2010 Toyota Avalon Limited: A Toyota with a Lexus Personality
By Mike Blake, Carlisle Events
Tuesday, January 19, 2010
Toyota’s flagship since 1994-’95 model year and known in early generations in Japan as the Pronard, Avalon is nearing the end of its third generation in America as the prime Toyota full-size sedan.
With no significant changes for 2010 from the 2009 model, the Avalon is refined … so refined in fact that its upscale trims (XLS and Limited) could proudly carry the Lexus badge and compete notably with its sister, the Lexus ES 350.
Looking fluid and elegant as a flagship sedan should, Avalon was designed at Calty Design Research in Newport Beach, CA, developed by U.S.-based Toyota Technical Centers and assembled at Toyota Motor Manufacturing in Georgetown, KY. With a conservative, confident demeanor and 21st century profile, Avalon’s character lines are accentuated by a sleek grille with chrome accented horizontal bars; chrome exterior door handles; large smoked tail lamps and an elegantly sculptured trunk. Dual exhaust outlets add a sporty touch.
Visibility-enhancing features standard on the Limited grade include high intensity discharge headlamps with dynamic automatic leveling, as well as side mirrors with integrated turn signals and puddle lamps.
Toyota optimized the exterior design of the Avalon for minimal wind noise. Numerous small details contribute to lower cabin noise and vibration, including a reshaping of the A-pillar and side mirrors and lowering the position of the aerodynamic windshield wipers. In addition, the Limited model offers a specially designed acoustic windshield to further quiet the cabin.
At 3490 lbs., my Classic silver Metallic test Avalon measured 197.2 inches long, 58.5 inches high and 72.8 inches wide on a 111-inch wheelbase and a minimum ground clearance of 5.3 inches. A new color offered for 2010 is Coco Bean Metallic, which has replaced Indigo Ink Pearl on Avalon’s exterior palette.
Under the front-wheel drive Avalon’s hood is a 3.5-liter V-6 engine mated to six-speed automatic transmission. The set-up produces 268hp and 248 lbs-ft. of torque and is EPA rated at 19mpg in city driving and 28mpg on the highway.
My tests in Avalon were surprising as they were one of the few times in which my test runs exceeded manufacturer’s claims. Toyota claims a zero to 60mph time of 7.1 seconds and my tests were hand-timed at 6.9 seconds in the sprint and a formidable 15.4 seconds for the quarter-mile. Additionally, nearly 500 miles of mixed-use tests on interstates, city streets, country roads and a few track burn-outs yielded an average of 26mpg, which is a very high figure in the elegant automobile niche.
Avalon is responsive, quiet, smooth and poised, thought soft suspension causes some float over highway irregularities, and light steering makes for a luxury-but-not-sporty feel. Acceleration is good at all levels and the manual shift capability (Electronically Controlled Transmission with intelligence) is one of the better manumatics on the market.
In the cabin is where Avalon pampers with Lexus-like amenities and comfort. Front headroom is 38.9 inches with 37.5 in row two, legroom measures 41.3 and 40.9 and shoulder room is 59.4 and 58.2.
Avalon's elegant interior sports outstanding fit-and-finish, leather-wrapped steering wheel and heated and ventilated perforated leather-trimmed driver and front passenger seats are heated and ventilated. The front of the driver’s seat cushion length is power-adjustable, offering improved thigh support, and also part of the Limited trim are tilt and telescopic steering column; steering wheel mounted audio and climate controls; multi-function information display with audio, climate control, temperature and trip computer; cruise control; engine immobilizer security system; a maintenance indicator light, a one-touch auto-reverse power rear sunshade, memory driver's seat, rain-sensing wipers, HID headlamps and the Smart Key System. The standard rear sunshade retracts when the driver shifts from Drive into Reverse, then re-extends when the driver shifts back into Drive.
Avalon’s safety is also on a par with Lexus as its 5-star crash test results attest. Avalon safety features include anti-lock brakes, electronic brakeforce distribution, brake assist, dual front airbags, front row side torso airbags, front and rear side curtain airbags, a driver's knee airbag, Vehicle Stability Control, traction control, rain-sensing wipers and active head restraints.
This Lexus in Toyota badging is aggressively priced at $36,534 and incentives knock that down to $35,285, arguably one of the best luxury buys of the year. Options on my test ride included 8-way power seats with power lumbar support and carpeted floor mats and Navigation with JBL audio, dynamic laser cruise control, Voice-activated DVD navigation system with JBL Synthesis® AM/FM 6-disc in-dash CD changer with MP3/WMA playback capability, satellite radio, auxiliary audio jack, hands-free phone capability via Bluetooth® wireless technology, 360 watts (maximum output) with 12 speakers including subwoofer, in-glass antenna and FM diversity reception for $2900, as well as Wheel Locks ($67), Paint protection film ($395) and delivery and processing ($750) for a very tempting bottom line of $39,397.
The 2010 Toyota Avalon is due for a generational upgrade and remake soon, but as it stands and rides, this year’s model fares well when considered as a Lexus family member in Toyota garb and at Toyota pricing.
Visit www.CarlisleEvents.com for more on the automotive hobby.
Mike Blake, former editor of KIT CAR magazine, joined Carlisle Events as senior automotive journalist in 2004. He's been a "car guy" since the 1960s and has been writing professionally for about 30 years.
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