Toyota redesigned its largest sedan, the flagship Avalon, as a late 2005 model. The 2008 model year brings the most substantial changes since then, including revised exterior styling, a new six-speed automatic transmission and upgraded braking.
Manufactured in Kentucky, Avalons come in XL, Touring, XLS and Limited trim levels. The XL's standard features include remote keyless entry, cruise control and an engine immobilizer security system. Also standard, an in-dash six-CD changer and dual-zone climate control can be managed with steering-wheel-mounted controls.
The styling changes, which aren't evident at a glance, include new headlight, grille and bumper designs. Around back, the taillight lenses have a smoked appearance.
Fog lamps come on all models except the XL, whose wheels measure 16 inches in diameter; the other three models have 17-inchers. The Touring trim level, which is intended to be sportier, has a rear spoiler and graphite-colored wheels. Like the Camry SE, the Touring has a firmer suspension than the other Avalons. The Touring and XLS have chrome rather than body-colored door handles, and the Touring and Limited have xenon headlights.
The highest trim level, the Limited, adds puddle lamps and has turn signals in the side mirrors — in the glass itself, not on the housing.
An eight-way power driver's seat is standard, and the Limited adds 10-way adjustment. The base XL trim level now offers the four-way power front passenger seat that's standard on the higher trims, where once only manual was available. The XLS and Limited are eligible to upgrade to an eight-way power passenger seat. For 2008 all models get a leather shifter, more chrome trim and a multi-information display. The lumbar adjustment that's standard on driver's seats is now an option, in powered form, on XLS and Limited front passenger seats.
Standard equipment includes a tilt/telescoping steering wheel, a sliding center armrest and a six-CD stereo with an MP3-player input jack, which replaces a CD/cassette unit. The three-passenger backseat has reclining backrests.
Targeted at younger buyers, the Touring edition features a unique interior with charcoal dashboard trim and aluminum doorsill scuff plates. It adds leather trim to the seats, the steering wheel and the gear selector knob.
The XLS model includes leather upholstery and adds a moonroof, an engine immobilizer security system, heated side mirrors with auto dimming on the driver's side and an auto-dimming interior rearview mirror. The XLS and Limited have new, darker simulated wood trim for 2008.
The Limited adds heated and ventilated front seats with a cushion length adjustment for the driver, as well as rain-sensing wipers and keyless start. The acoustic windshield is designed to block noise. Bluetooth connectivity is now included in the standard JBL premium stereo, which is optional on the Touring and XLS.
Select options include a moonroof for XL and Touring versions, and a navigation system for Touring, XLS and Limited models. The Limited can be fitted with adaptive cruise control that maintains a following distance to the car ahead.
Under the Hood
The Avalon's 3.5-liter V-6 develops 268 horsepower and 248 pounds-feet of torque. This year the six-speed automatic transmission from the Camry replaces a five-speed automatic. It retains the manual-shift provision previously offered. Toyota cites a 0-60 mph time of 7.7 seconds with fuel economy of 19/28 mpg city/highway.
The rear brake discs have been enlarged and are now gripped by aluminum calipers for better braking performance.
The Avalon scores Good in the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's frontal-offset and side-impact crash tests. All-disc antilock brakes with electronic brake-force distribution, side-impact airbags and a driver's knee airbag are standard. Side curtain airbags protect front and rear occupants, and an electronic stability system is optional on all trim levels.