Toyota’s flagship sedan, the Avalon, is stylishly elegant for 2013, offers more technology and safety features than ever and has a noticeably controlled and poised ride.
The Avalon also impresses with a base retail price that’s about $2,200 less than last year’s price.
The starting price, including destination charge, of $31,785 stems in part from the moonroof being removed from the list of standard equipment.
But leather seat and steering wheel trim, heated front seats and power-adjustable driver and front-passenger front seats remain on every Avalon.
The base engine – last year’s smooth and powerful 268-horsepower, 3.5-liter V-6 – is still there, too, and is mated to an updated six-speed automatic.
New standard features include 10 air bags, up from seven last year. There’s a new eBin, too, in which drivers can manage and store away plug-in devices like phone, radar detector, etc.
Consumer Reports puts predicted reliability at better than average.
The 2013 Avalon is about 2 inches shorter in length and about an inch lower than its predecessor. It still looks generously sized, and some auto reviewers still refer to the Avalon as a large sedan though the federal government continues to classify it as a midsize.
Interior dimensions are not changed much from last year’s model, save for rear-seat legroom, which went from 40.9 inches to 39.2 inches in the new car.
Cargo room now is a surprising 16 cubic feet vs. 14.4 cubic feet last year. Much of this space is under the rear window.
Other interior space dimensions are pretty much unchanged. For example, rear-seat headroom of 37.5 inches is nearly identical to that of last year’s sedan, and front-seat headroom of 38.5 inches is just 0.4 inch less than that in the 2012.
The test Limited, which is the top-of-the-line model, didn’t feel cramped, though the new-styled rear seats mean the middle person now sits atop a more contoured area than before. Taller passengers might brush against the ceiling.
The test car interior showed craftsmanship, with well-aligned trim pieces and nicely supple, perforated leather on the seats.
The only thing that didn’t feel right were the plastic-covered memory seat buttons. They pushed way in on the driver door and had a weak, cheap feel.
The new dashboard design is inviting, with a minimum number of buttons on the dashboard to control everything from navigation to audio to phone operation.
The design was simple, yet eminently usable.
It doesn’t take long to learn how the controls work, and the7-inch, high-resolution touchscreen had bright colors and large, legible letters for easy viewing.
The Avalon rode quietly much of the time, with little noise intruding.
Views out were a bit confined by the low stance of this car.
The tester with 18-inch tires rode more firmly than any previous Avalon tested, but it wasn’t harsh or even noticeable. The more controlled ride was in contrast to some pillowy rides in earlier generations and made for confident driving on twisty mountain roads.
Still, the Avalon remains, like its predecessors, one of the most comfortable cars for highway cruising.
The improved dynamics comes in part from stouter stabilizer bars, as the basic suspension design – MacPherson struts up front and dual-link MacPherson struts in back – remain.
Rack-and-pinion steering this year is electrically assisted and needs only a light touch, yet has a surprisingly decent on-center feel.
The V-6 provided strong power and moved the car easily along in city traffic and on the highway.
Paddle shifters on the steering wheel give convenient access to driver shifts, but just letting the automatic handle things created smoother transitions between gears.
The test car spent time in all three drive modes – normal, sport and eco – and averaged 21 mpg in driving that was 65 percent in the city and 35 percent at highway speed.
Regular unleaded is fine for the Avalon, which has a smaller, 17-gallon fuel tank this year instead of the 18.5-gallon tank last year.