2013 Toyota Avalon Road Test & Review
Unapologetically evocative of the big highway cruising mid-century American family sedans of the 1950s and 60s, the first Toyota Avalon was the automotive equivalent of comfort food. Introduced in 1994, as a 1995 model, that Avalon was built in the United States, specifically for American drivers. With features like a front bench seat and a column shifter for the transmission, high performance and sex appeal were way down the list of priorities for that car.
But back then, that was a pretty safe bet.
No so today though.
These days 60 is the new 40 and Toyota’s product planners have come to realize drivers ”of a certain age” are looking for more excitement and dynamic feedback from their cars. Meanwhile, thirty is still thirty and getting younger buyers into the fold is always a worthy goal. Thus, the 2013 Avalon is a 180-degree departure from that original model.
2013 Toyota Avalon Road Test & Review: Models & Prices
Offered in two grades with seven models, the 2013 Toyota Avalon features both gasoline-only and hybrid gasoline-electric powertrains, marking the introduction of the first-ever hybrid Avalon offering. The grades are XLE and Limited, but within that there are three different XLE models; XLE, XLE Premium and XLE Touring. Anyone familiar with Toyota’s model structures knows the Limited model is the top of the line.
While pricing for the 2013 Toyota Avalon XLE starts at $30,990, Avalon Hybrid has no XLE base model. Instead, the Hybrid trim packages start with the XLE Premium at $35,555. Standard features on Avalon XLE include power adjustable heated front leather seats, alloy wheels, touch screen display audio, smart key, heated outer mirrors, and turn signal repeaters in the exterior mirror housings.
Limited trim includes premium perforated leather with heated and ventilated front seats, JBL/premium HDD audio, safety connect, rear seat heaters, a rear sunshade, three-zone climate control, puddle lamps, HID headlamps, and LED daytime running lights.
2013 Toyota Avalon Road Test & Review: Design
The fastest way to reposition an automobile in the eyes of the public is to give it a beauty makeover. Which is exactly what the stylists at Toyota’s Calty design center in southern California proceeded to execute. With a countenance promising substance, but with a youthful athleticism, the 2013 Toyota Avalon has acquired a new lease on life.
Crisply styled, yet curvaceous; the new Avalon stands out where its predecessors blended into the woodwork. Toyota’s product people have figured out elegance and sportiness can reside together in something other than a Lexus and the new Avalon is rolling proof of that fact.
Another plus of the sleek new design is the reduced co-efficient of drag, contributing to better fuel economy. The new hot look in automobiles is the four-door coupe profile and Avalon wears it with ease.
Overall, I love the look of the car, well, all except for the front end. While it might be a functional necessity, that over-sized grille treatment is popping up on so many cars. Thing is, it robs every design incorporating it of sleekness. For me, other than that face, the new Avalon is one handsome piece — particularly from the rear ¾ view.
2013 Toyota Avalon Road Test & Review: Comfort & Cargo
The bench seat from ’94 is long gone, as is the column shifter, but the comfort remains, even while the current seats are more supportive and handsome. Toyota’s representatives make much of the craftsmanship that went into sewing the elements of the interior together and it shows. Inside, the 2013 Avalon is a very pleasant place to be.
The 2013 Avalon’s interior surfaces are available in three color themes: a warm elegant almond; light grey for a cooler more contemporary feel; and black to evoke a sense of high performance driving. All are sculpted with a look of refined understatement. The styling of the interior represents many thousands of cubic feet of fresh air compared to the outgoing model. The quality of the materials employed is quite high and the visual effect achieved is one of considerable substance.
The new Toyota Avalon’s front seats feature pronounced side bolstering and are composed of a lighter, denser foam material than before to improve comfort and better hold occupants in place when the car is being driven. Over the course of my test drive I observed a high level of comfort and support on longer drives. The seats are offered with either 10-way or eight-way power adjustability for the driver; or eight-way and four-way adjustment for the front passenger.
Storage is abundant, with a center console space large enough to hold a tissue box. An electronics storage tray is incorporated in the center stack just below the climate control panel, the glovebox features a detachable tray, and a coin box is secreted into the dash to the left of the steering wheel.
This is the ‘big” Toyota, so trunk space is more than adequate for travel with a family of four. Interestingly, while the look of the car has changed to reflect a more youthful intent, the family hauling aspect of the car was left wholly intact.
2013 Toyota Avalon Road Test & Review: Features & Controls
Nicely reflecting its updated exterior appearance, the contemporary atmosphere radiating from the Avalon’s interior is both inviting and high tech. The touch sensitive controls on the dash are outré moderne, precisely telegraphing the wealth of tech hiding behind its façade. Fortunately though, rather than abandoning all common sense in their strides toward modernism, Avalon’s interior design team wisely stuck with large rotary knobs for the volume and tuning functions of the audio system.
Also on the infotainment front, Avalon is capable of interfacing with your smartphone via Toyota’s Entune system. Thanks to this functionality, apps like MovieTickets.com, Pandora Radio, OpenTable, iHeartRadio, and Bing are optimized for in-car usage. And yes, the SiriusXM Satellite Radio connection delivers weather, traffic, stocks, and sports scores. All are easy to set up, easy to navigate, and perfectly logical in their operation.
We’re talking the top Toyota model here, so you know the Avalon can also be had with near-Lexus levels of kit. In fact, the top of the line Avalon Limited flaunts HID headlamps, LED daytime-running lamps, rain-sensing windshield wipers, three-zone climate controls, a seven-inch premium Entune setup, four heated seats, and cooled front seats too.
2013 Toyota Avalon Road Test & Review: Safety & Ratings
Blind spot monitors and rear cross traffic alert systems provide the Avalon’s drivers with “eyes in the backs of their heads’. The car is also fitted with Toyota’s STAR safety system; incorporating Vehicle Stability Control (VSC), Traction Control (TRAC), an Anti-lock Brake System (ABS), Electronic Brake Force Distribution (EBD), Brake Assist (BA), and Smart Stop brake-override Technology (SST).
High strength steel is employed strategically throughout the body structure to improve its rigidity, while also benefitting the Avalon’s handling and crashworthiness. The list of standard safety features also includes 10 airbags. While NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration), and the IIHS (Insurance Institute for Highway Safety) have yet to rate the new Toyota, expectations are high.
2013 Toyota Avalon Road Test & Review: Engine/Fuel Economy
The first Toyota Avalon to feature a Hybrid gasoline/electric version, two powertrain offerings are available for the all-new 2013 flagship model.
The conventional setup uses a gasoline fired 3.5-liter V6, which generates 268 horsepower and 248 ft-lbs. of torque. Three drive modes; a six speed transmission and front-wheel drive complete the basic setup. The drive modes are Sport, Normal, and Eco, and are calibrated to adjust throttle response and transmission shifting characteristics to provide performance when its wanted, economy when its needed, or a blend of the two when it doesn’t matter at all. The EPA says to expect 21 miles per gallon in the city, 31 on the highway and a combined fuel economy of 25 mpg. If the optional 18-inch wheels are ordered, combined fuel economy is quoted at 24 miles per gallon.
The other propulsion system offered is, of course, the aforementioned gasoline/electric hybrid set up. It is, in fact, the same one found in the current Camry Hybrid. A 2.5-liter inline four-cylinder engine is paired with an electric motor and the six-speed automatic transmission for a total system output of 200 horsepower. In addition to the three drive modes the V6 system gets, the hybrid configuration also gets an EV mode. This will enable the Avalon to run purely on electricity at speeds of up to 20 miles per hour. The EPA rates the Avalon Hybrid at 40 miles per gallon in the city, and 39 on the highway. This gives the Avalon Hybrid a potential range of 680 miles with its 17-gallon gas tank.
2013 Toyota Avalon Road Test & Review: Driving Impressions
In my opinion, the new Avalon’s chassis setup strikes a very nice balance between the body control needed for competent handling and the judicious ride quality expected of a large sedan. In other words, its newfound athletic prowess notwithstanding, the Toyota flagship still delivers “big car” comfort. You don’t sacrifice one iota of the old Avalon’s coddling nature, it’s just delivered in a manner doesn’t leave you feeling like a geezer when you get in and out of it.
Going down the street, Avalon delivers a comfortable, well-damped ride, with good reflexes when changes of direction are requested. Its steering feels direct, acceleration with both engines is good and braking is strong, albeit somewhat devoid of feel in the hybrid version of the car.
Handling on twisty roads is remarkably entertaining, if not exactly jaw dropping. To sharpen the car’s reflexes even more, there’s even an XLE Touring model with 18-inch wheels, paddle shifters, and throttle blips on downshifts. This, most assuredly, is NOT your old-school Avalon.
Body roll is very well controlled, if non-existent and because of this, the Avalon inspires a great deal of confidence on challenging roads. It won’t be confused for a sport sedan, but it isn’t soft and wallowing either.
As we mentioned before, the seating is nicely supportive, and all of the controls fall readily to hand. You won’t spend a great deal of time hunting for a secondary control in the Toyota because things are pretty much where you expect them to be.
2013 Toyota Avalon Road Test & Review: Final Thoughts
Once designed specifically to be the “old folk’s” Toyota, the all-new 2013 Avalon has been infused with an athleticism previously considered way too risqué for Toyota’s flagship. Its look is sexy, its equipment is decidedly high-tech, and it goes with a vigor previously unknown to sedans wearing its nameplate.
While I’ve always understood the need for a car like the Avalon, I’ve never truly been motivated to bring one home to live with me — until now. Not so much because I’ve gotten older and more settled, but because I can appreciate a comfortable car with an abundance of tech that is more than capable of getting out of its own way when roads lend themselves to exploiting the joys of a nicely obedient automobile.
And, this new Avalon is just such a car.
It’s just a matter of time until somebody lowers one, bolts on a set of 20-inch wheels, blacks out the windows, and proceeds to openly flaunt the aggressive aspect of this car’s nature. Here’s the really interesting part though, another person can just as easily leave the new Avalon as it is and enjoy the pleasures of a nicely competent near luxury car with a smooth ride and outstanding reliability.
Let’s not forget the new hybrid version’s strong fuel economy numbers either. But wait, there even more…the product planning team has also configured a livery version to pick up on the airport limo trade Lincoln abandoned when the Town Car finally met its demise last year.
Long story short, with this new Avalon, Toyota is fielding a car capable of appealing to the broadest swath of car buyers possible and while the old axiom goes by trying to be everything to everyone you could well wind up being nothing to no one…with this Avalon, that just ain’t gonna happen.
2013 Toyota Avalon Road Test & Review: Pros & Cons
• Handsome new styling
• Beautifully crafted interior
• Generous level of standard equipment
• Grille treatment is clunky and derivative
• Avalon name bound to turn a few people off — until they see it
• Hybrid version a bit on the pricey side
• Rear seatbacks could fold to expand cargo capacity