I could be way off base here but I remember a day when Toyota was a brand for everyone; from exciting, practical, and fun. They had a family car, big body sedan, sports car, mid-size, small-size and of course they were mostly affordable for everyone. Somehow the rear wheel drive powertrains were axed for boring mundane economy cars. Long gone are the days of the Celicas, AE86s, Supras, and VIP Previas. Until now, with the likes of the FR-S and coming Supra replacement it seems that Toyota is ready to get back to its roots; and they did not just stop it seems they have revamped their full line-up to great styling, great features and accoutrements. Even technology now seems presetine; Toyota truly has a car for everyone. Let's take a look at the latest offering that Toyota was kind enough to loan us for the week. The all new 2019 Toyota Avalon - Now let's be honest when I was told they were handing me the keys to an Avalon, I cringed on the inside. However, I quickly ate crow. When they dropped the car off in it's beautiful Ruby Flare Pearl exterior paint I at first had no idea what I was looking at. I pulled over and thought it was a new Lexus GS then I realized it was the car that was supposed to be mine for the next seven days. We took a walk around checked out the interior and the whole time my jaw was dragging along behind me. I could not believe my eyes. The first thing that threw me off was the large and massive grill. It seems to be very polarizing you either like it or you do not. Shout out to my purist family who the majority disliked the grill but the whole aggressive design grew on me and I love it. I feel as if Toyota is back with a vengeance. If you want to know if the car is good, read no further as the bottom line is simple. This car is amazing, the only negative is that it does not come in rear or all wheel drive.
I have for the most of my automotive "career" almost always had European cars with the exception of two of my first cars. Which happened to be under the Toyota umbrella and I loved those cars no real reason why I left the brand; other than I was always a fan of the euro. However, the price point at a fully ticked $43k there is not much that can touch what this car offers for this price. Let me break it down this way so I can make sure we do not miss anything.
The heartbeat of the Avalon is a 3.5-Liter V6 that has a respectable 301 HP and 267 lb-ft of torque and while its not lightning quick off the line; in a roll on the freeway and around 3500rpm this car catches speed quick. All bolted up to an 8 Speed automatic trans. Allowing you to have some naughty fun and/or get you out of trouble when needed. While the motor and transmission work extremely well together I am curious to know how good this motor gets with a tune, exhaust, and better breathing but we will see if we can test that theory at a later time. But if you want to know how good the motor gets you can ask the few Maserati Ghiblis, Levantes, Chargers, Challengers and few BMWs that lay slain in the wake of this surprising little beast. Rolling on 19" alloy wheels painted with black windows it ties the whole car in a very sporty, aggressive and classy way. The suspension is firm enough so you know whats going on but properly soft for a big body sedan. It soaks up LA's horrible roads with ease. I hit a pothole by accident and in my other car alignment probably would have been left a mile behind and popped a tire. The Avalon literally took it with NO problem and we barely felt it. What I like most which reminds me of the good old days when my parents gifted me their Lexus ES300, you can go 90mph and not notice it because the car is smooth, planted, quiet and comfortable. I can give you the full specs of the independent MacPherson struts and sport tuned shocks but in my opinion who cares the suspension is great. Seeing as this is a Toyota and their claimed summer anthem of wanting my MPGs they have this car at an estimated 25 mpg Combined (22 city/31 highway). With that said I averaged 27-30 with a lead foot and 2 tanks to prove it.
Once again I think this car is quite the looker. The enthusiast in me wants to see it lowered on 20s with blacked out windows light smoke on rear tail lights and bigger exhaust tips to really showcase the beautiful lines of this car. But if you leave it stock in the right color looks just delectable. Granted some people may not enjoy the looks of this car, but this is one of the many places this car gives it's euro counterparts a run for the money. The car I currently have came with LED headlights which was an option. Most other manufacturers that charge close double for a similar vehicle are still using boring old Xenons - which starts easily building the case why this car is a steal for the money. LED headlights not only look great but function well and I will never purchase a car again that does not have them. The eyes of this car are aggressive, beautiful and bold. Full LED headlights with Automatic High beams and sequential running blinkers (Dynamic Auxiliary Turn signal) for both front and rear. Huge aggressive front grill with front camera to help with 360 Parking, and curb assist so you do not plow your bumper into the parking block ahead. Nice aggressive front vents that are functional which I presume for aerodynamics and brake cooling. We finish off the front half of the car with acoustic noise-reducing front windshield keeping the occupants happy inside. Bringing around back we have quad tipped exhaust a nice lip spoiler which looks like an aftermarket piece and I like it quite a bit. Also, including a nice aggressive rear diffuser to button up the whole package.
The seats are very nice. Orange stitching keeps together a semi-perforated ultra suede and leather seat that is both heated and ventilated (cooling and amazing on these hot days) giving the car that posh sporty look that you typically see in more expensive cars. Hop into the front you are greeted with a plethora of enjoyments. Starting off with an 8-way adjustable seat with 4 way lumbar for both passenger and driver. Heated tile and telescoping steering wheel all with memory function. Also included on the steering is bluetooth hands free and voice command buttons along with cruise control volume and other niceties. Behind the steering wheel you have your speedo with a nice 7" screen with pertinent information and they one upped themselves with a 10" color HUD right in the windshield where you can see the speed limit of the street your on, mph, radar info and a few other things that help keep your eyes on the road and not where they should not be. In the dash you have a 9" touch screen which is very responsive and has all the fun stuff. Satellite radio, 360 rear and front cameras all come on at the right time to help you park and stay out of the insurance companies pockets. The only negative about this system is the navigation is a little annoying and not as good as the old Toyota and Lexus' I remember. However, if it gets on your nerves there's always Apple CarPlay. One thing I really liked about the navigation though is Dynamic Navigation. Here's how it works, I need to get to a destination and I am driving and/or in my case too lazy to look it up or type it in. Hit the prompt for navigation assist and on the line comes an operator asking where I would like to go. I tell them to map me to said location. If they do not have an address they will look it up. Hit GO on my screen and off we are to the next adventure.
Just below that we have wireless charging which is an amazing feature. The only problem I had with wireless charging is that my phone kept sliding around and flying off the charger which left my phone upset. However, I am sure when the car comes to production that will be fixed with some type of rubber footing or holder. Additionally, under the armrest which is insanely deep holds three pots to charge your devices. Finishing off the interior with the rear seat there is plenty of space back there for passengers big and small. The biggest problem I have as a dad with any car these days is my kid and her carseat. She says at 42 inches tall she does not have enough legroom. With the Avalon that is a problem of the past. Also, to keep your rear seat guests comfortable and happy, two large vents that offer them copious amounts of air and an additional two plugs for their phones or tablets so you are always charged and ready for life's adventures. Oh and the trunk is big as "F" so strollers, bass guitars, keyboards, a ton of of stuff will fit with ease and if you need more you can fold down the rear 60/40 split seats.
My only real qualm about the interior is the center stack. In my opinion the clean interior design does not match the stack and the stack lessens the slightly more premium feeling you get in the Avalon.
They have all the top safety stuff that you want, need and systems you never knew you wanted or needed. The list is pretty long I will more or less talk about my favorites here. A few of my favorite safety features that I put to use was the brake alert; coming too close to the radar system in the nose of the car will alert you that it is time to brake if it feels you are moving at a rate of speed where it will be difficult to brake safely without a collision. Which could be helpful if you get distracted or the traffic suddenly changes before you have time to react. Blind spot detection which is always an added bonus, along with pedestrian detection. One cool thing to note is when we tested the feature, the car came to a complete halt if someone walks behind your car while you are backing up. My favorite though is what I am calling semi Auto-pilot. It is a far cry from Tesla's autopilot, which in actuality you cannot really call or compare it to Auto-pilot because it's not. It is a very smart cruise control system having some very similar features which was quite welcomed during traffic. So the car has a radar in the nose which helps with a lot of the driving and safety features. Most noticed when cruise control is activated. You can in fact activate cruise control at pretty much any speed and it will hold at whatever speed you set unless you come up on a car. Once you come up to a certain distance about 3 car lengths the car will adjust it's speed to keep a safe distance from the car ahead. It will slow down up unto the point where it needs to come to a complete stop if necessary. It will not go again until you tap the gas to re-activate the cruise. With lane keeping assist that will push you back into the middle of the lane. It is a good and intuitive way to keep you safe even when you're not as alert because you have been sitting in LA traffic for 2 hours. The only drawback of this system is the brakes let you know that they work as they for the most part apply full force; they do not ease into the brake to reach programmed limits. No matter what speed whether theres traffic or not if it senses it needs to slow down to keep with the parameters set it will slam on the brakes making your stomach hit the front windshield. After playing with it every day I finally figured out a happy medium for the most part and the system worked quite well.
In my ripe young age I have become quit the car snob. After spending time with the Avalon for a full week I shed a small tear to see it go as I have been turned into a believer that Toyota still can produce a functional, fun enjoyable daily driver that can handle a multitude of requirements and daily tasks. For the enthusiasts this is a great tuning platform for the stance and VIP crowd. A solid platform to use as a show car, cruiser, family hauler, business car, and overall huge bang for the buck. It's actually mind blowing what Toyota has provided in their new Avalon for $40k. For all other car makers, in particular the European counterparts. You have been put on notice: Koreans and Japanese are coming and they are here to stay and they are here to wow customers with strong, solid, designs, technology, reliability and overall great cars. If you want something your age get the Camry as it's geared toward the younger demo. If you want a nice big body cruiser that has some potential and comes with pretty much everything you need standard. The Avalon is the way to go.
Thank you to Toyota for forcing me to buy another car because I like this car that much.
Check out the IGs of the photogs that collaborated with me on this shoot.