2016 Toyota Avalon Review
The 4th-generation car ticks nearly every box
Published: January 13th, 2016
I still remember the first Avalon I'd ever seen. It was big, bloated and very gold. The epitome of the retiree special, built for glacially slow Sunday drives to the brunch buffet and as careless about taut handling as a hippie is about losing brain cells. But after three generations with a near complete absence of thrills, Toyota made some very serious and very welcomed changes.
The fourth generation Avalon, which came to us in 2012 as a 2013 model, trashed nearly everything about the first three cars and delivered something fresh and surprising. Sure, it's still as big as a master bedroom inside, but everything about it is different. We had a chance to drive the Touring version recently and came away not just pleased but beguiled.
Exterior: A handsome, under-the-radar sedan
Unless you're just not a fan of big air intakes and grilles, there's pretty much nothing to dislike about the Avalon's sheet metal. It's rakish and sleek compared to the previous three Avalons and has bonafide presence, especially with its rather racy looking 18" Dark Gray wheels that give it a sinister look that one wouldn't expect of an Avalon. It's a good-looking but low-key sedan.
- Reworked fascia is more aggressive with thin-slit fog lamps and a down-turned lower grille.
- Profile is sleek and cohesive with the perfectly executed body crease.
- Darkened wheels give it a big-boy racer look that's almost mean.
- Some of the best taillights in the segment for a rear end that's clean and crisp.
- Far better looking than the Lexus ES sister car on which it's based. Less expensive, too.
Interior: Toyota's best without question
Toyota isn't exactly known for their interiors, but the Avalon is one of their best. Everything is laid out nicely, and the smooth, driver-centric center console no longer looks like it was pulled out of a pickup truck. Very little about the cabin feels cheap, and everything is easy to use. Also, the standard equipment list is monstrously long and -- LED lights, heated outside mirrors and blind spot monitor with rear cross-traffic alert are included.
- Materials quality is very good. High-grade plastics and the center console trim are fantastic.
- Capacitive-touch buttons respond incredibly well and go flush with the console trim surface. Cadillac could learn a thing or two from this.
- Seats need better bolstering and improved comfort in the padding. Needs a heated steering wheel badly in Chicago.
- Radio knobs are some of the best in the industry with proper weighting and a nice machined appearance. Entune works seamlessly.
Driving Impressions: A great driver's car
There's nothing that will prepare you for how well the Avalon Touring drives. The 268 hp V6 is healthy and moves a rather light car with authority. 0-60 in 6.1 seconds makes it one of the quickest in its segment, and you feel the power and the smoothness thanks to great delivery to the front wheels and shifting from its 6-speed automatic. It's about as fast a car as you need on a daily basis.
- Steering is well-weighted. Not too light and not too heavy.
- Balance and handling are bolstered by a light 3,521 lb curb weight.
- Drives nothing like you think a big sedan should. Provides driving delights not typically seen in this segment.
- Acceleration is strong at any speed, and throttle response is excellent.
Final Impressions: A real winner
The Avalon Touring is spectacular, not because it's a sports car and not because it's premier luxury. It outshines other cars like the Hyundai Azera, Nissan Maxima, Chevy Impala and the Kia Cadenza because it offers great fit and finish, a well-thought out cabin design, huge room and the bonus of being really enjoyable to drive in both relaxed and spirited driving environments.
What Toyota has to overcome is the perception that the Avalon is for older folks, but it's absolutely not. There's no big body roll, floaty steering or the cushy feeling of a wheeled barcalounger. It's sporty in all the right ways yet still provides a truly comfortable ride for longer drives. Toyota rethought the Avalon and came out with a car that's worthy of serious consideration for those who want a fantastic all-around vehicle with proven reliability.
Specifications & Price
Engine: 3.5-liter 24V V6 with dual VVT-i
Transmission: 6-speed automatic with sequential shift mode
Drivetrain Layout: Front-engine, front-wheel drive
Power Output: 268 hp / 248 lb-ft of torque
Fuel Economy (mpg): 21 city / 31 highway
Base Price: $37,050
As Tested: $37,885 (incl. $835 processing and handling)
Options on our test vehicle: none
• For more information such as specs, prices, and photos of the 2016 Toyota Avalon, click here: 2016 Toyota Avalon.