained more interior room last year, but it stands pat this year. The front-drive Avalon is based on the Toyota Camry, and both are built at Toyotas Georgetown, Ky., plant.
Because the Avalon was styled and built in the United States, it is classified as a domestic vehicle by the federal government. Toyota introduced the Avalon in 1995 to give Camry owners a larger sedan to move up to and to draw owners of full-size cars away from domestic brands.
Toyota gave the current Avalon more styling pizazz than the original Avalon, including a large vertical-bar grille, steeper rake to the windshield and rear window, and a more dramatic rear appearance highlighted by large taillights.
The wheelbase is 107 inches and the overall length measures 192 inches, making the Avalon nearly 2 inches and 4 inches longer, respectively, than the Camry.
Toyota adopted the cab-forward design philosophy pioneered by the Chrysler LH sedans, moving the Avalons instrument panel 4 inches forward to create a longer interior. Small gauges are squeezed into a narrow recessed area that stretches the width of the dashboard.
Both the base XL and pricier XLS models are available with front bucket seats or a three-place front bench that increases overall seating capacity to six, making the Avalon the only Japanese-brand car that offers seats for six. Four adults have room to lounge in the Avalon, and the rear seat has more legroom than most full-size cars.
Toyota says the trunk holds 16 cubic feet of cargo, but it looks larger than that and has a large opening that makes it easy to load bulky items. A small pass-through section in the rear seatback accommodates long objects such as skis.
Under the Hood
The Avalon comes with the same 3.0-liter V-6 engine that is available in the Camry and comes standard on the Lexus ES 300. In the Avalon, it produces 210 horsepower 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 antilock brakes are standard on both models. Traction control, an electronic stability system and emergency braking assist are optional on the XLS.
Though the Avalon isnt 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, refined and well made. The V-6 provides quiet, brisk acceleration, and the Avalon feels agile and responsive in tight corners.
The Avalon has everything that people like about the Camry, plus more room.