By Tim Spell, Motor Matters
Toyota's 2013 Avalon is a "real game changer," according to Rick LoFaso, the automaker's corporate manager, car marketing. "It marks the beginning of a new era for Toyota."
Fresh styling, efficient powertrains and the distinction of being Kentucky-built with 90 percent North American materials are among the reasons this flagship stands out in the Toyota lineup. While the previous Avalon attracted buyers in their late 60s, LoFaso expects the new model to appeal to younger "trail boomers," who are in their early 50s.
Contributing to the nameplate's expanded appeal, the new Avalon Hybrid accompanies V-6 gasoline models in the 2013 lineup. Gas-powered Avalons start at $30,990 for the XLE model and Hybrid pricing begins at $35,555 for the XLE Premium.
The 2013 Avalon is more compact than its predecessor. Height has been reduced by 0.98 inch and overhangs are shortened 0.50 inch up front and 1.77 inches in the rear. Complementing Avalon's more-athletic-looking exterior is a wider stance.
Adding elegance and more-youthful appeal is a longer, sweeping roof line, lower beltline, shoulder line that travels to the front fenders and a short decklid with subtle integrated spoiler.
Inside, styling gets a significant update. An interior highlight is the wider, more-modern-looking dashboard featuring hand-stitched soft-touch material and a sculpted, layered design. It has a distinctively shaped center panel, surrounded in smoke-chrome trim. The driver benefits from sharp Optitron-type gauges and a Thin-film Transistor color multi-information display. An Eco gauge gives feedback on how eco-friendly the car is being driven.
Seats, front and rear, in the five-passenger cabin are leather upholstered, and feature extra support with improved side bolstering. Passengers benefit from excellent headroom and legroom, front and rear, and ride quality is notably good. All is quiet within the well-insulated cabin, and engine sound barely is perceptible.
The Avalon gas-model's engine is the carryover 3.5-liter V-6, which delivers 268 horsepower at 6,200 rpm and 248 lb.-ft. of torque at 4,700 rpm. Mated with a six-speed automatic transmission, it propels the front-wheel-drive sedan from 0-60 mph in 6.7 seconds. Using regular-unleaded gas, the Avalon's estimated fuel economy is 21 miles per gallon city and 31 highway.
The powertrain has three drive modes -- Eco, Normal and Sport. Eco mode enhances fuel efficiency, but trades off with a sacrifice in low-speed throttle response. Selecting Sport mode ups throttle response and reduces electronic steering input.
Powering the Hybrid is Toyota's Hybrid Synergy Drive system featuring an efficient 156-horsepower 2.5-liter four-cylinder Atkinson engine teaming with a pair of electric motors. One motor does double duty as a starter and generates electrical power to operate the second electric motor, and charge the hybrid battery. Motor No. 2 assists the engine and provides electric power when accelerating from a stop.
The transmission functions similarly to a Continuously Variable Transmission, but acts as a power-split device for switching between and combining propulsion sources. Estimated fuel economy is 40 mpg city and 39 mpg highway.
The 2013 Avalon boasts the fuel efficiency consumers demand, as well as styling, which LoFaso said will make it a benchmark for its segment, and give the boost that will bring back the company's momentum.
2013 TOYOTA AVALON XLE
VEHICLE TYPE__________________ 5-passenger FWD midsize sedan
BASE PRICE_____________________ $30,990 (as tested: $31,785)
MOTOR TYPE___________________ 24-valve DOHC V-6
HORSEPOWER (net)_____________ 268 at 6200 rpm
TORQUE (lb.-ft.)_________________248 at 4700 rpm
TRANSMISSION_________________ 6-speed automatic
OVERALL LENGTH_______________ 195.2 in.
TURNING CIRCLE (curb-to-curb)___ 37.4 ft.
CURB WEIGHT__________________ 3,461 lbs.
FUEL CAPACITY________________ 17.0 gal.
EPA MILEAGE RATING___________ 21 mpg city, 31 mpg highway