2014 Toyota Avalon - Driven

Toyota introduced the Avalon to the U.S. market way back in 1995 as its more upscale, full-size sedan slotted between the Camry and more luxurious Lexus brand. It originally rode on a stretched version of the Camry’s platform and even shared its 3.0-liter, V-6 engine. Generational changes in 2000, 2005, and again in 2013 have kept the Avalon fresh with revised looks, interior appointments, and updated drivetrains.

I recently spent a week getting to know a 2014 Avalon in its most well-appointed form. My Limited tester came coated in a really beautiful dark-blue color Toyota calls Parisian Night Pearl. Its interior came awashed in soft-touch, tan leather seats with contrasting Parisian Night Pearl stitching and accent pieces. Equipped with the Technology Package, my Avalon came fitted with Dynamic Radar Cruise Control, Automatic High Beams, and the Pre Collision System. Also present was Toyota’s innovative Qi Wireless Charging system (pronounced "Chee") that works with like-enabled electronic devices.

Though those were the only two main extra-cost options, the Limited trim package took care of checking the other option boxes in one fell swoop, netting nearly every conceivable amenity desired on modern sedans. Heated and cooled leather seats with 10-way adjustments, moonroof, navigation, HID headlights, rain-sensing windshield wipers, and a laundry list of standard safety equipment.

Speaking of safety, the Avalon comes rated with five stars across the board from the NHTSA, except for the driver-side frontal crash, which earned a still-respectable four stars. Its other government ratings aren’t bad either. The EPA rates the Avalon at 21 mpg city, 31 mpg highway, and 24 mpg combined.

The Avalon might not be the most exciting product Toyota builds these days, but it fulfills its intended purpose of passenger comfort very well. Out of all the cars I’ve piloted lately, the Avalon would be my pick for a long-haul roadtrip with the family.

Click past the jump for the full review of the 2014 Toyota Avalon

Exterior

Toyota Avalon - Driven
Toyota Avalon - Driven
Toyota Avalon - Driven

Looking like an expensive pair of dark-wash blue jeans, the Avalon’s Parisian Night paint doesn’t call attention to itself, but still exudes handsomeness when looked upon. The chrome accents act like cufflinks to a nice suit, putting on that extra touch of class. The Avalon’s upper and lower grilles get chrome pieces too, and the wide lower intake looks much better in person than in pictures.

Looking like an expensive pair of dark-wash blue jeans, the Avalon exudes handsomeness

Flanking the grille are HID headlights with LED daytime running lights. The HIDs and fog lights work very well at lighting up even the darkest roads and nearly made turning on the high beams unnecessary. Of course, the automatic high beam control ensures oncoming traffic isn’t blinded. Satin chrome 18-inch wheels continue the bright-on-dark theme.

Interior

Toyota Avalon - Driven
Toyota Avalon - Driven
Toyota Avalon - Driven

The Avalon’s interior is where the real story is. Comfort is the car’s highest priority with nicely padded leather seats, a thick-grip steering wheel, and a textbook execution of good ergonomics. The 10-way power driver’s seat and tilt/telescope steering column means a comfortable seating position is easy to achieve. The slopping center console’s buttons are all easy to reach and well placed. I especially like the separate HVAC controls with its dedicated screen.

The Avalon’s interior is where the real story is

Also keeping passengers’ temperatures regulated are heated and cooled front seats, and heated rear seats. Both hot and cold functions work well, but left in the highest heat setting, frying an egg on the front seats seems like a real possibility. At night, the interior comes alive with a blue glow around the dashboard and center console. Not only does it look good, it also makes finding objects at night easier and makes switching on the bright overhead lights a thing of the past.

Rear passengers are treated to ample room all around. A folding center armrest provides even more comfort, while a dedicated temperature knob controls two air vents. Why every sedan doesn’t come with rear air vents is beyond me.

Toyota Avalon - Driven

Besides being comfortable, the cabin is nice to look at. The tan leather seats are stitched together with blue string the same color as the exterior paint. Even the center armrest shares the same blue hue. The dashboard’s matte-black pieces somehow don’t clash with the polished bits in other parts of the cabin and the leather-covered dash adds an extra dash of polish.

Toyota Avalon - Driven

Toyota’s Entune system works well for controlling radio and navigation functions, as well as the bevy of applications like iHeartRadio, Facebook Places, Bing, Yelp, and Pandora among others. The navigation’s turn-by-turn directions are accurate but its constant interruptions of non-critical direction instructions are annoying. Also annoying is the amount of time it takes the touch screen to register a touch. It’s only a half second, but in a world of instant clicks, it feels outdated.

Drivetrain

Toyota Avalon - Driven

Powering the Avalon is Toyota’s 3.5-liter V-6 making 268 horsepower and 248 pound-feet of torque. Power is routed to the front wheels through a six-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters. The powertrain is plenty stout enough to haul the Avalon around town with no trouble. Interstate on-ramps can be climbed with ease and passing is done with a fair amount of confidence.

The powertrain is plenty stout enough to haul the Avalon around town with no trouble

That confidence withdraws whenever dropping through several gears is needed, however. Being in sixth gear at a low rpm and matting the accelerator results in a notable hesitation before a lower gear can be accessed. It’s not a big deal if you’re not in a hurry.

The drivetrain also features three drive modes: Eco, Normal, and Sport. A slight difference in accelerator sensitivity is noticeable, but otherwise switching between the three settings doesn’t completely alter the car’s attitude.

Driving Impressions

Toyota Avalon - Driven

The Avalon is quite the comfortable cruiser. It makes no fuss or muss about getting on the highway and driving for hours. Though the bottom seat cushion could use a tad more padding, the seats felt supportive the entire week. The electric power steering works well and inputs are met with a quick response, though it doesn’t give much feedback and the on-center feel is a little numb.

The adaptive cruise control a system I could get really spoiled to if I let myself

Around town, the car is a breeze to drive. Its blind spot monitoring system does a fantastic job of keeping tabs on what’s lurking around. When traffic thins out, the adaptive cruise control can help regulate the car’s speed and distance from the vehicle in front. It’s a system I could get really spoiled to if I let myself.

Tight maneuvering and parking are best done with the utmost caution. The Avalon is a rather long sedan. Thankfully the backup camera and rear cross-traffic alert help with reversing out of narrow spots.

During my time with the Avalon, I averaged between 26.8 and 27 mpg. Burning regular gasoline, the car is pretty efficient for its size and horsepower rating.

Pricing

Toyota Avalon - Driven

The Avalon sits atop Toyota’s sedan lineup and fills the most luxurious spot, coming in just below a Lexus Lexus . With that the case, the base Avalon starts out at $31,340. Leather, the Smart Smart -Key System, and the backup camera are still standard features at that price. Check the Limited trim package, and the price jumps to $39,650.

My tester came with the Technology Package ($1,750), Qi Wireless Charging ($200), carpet floor mats ($225), wheel locks ($81), and the rear bumper appliqué ($69). Add in the $760 destination fee, and the grand total came to $42,735.

Competition

2014 Buick LaCrosse

Buick LaCrosse

The Buick LaCrosse is a solid competitor in this segment of reasonably-priced luxury sedans. With a similar, yet more pronounced chrome detailing on the exterior the LaCrosse is a touch more flashy than the Avalon. Inside things are flashy too. Wood grain covers the center stack and chrome bits brighten the steering wheel. General Motor’s ubiquitous 3.6-liter V-6 finds itself at home in this front-wheel-drive sedan and a six-speed automatic does the shifting. A smaller, 2.4-liter I-4 is available for those looking to save on fuel costs.

Pricing for the Buick starts at $34,060 and rises from there.

2014 Lincoln MKZ

Lincoln MKZ

The MKZ has been working hard to pull up Lincoln’s brand perception since its introduction in 2013, though with not nearly the success FoMoCo had originally hoped. However, that doesn’t discount the MKZ as a good competitor to the Avalon or LaCrosse.

The MKZ’s exterior design is undeniably unique with its plankton-eating grille, large glass roof, and high rear decklid. Inside is an upgraded interior to the MKZ’s corporate cousin, the Ford Fusion. Loaded out with tons of technology thanks to Ford’s Sync system, the MKZ has no trouble competing for oohhs and ahhs against the Toyota’s Entune.

Powering the MKZ is the 2.0-liter EcoBoost I-4 that cranks out 240 horsepower. Optional is the 3.7-liter V-6 making in impressive 300 horsepower and 277 pound-feet of torque. There is also a hybrid version that combines the 2.0-liter EcoBoost with battery packs in an effort to achieve its 41 mpg city and 36 mpg highway.

The base price for the MKZ starts at $34,190 and goes north from there.

Conclusion

Toyota Avalon - Driven

Overall the Avalon works well as a comfortable sedan ready to take passengers from point A to point B. The level of technology and safety features, along with the extra luxury features found in the Limited trim, makes it a solid choice of a car. There are definitely more exciting options out there, but none combine the luxury and handsomeness of the Avalon with Toyota’s reputation for reliability and customer satisfaction.

LOVE IT
  • A great highway cruiser
  • Good ergonomics throughout the cabin
  • Plenty of room for rear passengers
  • Seat warmers can fry eggs
LEAVE IT
  • Hints of torque steer when exiting corners
  • Slow response from touch inputs on touchscreen
  • Blends into the crowd

What is your take?

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