The fifth-generation Toyota Avalon steps up its game.
Flagship sedans are a thing of the past, right? After all, the segment continues to shrink as customers shift to crossovers.
The Hyundai Azera is no more and there is talk that the Ford Taurus and Chevrolet Impala will soon receive the ax. The Chrysler 300 and Dodge Charger have had their share of updates, but they’re essentially the same since 2011. There is no telling whether we’ll ever see new Dodge and Chrysler models.
Other than the segment-leading Nissan Maxima, the Buick LaCrosse and Kia’s Cadenza, the flagship sedan market has no other players. Besides the Toyota Avalon, that is.
Indeed, the Toyota Avalon has been a player since it was introduced in 1995. Immediately, Toyota served notice that Oldsmobile, Buick, Mercury and other brand-loyal owners now had a new model to consider, one based on the considerable stellar reputation of the Camry.
2019 Toyota Avalon Background
One year removed from the introduction of the latest Camry and Camry Hybrid, the fifth-generation Avalon makes its debut. The 2019 Toyota Avalon was showcased recently to journalists attending a Toyota-sponsored event in San Diego County, California. Toyota covered the cost of our airfare, hotel, and meals, but the impressions here are all mine.
The 2019 Avalon is based on the same global architecture as the Prius and Camry, the C-HR and RAV4 SUVs, and the upcoming Corolla hatchback. In fact, nearly everything new Toyota produces from this point forward will share a common platform — able to accommodate front-, rear- and all-wheel drive configurations. A shared platform means common parts, saving the automaker money. Lexus will benefit from the new platform too.
As for the Toyota Avalon, it represents a clean sheet design. The new model has a slightly wider track and overall width than the outgoing model. A lowered cowl — which is the front part of the Avalon supporting both the windshield and the dashboard, and a lower rear deck are among the chief design layout changes.
Four Trims Spread Across Two Grades
The 2019 Avalon comes in four trims divided among two grade distinctions. Under the Premium grade are XLE ($35,500) and Limited ($41,800) trims. Under the Sport grade are XSE ($38,000) and Touring ($42,200) trims. As you might surmise, the first grade places an emphasis on luxury, the second one on sportiness. Prices are up $250 versus last year, but Toyota says it is adding $1,700 in features.
You’ll also find an Avalon Hybrid model based on three of the four grades: XLE, XSE and Limited. Importantly, the hybrid price continues to fall and is now just $1,000 more than the gas engine. That’s a small investment for getting nearly double the fuel economy of the gas model.
Other exterior changes include a now unified upper and lower grille, tangential vents, and slim headlamps. Along the profile, the extended wheelbase has reduced overhangs, sharper character lines, and pronounced rocker panel sculpting. From the rear, you’ll find an all-LED connected taillamp design and dual exhaust pipes with available quad chrome tips.
Standard equipment includes LED headlights, heated side mirrors, and 17-inch alloy wheels. Upgrades include power-controlled side mirrors, a moonroof, 18- or 19-inch alloy wheels, a rear spoiler, and a sport exhaust system.
Modern and Well-Equipped Interior
The Avalon’s spacious interior seats five and does so without compromise. Standard seating equipment includes eight-way power-adjustable heated front seats with driver two-way lumbar support. On the top trim models, both front seats gain four-way lumbar support along with heating and ventilation, and driver memory settings.
The seats are covered in SofTex, Toyota’s imitation leather material. Upgrades include SofTex with suede-like inserts and on the top trim, premium leather. The cabin is embellished with various materials beginning with hydrographic — also known as immersion printing. The middle two models are trimmed with aluminum, while the Limited has authentic wood.
The rear 60/40 split-folding seats include a smartphone cup-holder in the middle seat armrest (shaped to accommodate your drink or your smartphone). Importantly, the trunk measures 16.1 cubic feet in both the gas and hybrid models. Previously, the hybrid lost cargo space because the battery pack intruded into the trunk. Not so this year as the battery pack now sits underneath the rear seat.
Toyota supplies the 2019 Avalon with a manual tilt-and-telescopic steering column with a leather-wrapped wheel. On the Limited and Touring editions, you’ll find a power-operated column with a heated steering wheel. Toyota also includes paddle shifters with its two Sport grade models.
The Avalon’s center stack is more subdued than the Camry’s and delivers a floating look. This design allows for a wide open and spacious design along with a low-profile center cluster. Additional standard features include keyless entry, all LED lighting, push-button start, dual-zone climate control, and full power accessories.
For 2019, the Toyota Avalon offers a long list of tech features. All models now come with a 9-inch touchscreen display, five USB ports, an audio input jack and Entune 3.0 — the latest version of the brand’s infotainment system.
An eight-speaker audio system is standard. It is bundled with Bluetooth, satellite radio, Scout GPS Link, Apple CarPlay smartphone integration, Amazon Alexa integration, Wi-Fi connect and HD Radio. Upgrades include a stellar 14-speaker JBL audio system — it was present on one of our test models, supplying exceptional sound. Other options include a Qi wireless charging pad.
As for safety technologies, you’ll find a suite of safety features under the Toyota Safety Sense P (TSS-P) umbrella. All trims come with a pre-collision system with pedestrian detection, lane departure alert with steering assist, automatic high beams, and full-range dynamic radar cruise control. Separate from the package, a blind spot monitor with rear cross-traffic alert is also included.
Options available with the two top trims include a sonar system with rear cross-traffic braking and a bird’s eye view camera.
First Look, Initial Impressions
One of the toughest things about a media drive is the limited time journalists have with any vehicle. Fortunately, Toyota supplied our group of about two dozen media folk with ample seat time following a one-hour deep dive of all things 2019 Avalon.
The longest of the four mapped routes supplied a decent picture of what the new Avalon is all about. The gas model has a V6 engine generating 301 horsepower paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission. The hybrid has a four-cylinder engine, a pair of electric motors, and a continuously variable automatic transmission. Under full throttle, you’ll find 215 horsepower at the ready.
Inside and out, the Avalon delivers an exceptional look and feel. The seats are very comfortable, the cabin is quiet and the ride is cushy. Yes, you can dial in sportier modes for a firmer ride. The following are my chief takeaways for the 2019 Avalon.
1. The style is anything, but bland.
The previous generation Avalon had already rid this sedan of its generic looks. Now, we have a class act that may very well be the benchmark for the segment. The Avalon’s strongest competitors are the Buick LaCrosse, Nissan Maxima, and Chrysler’s 300. The first two have modern designs, the Chrysler has aged considerably.
2. Luxury touches are found throughout the interior.
Toyota continues to raise the premium bar in its top models and does so without invading Lexus territory. But the Avalon Limited and Touring have features that may make you think you’re in a Lexus. Even the standard hydrographic trim is exceptionally beautiful to behold.
3. Terrific tech is present, but some things still need work.
My wife and I have been Toyota owners for years. We’re familiar with the product line and how the tech features operate. We give a thumbs down to the Scout GPS Link, a navigation connectivity app with spotty service at best. Happily, the new Avalon now includes Apple CarPlay, which means our iPhones can supply the directions prominently on the big color display. Android Auto customers, however, have to wait a bit longer as Toyota works with Google to ensure that customer’s proprietary information is kept under wraps. And that’s a good thing. As for the available embedded navigation system, it still trails the top systems from GM and Fiat Chrysler. We had some connectivity problems in California, but CarPlay bailed us out.
4. Both sedans offer a capable drive.
The V6 is suited quite well to the sedan, delivering top off-the-mark acceleration and passing power. There was no sign of torque steer even with all those horses sent to the front wheels. Steering is sufficiently weighted and although you won’t necessarily carve corners with this big sedan, you’ll feel confident as you work your way around twisty roads. As for the hybrid, it is tuned to deliver exceptional fuel economy and it probably will. With about 30 percent less power than the gas model, you’ll feel the difference, but it likely won’t be a show-stopper for core hybrid buyers.
5. There are some changes we would like to see.
Toyota, like any other manufacturer, isn’t about to reveal future product or even upcoming updates before they’re ready to do so. Personally, there are a few things I would like to see Toyota offer in the future with the Avalon, including available all-wheel drive. An AWD system supplies an extra measure of handling assurance on slippery roads and is especially welcome in colder climates. Another option would be to make the V6 the hybrid system. Yes, fuel economy would slip, but the performance would be awesome. One way that Toyota could do both is to supply a hybrid system that sends power to the rear wheels, just as it does in the RAV4 Hybrid.
Parting Thoughts: 2019 Toyota Avalon
Kudos to Toyota for staying with its flagship sedan. Even if its competitors also remain in the segment, Toyota now has the freshest and in many ways the best product. Still, some competitors will leave the market. For customers orphaned by their brand favorite, a look at the all-new Avalon should very well satisfy their needs.
The 2019 Avalon arrives in Toyota showrooms in May 2018.
2019 Toyota Avalon/Hybrid Specifications
|Base Sticker Price||$35,500 (plus $895 destination)|
|Price as tested||NR|
|Standard Engine||3.5-liter, V6|
|Horsepower||301 @ 6,600 RPMs|
|Torque (lb.-ft.)||267 @ 4,700 RPMs|
|Hybrid Engine||2.5-liter, I4|
|Horsepower||176 @ 5,700 RPMs (Net 215 hp)|
|Torque (lb.-ft.)||163 @ 3,600 to 5,200 RPMs|
|Transmission||Continuously variable automatic|
|Curb Weight (pounds)||3,560 to 3,704 (Gas); 3,638 to 3,715 (Hybrid)|
|Head room (f,r — inches)||38.5, 37.9|
|Leg room (f,r — inches)||42.1, 40.3|
|Shoulder room (f,r — inches)||58.3, 57.1|
|Hip room (f,r — inches)||55.8, 54.8|
|Storage (cubic feet)||16.1|
|Gross vehicle weight (pounds)||NR|
|Fuel Tank (gallons)||14.5 (XLE), 15.8; 13.2 (hybrid)|
|EPA Fuel MPG (city/highway)||22/32 (XLE Gas), 22/31 (others); 43/44 (XLE Hybrid), 43/43 (others)|
|Manufacturing Plant||Georgetown, Kentucky|
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