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2018 Toyota Avalon Overview
In a year when the popular and bestselling Toyota Camry midsize sedan gets a complete and highly anticipated eighth-generation redesign, its upscale full-size companion, the Toyota Avalon luxury sedan, receives no new features, updates, or changes. Instead, 2018 serves as a transitional year for the Avalon. Now at the very tail end of its fourth generation, it idles at the curb as it awaits its own redesign, which more than likely will appear sometime in 2018 for the 2019 model year. Little is known about the anticipated next-generation Avalon, but expect it to build on some of the new design elements, features, and technology currently being highlighted in the new Camry.
Although generational redesigns are scheduled years in advance, it makes sense that Toyota opted to update the Camry before the Avalon, since the Camry outsells the Avalon nearly ten-to-one. In some ways, even though the Avalon faces off against such full-size luxury sedans as the Nissan Maxima, Buick LaCrosse, Chrysler 300, and Hyundai Azera, its biggest competitor might actually be the Camry itself. Even trickier, the Avalon straddles the gap between Toyota and its upmarket Lexus brand, which undoubtedly draws off some of the Avalon's buyers, since an entry-level Lexus IS can be had for less than a well-equipped Avalon. Status-oriented buyers might prefer the prestigious marque over the more common one, even if the car they end up with is smaller and less well-equipped. The generational makeover, when it arrives, will certainly give the Avalon some pop and boost its sales numbers, but the big sedan has always been in an unenviable position in Toyota's lineup, at times falling almost completely off the automotive radar.
On the plus side, the Avalon still has a lot to offer for discerning buyers. Many reviewers rank the Avalon at or near the top of the full-size luxury sedan class, thanks to its smooth and balanced ride, large comfortable cabin, long list of upscale standard features, potent powerplant options, and advanced safety systems. Only its pricing and overall value put it at a disadvantage against its competitors, but its build quality and longevity might help tip the balance in its favor for some buyers.
The Avalon displays an attractive though conservative exterior design, with a distinctive front end leading the way. A jutting nose, slatted deep-mouthed grille, slim headlights, and chrome accents, all introduced in 2016, give the Avalon a bold, fresh look. Other design elements, however, like the straight sidelines, soft creases, and subtle wheel wells, do little to help the premium sedan stand out from the crowd. By comparison, the new Camry has a much more contemporary feel, highlighted by a sculpted hood, a 3D front end with a 2-piece hourglass grille, and curvier body styling. The two will make an interesting contrast in Toyota's showrooms this year, especially if they wind up side by side.
Toyota offers the 2018 Avalon in XLE, XLE Plus, XLE Premium, Touring, and Limited trims with a V6 engine and in Hybrid XLE Plus, Hybrid XLE Premium, and Hybrid Limited trims with a hybrid powerplant. Standard exterior features roll over from the previous year and include heated power side mirrors with integrated turn signals, smoked LED taillights, and dual chrome exhaust pipes. The Touring trim receives upgraded LED headlights and a unique chrome front grille with a piano-black insert, which gives it a more customized look, while the Limited and Hybrid Limited trims come standard with rain-sensing windshield wipers and auto-dimming side mirrors. All Avalon trims ride on 17-inch wheels except the Touring and Limited, which upgrade to 18-inchers. The Limited and Hybrid Limited trims receive distinctive super chrome alloy wheels for a more a high-end appearance.
Regular gas-powered Avalon trims come equipped with a 3.5-liter V6 engine good for 268 hp and 248 lb-ft of torque. It mates to a 6-speed automatic transmission with steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters and drives the Avalon via the front wheels. With the V6, the Avalon can get from 0-to-60 in under 7 seconds, with times varing slightly between trims. In addition, drivers can choose between Eco, Normal, and Sport drive modes, which adjust transmission shift points and throttle response for modified performance and acceleration. The Eco mode helps to improve fuel efficiency, while the Sport mode allows for more aggressive driving. Fuel-economy numbers check in at 21 mpg city, 30 highway, and 24 combined. Reviewers note that the V6 does a good job of moving the Avalon along at a steady pace, with plenty of power for merging and passing on the highway or for climbing steep inclines.
Avalon Hybrid trims get the automaker's trusty Hybrid Synergy Drive system, which also powers the RAV4 Hybrid, Camry Hybrid, and Prius. In fact, Toyota notes that the Avalon is the only car in the full-size luxury sedan class to offer a hybrid engine option. The hybrid powerplant combines a 2.5-liter Atkinson cycle 4-cylinder engine and a high-torque electric motor, which together generate a total of 200 hp. The Avalon Hybrid can run on electric power alone for short distances at speeds up to 20 mph before the gas engine kicks in. Regenerative brakes help charge the on-board nickel-metal-hydride battery, which resides under the trunk floor. The hybrid powerplant connects to a continuously variable transmission (CVT), and it similarly offers driver-selectable Eco and Sport modes and an all-electric EV mode. Best-in-class fuel-economy numbers check in at 40, 39, and 40. Naturally, the hybrid powerplant doesn't provide the same performance as the V6, and the Avalon Hybrid trims does feel sluggish at times. Reviewers also comment that the CVT can be noisy at higher speeds.
The Avalon delivers a smooth, stable ride with responsive handling, thanks in part to the luxury sedan's well-tuned suspension, 111-inch wheelbase, and 195.3-inch overall length. The new Camry, however, sits on a similar 111.2-inch wheelbase and has an overall length of about 192 inches, nearly matching the Avalon in size and essentially erasing the difference between a midsize and full-size sedan. The Avalon’s Touring trim comes equipped with a stiffer sport-tuned suspension and more precise power-assisted rack-and-pinion steering for a sportier driving experience.
The Avalon's long wheelbase and overall length result in a roomy cabin and large trunk, although again, the Camry closely matches the Avalon in both of those areas. The Avalon offers 16 cubic feet of cargo space (14 cubic feet on Hybrid trims) to the new Camry's 15.1 cubic feet. Still, buyers will find the Avalon's spacious, comfortable, and quiet cabin hard to beat.
Seating 5 passengers, the Avalon provides plenty of legroom and headroom in both rows, and all the expected niceties of a full-size luxury sedan are included. Even the base XLE trim comes standard with leather upholstery, heated power-adjustable front seats, wood-grain trim, dual-zone climate control, and Toyota’s Entune infotainment system, while the XLE Plus adds push-button start and an auto-dimming rear-view mirror with a compass. All trims except the XLE and XLE Plus include navigation, and the highest trims receive 3-zone climate control, an upgraded steering wheel, and ventilated front seats. Despite its many high-tech features, the Avalon still doesn’t support connectivity apps like Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, although this will hopefully change with the next generation. The Buick LaCrosse, Nissan Maxima, and Hyundai Azera already all support these features.
All Avalons are equipped with 10 airbags, including knee airbags for both front seats, and the Toyota Safety Sense P (TSS-P) suite, which became standard equipment in 2017. The suite comes with automatic high beams, dynamic cruise control, a lane-departure alert with steering assist, and a pre-collision system with pedestrian detection. Standard safety features for the upper-end trims include blind-spot monitoring and a Safety Connect system with emergency assistance. Overall, the 2018 Avalon might be showing its age, but it's certainly aging gracefully.
Rob has been a contributor to CarGurus since 2007, and an automotive test-driver and writer since the early ’90s. He’s test-driven everything from BMWs and Jags to Bentleys and Saabs, with an occasional Range Rover, Ferrari, Porsche or Lamborghini thrown in. He also created the annual Car of the Year and Exotic Car of the Year awards for Robb Report magazine. He currently resides in California.
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