Entry Price: $33,500
Price As tested: $40,445
This week, we’re driving the 2018 Toyota Avalon, a fourth generation model that debuted in 2013. To this day Avalon is still ahead of the pack when it comes to luxury, performance and value regardless of its current generation longevity.
Built in Georgetown, Kentucky, Avalon delivers noteworthy interior and exterior motifs that have been updated through the years. It’s not to be confused with fellow midsize Camry as Avalon rides on a 1.7-inch longer wheelbase than its sibling. And, thanks to the longer wheelbase, both driver and passengers enjoy more interior room and an enhanced ride on all types of roadway.
As the years go by, Avalon continues to distance itself from Camry, something current owners already know. Corporate Avalon dogma centers on a more discreet luxury offering that differs greatly in comparison to Avalon’s 1995 debut. Back then Gen. 1 Avalon was merely a fully loaded Camry with an Avalon badge. Nowadays, Gen. 4 Avalon is especially distinctive and occupies status as Toyota’s flagship midsize sedan.
Along the way Avalon models rose to the highest point of luxury Toyota allows for a “non-Lexus” vehicle. Today’s Avalon sits at the doorstep of the Lexus ES350, where both share platform build time and mechanicals including engine, transmission and suspension. Further, Avalon’s continued improvements now include a sleeker and more engaging aerodynamic exterior, (sans that huge front grille) more highway MPG than the Gen. 3 V6 engines, lighter gross weight and shorter length.
With an impressive entry price of just $33,500 for Avalon XLE versus $38,950 for the Lexus ES350, our Touring tester includes many of the same amenities as the entry Lexus ES350. Four other gasoline powered Avalons are available, including XLE Plus ($35,250); XLE Premium ($36,700); our tester Touring ($37,900); and top class Limited ($41,300). Three hybrids are available with Hybrid Plus ($37,500); Hybrid Premium ($38,950); and Hybrid Limited ($42,800).
Avalon’s cabin is both functional and beautiful, with premium leather seating, heated front seats, SiriusXM Satellite, leather wrapped steering wheel with paddle shifters, power front seats, smart key with push button start, and a bevy of other standard amenities.
Under the hood, Avalon’s 3.5-liter V6 produces 268 horsepower and 248 lb. torque, resulting in zero to 60 times in the mid to upper 6-second range. Power transfers through a front-drive setup via a six-speed automatic transmission with ECO, Sport and Normal driving modes. Power meets the ground thanks to 18-inch Bridgestone all season tires on lightweight alloy wheels.
Underneath, Avalon features a special “comfort and performance” suspension. It consists of a front lightweight MacPherson strut setup and mates with a dual-link MacPherson strut in the rear. This results in underpinnings that are four-way, fully “coil-over shock” in nature and very forgiving on bumpy roads.
All Avalons came with upscale standard safety features like dynamic radar cruise, automatic high beam, and the highly acclaimed Toyota Safety Sense system featuring pre-collision, pedestrian detection, and lane departure with steering assist. The standard Star Safety suite and Smart Stop includes all the traction controls and brake assists, while the Touring models come standard with rear cross traffic and blind spot monitoring. Add 10 airbags and you’re riding in an Avalon with Five Star government crash ratings, overall.
When it comes to an Avalon, whatever extra you might pay for options on other cars usually comes standard within the Avalon family. Included are safety backup camera, dual chrome exhaust tips, Entune Premium Audio with seven-inch touch screen and eight speakers, (nine speakers in the Touring) HD radio with CD player, navigation, iPod, USB, Bluetooth, and Smart Phone compatibility with onboard charging. A power tilt and slide moonroof comes standard starting with the XLE Plus.
Our Touring model, which is highlighted by special dark alloy machined wheels, did have a few ancillary options, none of them necessary in my opinion. Included are paint protection film overlay for $395, four season floor mats at $377, illuminated door sills for $379 and a remote engine starter for $499. The final tally came to $40,445 with $895 delivery included. Your dealer is waiting to explain all features when you visit and the main differences between the models.
Since its debut 33 years ago, this Gen. 4 Avalon is the best ever. Most interesting to this scribe is Toyota’s continued marketing direction with Avalon, as capturing a bigger slice of the shrinking midsize luxury sedan segment comes thanks to discreet consumers who are more comfortable not flaunting their economic fortunes.
Important numbers include a wheelbase of 11 inches, 5.5-inch ground clearance, 3,505 lb. curb weight, 17 gallon fuel tank, 16 cu. ft. of cargo space, 40 ft. turn circle and 21 city and 30 highway EPA MPG estimates.
In ending, the soon to arrive fifth generation 2019 Avalon debuts later this summer featuring an even bigger front grille and riding on the same 111-inch wheelbase. With this announcement, look for outstanding dealer incentives that should be in play to secure the current 2018 Avalon, which is still one fine motorcar. I have attached a photo of the 2019 Avalon with its redesign for you to compare.
So be it a soon to come Gen. 5 Avalon or a leftover Gen. 4, you can’t go wrong parking either one in your driveway.
Likes: Looks, mechanicals, quiet ride, comfort, discrete luxury.
Dislikes: Touch screen learning curves, front grille, not much else.
— Greg Zyla writes weekly for More Content Now and other GateHouse Media publications.
Test Drive: 2018 Toyota Avalon
Entry Price: $33,500