2013 Toyota Avalon at the 2012 New York Auto Show

  • Competes with: Hyundai Azera, Chevy Impala, Nissan Maxima
  • Looks like: Toyota tried really hard to make the Avalon cool
  • Drivetrain: 268-hp, 3.5-liter V-6 engine; front-wheel drive; six-speed automatic transmission
  • Hits dealerships: Late 2012

The current Toyota Avalon is a large, comfortable sedan that can get anyone from place to place in a serene, spacious environment. That combination may seem attractive on paper, but it doesn't help sell cars it seems. Toyota took the Avalon back to the drawing board to make it more attractive to the eye, something the current Avalon isn't.

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The look is definitely different and the front reminds us of both the new Toyota Camry and Hyundai Sonata Hybrid, which has a huge lower bumper like the 2013 Avalon. The Avalon's other distinguishing feature is a bulbous rear windshield that looks almost like it were a hatchback ... but it's not.

Inside is a blend of sporty black surfaces and more luxury-themed contours with stitched leather on the dashboard. The center stack mixes knobs, physical buttons and capacitive touch "buttons" like we've seen on recent vehicle from Ford and now GM. A 6.1-inch touch-screen is standard with a 7-inch system available as an upgrade with navigation. Heated and cooled front seats, heated rear seats and three-zone climate control are optional.

The wheelbase stays the same, but the overall length is shortened 2.4 inches. Toyota says interior volume will be slightly less but backseat legroom and headroom will remain the same. Trunk volume is up 1.6 cubic feet to 16. That's still a far cry from the 2014 Chevy Impala, which was introduced Wednesday, with an 18.8-cubic-foot trunk.

Seventeen-inch wheels will be standard and 18-inch wheels are optional. High-intensity-discharge headlights will be optional, as well.

The 3.5-liter V-6 engine will carryover from the current model mated to a six-speed automatic transmission.

Most car shoppers are leaving the large sedan segment for midsize options that feature considerable interior space. The Avalon needs to offer an elevated experience and find the right buyers for it. This new direction could attract different buyers or it could simply satisfy current owners looking to upgrade.

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