Vehicle Overview from Kelley Blue Book
KBB.com 2004 Toyota Avalon Overview
Big is Beautiful
When a company dominates the automotive landscape the way Toyota has for years, they tend to shy away from small-scale projects. Big production numbers mean big profit, as is evidenced by such cars as the Camry, Corolla and Highlander. But there is one car that Toyota seems quite content to take its time with: its flagship vehicle, the Avalon. This is a car for those who desire a full-size sedan with copious comfort and convenience features priced well under $30K.
For 2004, Toyota continues to offer the Avalon in two trims: XL and XLS. While it is true that you can step into a base XL with no options for a mere $26,560 you can also easily push the price of a fully-loaded XLS past the $40K mark. That's quite a spread, especially considering that both models share the same basic powertrain, suspension and interior configurations.
The Avalon competes head on with a pretty homegrown crowd. Cars such as the Buick Park Avenue, Mercury Grand Marquis and Chrysler Concorde all have a fiercely loyal customer base with a long history of repeat purchasing. But the Avalon comes to play with its own tempting talents, the most important of which is its bulletproof build quality and near-flawless service history. You need only look at the Used Car Value for any year Avalon to see it remains among the highest in its class.
Of course, the Avalon's quality is only the beginning of the story, the real meat and potatoes lay inside where a spacious cabin with a huge rear seat awaits you and your traveling companions. The interior is nearly Lexus-like in its execution, with wide comfortable seats that can be covered in the finest leathers and a host of optional equipment that includes an onboard navigation system, JBL audio and power glass moonroof. Those few surfaces not covered in leather are wrapped in either walnut trim or accented by chrome and textured vinyl.
The Avalon offers you the choice of a front bench or twin bucket seats separated by a console-mounted shifter. The obvious advantage here is that, should you need to carry six people, you can wedge someone between the front-seat passenger and yourself. Though doable, we've never found anyone who felt comfortable playing the role of "middle man" and we think most people will be much happier with the bucket seat setup.
You'll find everything about the Avalon seems oversized, from the numerous large storage pockets and cup holders to the massive rectangle that is the Avalon's trunk; an available rear-seat locking center-pass through means that long items no longer need be strapped to the roof.
From the driver's point of view, all is well with the world. The Avalon's handsome flowing dash is populated with a full set of analog gauges that include a tachometer, speedometer, temperature gauge and fuel level. The instruments are deeply recessed and covered by a hooded dash pad that shelters them from bright sunlight, thus eliminating washout. The audio and ventilation controls are placed close to the driver where they can be reached without the need to stretch. Directly in the center of the dash is a large screen that includes a digital compass, fuel metering gauge and readouts for the standard dual-zone climate control. If you opt for the onboard navigation system, an LCD view screen replaces the data screen. Thankfully, Toyota has chosen not to integrate the navigation controls with the audio and instead has neatly placed them in a small panel next to the center console shifter.
Both the XL and XLS are powered by a velvety-smooth 3.0-liter V6 rated at 210 horsepower. This engine perfectly suits the Avalon, gracing it with a near-silent rush of acceleration and an amazingly frugal appetite for fuel. Acting as the intermediary between engine and wheels is Toyota's fabulous four-speed automatic transmission whose shift points are so seamless we doubt your double non-fat latte will experience even a ripple as the transmission goes about its job.
After undergoing a major freshening last year, changes for the 2004 Avalon are mostly invisible to the eye, but no less important. Among the more notable revisions is the addition of Toyota's Vehicle Stability Control to the XL's option list. In an emergency situationsuch as when the road turns slipperyVSC works with you to keep the car moving in the direction the steering wheel is pointed. If the vehicle begins to move beyond this point, the VSC will apply the correct balance of braking and throttle reduction to bring the car back under your control.
When road conditions are not threatening, the Avalon's nimble suspension is capable of numbing the cabin to the most inhospitable conditions while still allowing you all the feed back necessary to execute tight turns and well-balanced maneuvers. We wouldn't compare the Avalon's handling to that of a high-end performance sedan, but it easily qualifies as a first-class touring vehicle, more than adequate for the way most people drive.
In short, it doesn't matter whether you're seeking a short-term vehicle with an excellent resale record or simply looking to buy the last car you'll ever own, the Avalon passes with flying colors on both counts.