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2015 Toyota Avalon Test Drive


First Impressions

According to Toyota, the restyled 2015 Avalon (view photos) evokes “a time when travel was sophisticated, elegant, and comfortable.” This is not entirely untrue, depending on how you might define “sophisticated” and “elegant.” If you’re familiar with the 2005-10 Avalon, the new one is obviously different, appearing to have borrowed from a Chinese styling rulebook that states the equation “chrome = class.” And if you’re not familiar with the 2005-10 Avalon, you’ll probably just think that the new one looks nice and sparkly, if you happen to notice it at all.

For 2015, Toyota has redesigned the Avalon’s front and rear ends, adding revised headlights and taillights, a new hood and trunk, restyled bumpers, reshaped rocker panels, and redesigned wheel choices. Oh, and there’s a big, new, shiny chrome grille up front.

Honestly, we liked the way old car looked. It was more cohesive and conservative, handsome without trying too hard, a subtle car competing in a class filled with designs that are almost desperate to attract notice. The 2015 Avalon remains generically appealing and is almost harder to spot in a crowd than before, except for that garish grille that’s tacked onto the front end. But, if you can get past that, it turns out the Avalon is a pretty good car even if it hasn’t been completely redesigned since 2005.


Pricing, Trims and Options

One thing Toyota did this year is to simplify the number of Avalons it offers. For 2015, the standard model and the upscale Limited are the only models available. Starting at $32,445, the base model isn’t really basic at all, including leather upholstery, an eight-way power driver’s seat, dual-zone climate control, a power moonroof, and a Bluetooth-enabled stereo with XM satellite radio and USB/iPod connectivity. Other standard features include an auto-dimming rearview mirror with an integrated reversing camera display, power heated outside mirrors with auto-dimming glass, Homelink, and 17-inch alloy wheels. A handful of options can be added to the standard Avalon, including a premium JBL Synthesis audio system, heated front seats, a touch-screen navigation system with real-time traffic, heated front seats, an eight-way power front passenger’s seat, and memory settings for the driver’s seat and outside mirrors.

The Avalon Limited is $35,685, and for that $3,240 premium you get added comfort features in the form of perforated leather, a power driver’s seat cushion extension, an eight-way power front passenger’s seat, and heating and ventilation for the front seats. Rain-sensing wipers are also included on the Avalon Limited, along with HID headlights with LED light pipes, exterior mirror puddle lamps, and Toyota’s Smart Key keyless ignition and locking system. Chrome door handles and 10-spoke mirror-finish alloy wheels differentiate the Limited on the outside, while the interior has a standard 12-speaker JBL Synthesis audio system with 660 watts of power and a power rear sunshade that automatically retracts when the car is placed in Reverse. The only option on the Avalon Limited is a touch-screen navigation system with real-time traffic.

All 2015 Toyotas come with a Toyota Care complimentary maintenance plan as standard equipment. Toyota Care covers the Avalon for two years or 25,000 miles after purchase, whichever comes first, and covers basic maintenance like oil changes, chassis lubrication, and tire rotations. Additionally, Toyota Care features 24-hour roadside assistance during the effective time period.


Interior Features

When you open the 2015 Toyota Avalon’s door, you’ll see a redesigned interior featuring Optitron gauges, lots of woodgrain trim, and what the automaker calls “premium touchpoints,” which basically means anywhere you’re likely to rest an arm or touch with your hands and fingers is supposed to exude comfort and luxury.

The biggest departure from the old Avalon is the dashboard. Whereas the previous model featured an architectural, contemporary hooded gauge and navigation screen in its upper section and slick glowing buttons flanking a stereo that could be hidden behind a panel for a cleaner appearance, the new Avalon places all the controls in plain sight and within easy reach in a textbook control layout while the gauges reside in two deep binnacles separated by a chasm that is sure to collect lots of dust.

Though a new interior is usually praiseworthy, we actually liked the old Avalon’s cabin better. It looked modern, clean, crisp, and different from everything else in the class. Now, the car takes a step back in terms of appearance, looking a little cheaper and much more conventional. One Vehix evaluator said it looked like an economy car dashboard that was trying to fake luxury. Ouch.

Whatever you might think of the Avalon’s new interior, there’s no denying that it is super comfortable, super quiet, and super refined. The front console lid is padded and slides forward and back for greater comfort, and the door panel armrests are quite soft and soothing. What we liked was the power adjustable driver’s seat cushion extender in our Limited test car. Though we didn’t spend an entire day in the saddle, it’s easy to guess that the Avalon Limited would make for a great set of road trip wheels.

As comfortable as the front seats are, it’s the Avalon’s rear bench that really deserves comment. Even with tall people sitting in front, the Avalon is incredibly accommodating for rear passengers. A supportive seat cushion coupled with astounding leg room means the Avalon is perfect for family road trips or couples weekends to wine country. It can even recline for greater comfort.

Fill the Avalon with people for a trip, and you might be a little disappointed in the 14.4 cu-ft trunk, even though it looks positively enormous. While the trunk isn’t as roomy as say, a Ford Taurus, it does contain a full-size spare tire mounted to a matching alloy wheel, a rarity in today’s new-car market.


Safety, Quality and Reliability

Toyota, recently stung by a few issues that tarnished its reputation for safety, provides Avalon (view photos) owners with a full menu of features designed to preserve your life. Starting with the car’s seven airbags, including a knee airbag for the driver, the Avalon is equipped with stability and traction control, antilock brakes with electronic brake-force distribution and brake assist, and tire pressure sensors located at each wheel to provide the most accurate information possible. Toyota has also redesigned the Avalon’s brake and accelerator pedal assembly for 2015, in hopes of eliminating any possibility of unintended acceleration.

The result is an Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) Top Safety Pick rating, the result of the organization assigning top performance scores in the offset frontal crash, side-impact crash, roof crush strength, and rear crashworthiness assessments. We cannot report crash-test results from the National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) because the federal agency has revised its test parameters for 2015 and had not evaluated an Avalon at the time this test drive was published.

When it comes to reliability, the Avalon is a solid choice. Consumer Reports appears to be hedging bets given the recent problems that Toyota has experienced, combined with minor engine troubles that have cropped up in 2005-06 Avalons (the engine in the 2015 is different from those older models). As such, the organization gives the Avalon an average predicted reliability rating, despite an evaluation chart that reflects almost all positive reports going back to 2005.

J.D. Power and Associates is more optimistic, claiming that the Avalon ranks “among the best” in terms of predicted reliability and longer-term dependability, the latter assertion based on a survey of owners with the 2014 Avalon parked in their driveways.



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