Toyota has redesigned its largest sedan, the flagship Avalon, as a late 2005 model. Billed as all-new, the second-generation Avalon is bigger, roomier and more powerful than its predecessor.
Engineered at the Toyota Technical Center in Michigan, the Avalon was "developed by Americans, for Americans," said Ernest Bastien, vice president of Toyota's vehicle operations group. Unlike the first-generation Avalon, the 2005 model shows considerable differentiation from the Camry and promises "handling that is agile and more balanced," Bastien said.
Up from two trim levels in the prior generation, the Avalon is now available in XL, sporty Touring, XLS and top-of-the-line Limited forms. Sales began in February 2005. The car is manufactured in Georgetown, Ky.
Unlike some automakers that strive for younger buyers, Toyota doesn't deny that the typical Avalon customer is close to 60 years old. Then again, not every automaker has its own brand geared specifically at the youth market like Toyota does with Scion.
Built on a longer and wider platform, the new Avalon is more than 5 inches longer overall and 4 inches longer in wheelbase than its predecessor. Toyota describes the Avalon as having "subtle" character lines and a grille that incorporates chrome-accented horizontal bars. A new lower intake valence contains fog lamps on all models except the XL. Each trim level features a different wheel design; wheel diameters measure 16 inches for the XL and 17 inches for the other three models.
Up to five occupants can fit inside the Avalon. This car is no longer offered with a front bench seat. The rear floor is flat, and the rear seats have standard reclining seatbacks. Toyota promises an extra 1.5 inches of space between the front and rear occupants, and the car's width has increased by an inch for more hip and shoulder room.
The Touring edition is targeted at younger buyers; it features a unique interior with charcoal dashboard trim. The mainstream XLS model includes leather upholstery and a moonroof.
Standard equipment includes dual-zone climate control and a cassette/CD stereo. The Limited includes heated seats with ventilation, rain-sensing wipers, an acoustically dampening windshield and a push-button starter.
Three radio choices are available; the top option is a 360-watt, 12-speaker JBL Synthesis system. Dynamic Laser Cruise Control is included in the Limited sedan. A remote starter and a navigation system are optional.
Under the Hood
The Avalon's 3.5-liter V-6 has dual variable valve timing (both intake and exhaust) and develops 280 horsepower. New cylinder heads use roller-bearing rocker arms with hydraulic lash adjustment, which promises more consistent emissions over the engine's life cycle. This is the first Toyota ever offered with a dual exhaust system. The five-speed-automatic transmission incorporates a manual-shift provision.
All-disc antilock brakes with electronic brake-force distribution, side-impact airbags and a driver's knee airbag are standard. Side curtain-type airbags protect front and rear occupants. Electronic stability control is also available.
The Avalon has always been an excellent road car, and the latest version continues the tradition. Despite a generally heavy feel, the new Avalon accelerates with some assertiveness. You often get a smooth ride on good roads, but the decidedly taut suspension translates to considerable harshness when rolling over certain types of bumps.
The Avalon's steering is responsive, if a tad vague, but it maneuvers fairly easily. It's definitely not in the Audi or BMW league in terms of handling.
Ample glass area helps visibility. Large symmetrical well-lit gauges are generally easy to read, though the trip odometer and manual-mode indicator are more difficult to see. The Avalon's interiors are attractive and distinctive.
The well-cushioned seats are supportive, but they don't offer a lot of side bolstering to keep occupants in place. Space is abundant up front. Legroom and foot space are more than ample in the backseat. A passenger's head might graze the roof in the backseat, especially in the center position. The well-built Avalon is easy to drive and runs quietly.
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