Monday, November 19, 2007

Satisfying, soothing, superbly detailed. #

Toyota Avalon is undoubtedly the best American car ever built by a Japanese manufacturer. Granted, it is front-wheel drive, and its exterior dimensions seem smaller than its American counterparts, but the Avalon is full-sized inside and full-sized in its emphasis on quiet, ease, and convenience.
The Avalon is smooth and comfortable underway, quiet and serene. The suspension is tuned for ride comfort, and it largely excels in this area. The double-overhead-cam V6 engine is smooth, quiet and powerful, while the electronically controlled five-speed automatic transmission ensures smoothness and economy. And Avalon comes with the latest in safety features.

Inside is a comfortable cabin lavished with tasteful materials and ergonomically designed controls that make the Avalon easy to operate and pleasant to drive. The front seats are roomy and comfortable, and special attention was paid to back-seat comfort. This is a car that will never annoy you.

Avalon's styling is understated, presenting a quiet look of grace and agility. Four trim variations are available, each representing slightly different priorities to broaden Avalon's appeal. Avalon was completely redesigned late in 2005. For '07, a tire pressure monitor is now standard on all models, and the navigation system is now available in the Touring trim level.

Avalon benefits from Toyota's reputation for quality, durability and reliability. And, given that it was designed in Newport Beach, California; engineered by the Toyota Technical Center in Ann Arbor, Michigan; and is built in Georgetown, Kentucky; it could be argued that the Avalon is the best American car from an American manufacturer.


The 2007 Toyota Avalon is available in four trim levels: XL, Touring, XLS, and Limited. All are powered by a 3.5-liter V6, connected to a five-speed automatic transmission with a sequential-shift feature.
Avalon XL ($26,875) comes with cloth upholstery; eight-way adjustable power driver's seat; dual-zone climate control with air filtration; a premium-level AM/FM/CD/cassette stereo with nine speakers; remote keyless entry; power door locks with anti-lockout feature; power windows with driver and passenger auto up/down, pinch protection and retained power; Optitron instruments with chrome accents; maintenance indicator light; steering-wheel-mounted audio and climate controls; and a multi-function information display for audio, climate control, temperature and trip computer. The XL also has cruise control, an engine immobilizer and a tilt and telescoping steering column. Tires are 215/60R16 on aluminum wheels, and the spare tire is full-sized, with a matching aluminum rim. A tire-pressure monitor is now standard as well.

The Touring model ($29,125) features more aggressive suspension tuning and 17-inch alloy wheels with P215/55R17 Michelin MXV4 tires. Touring also upgrades to leather-trimmed seats with four-way power for the front passenger, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, and aluminum scuff plates. Also distinguishing the Touring are high-intensity-discharge (HID) head lamps, fog lamps, and a rear decklid spoiler.

The XLS ($31,325) reverts to standard headlights and suspension, keeps the fog lamps and 17-inch tire size, and adds a power moonroof, in-dash six-disc CD changer, dual heated outside mirrors (with electrochromic auto-dimming on the driver's side), an auto-dimming rearview mirror with compass and Homelink universal transceiver, and an anti-theft system.

The Limited ($34,065) adds a 360-watt JBL Synthesis audio system with six-disc CD changer and 12 speakers, a one-touch auto-reverse power rear sunshade, power driver's seat cushion length adjuster, the Smart Key system, unique 17-inch alloy wheels, HID headlamps, a wood-and-leather-trimmed shift knob and steering wheel, rain-sensing windshield wipers, and a driver and passenger seat heater and cooling fan.

Stand-alone options include the power moonroof ($910), in-dash six-CD changer ($200), and anti-theft system ($220). Touring and above offer heated seats packaged with VSC stability control ($1,090), the JBL Synthesis sound system ($840), navigation system ($1,900), and a JBL/navigation package ($4,005). Dynamic laser cruise control ($600) is optional on Limited only.

Safety features that come standard on all models include driver and front-passenger airbags, seat-mounted side-impact airbags for torso protection, side curtain airbags for head protection, and a driver's knee airbag. Active safety features include anti-lock brakes (ABS) with Electronic Brake-force Distribution (EBD). Optional on all Avalons is Vehicle Stability Control (VSC) with Traction Control and Brake Assist ($650).


At first glance, the '07 Toyota Avalon appears as an elegant, if unassuming, sedan. A second glance and it looks sleek, powerful, and advanced.
The Avalon line dates back to 1995, and was completely redesigned for 2000. This third-generation Avalon was launched as a 2005 model and carries into 2007 unchanged in appearance. It projects more character and looks more contemporary than either previous-generation Avalon, with a wider, longer stance. This is especially apparent from the rear, where a tall deck, large tail lamps and dual exhaust outlets suggest an expensive touring sedan. The handsome rear deck line remains undisturbed by a wing, except in the Touring grade, which mounts a rear lip spoiler consistent with its sporty wheels and brighter accents.

The front of the Avalon is dominated by a horizontal grille with chrome-accented bars, and a wide lower intake valence calling attention to its width. The lines created by the valence are extended by use of fog lamps on the Touring, XLS and Limited models.


Climbing inside reveals an elegant cabin, remarkably clean and uncluttered, and very roomy. Choose the leather upholstery and it feels quite luxurious. The leather used for the seat and door trim is first class, with attractive stitching to tie it all together. Wood trim is tasteful and beautiful, and it warms up the cabin.
The front seats are firm but not hard and relatively flat. They're quite comfortable and feature power adjustments and optional memory functions. In addition to heated front seats, the Limited model features a fan in the seat cushion and seatback that blows cabin air through the perforated leather trim to improve comfort. Knobs for seat heating and cooling are conveniently located on the center console. The front of the driver's seat bottom is power adjustable, offering improved thigh support. And the steering column tilts and telescopes. In short, these seats will not permit any form of discomfort, no matter what the conditions. They provide an apt analogy for the entire car, a vehicle possessed of small comforts that add up to a satisfying environment to soothe the driver.

The Optitron instruments are elegant and technically appealing displays, round in shape but unmistakably advanced. Retracting lids hide controls for audio and navigation, reducing clutter. The action of the retracting covers is slow and measured, with the look and satisfying feel of high-end audio equipment. These covers and panels are silver-painted plastic, following a trend started by Lincoln, Nissan and others. We wonder how good they'll look in five years. And some other trim pieces, such as the housing for the steering column, show this isn't an expensive luxury car. In the Limited model, however, this is offset by a handsome steering wheel trimmed in wood and leather. Overall, Avalon's interior feels upmarket and high quality. Wood accents, particularly on the Limited, are attractive and judiciously placed. The chrome door scuff plates on the Touring grade, particularly, are notably attractive and distinctive.

The navigation system is excellent and we recommend it. The controls to operate it are behind a panel that folds out like an ashtray in front of the shifter. It's an unconventional design, but it works and the controls are fairly easy to reach. The buttons used to control navigation, climate and audio are superb, big, clearly marked, illuminated and easy to operate.

The roominess of the cabin extends to the back seats. Rear-seat legroom is particularly generous, with three-across seating facilitated by the totally flat floor. We rode in the rear seat, directly behind a six-foot driver, with legroom to spare. In fact, there's enough room that we could imagine the Avalon as a taxi. The rear seat is comfortable, and offers 10 degrees of adjustment to create five sitting positions. Reclining the backrest effectively increases headroom, so people of varying heights and sizes can find comfort.

The trunk is family sized, with a pass-through door to the rear seat for long gear such as skis.

The Limited model comes with a Smart Key that eliminates the need to pull it out of your pocket or purse. To use it, just walk up to the car. At a touch, all four doors unlock. Climb in. Foot on the brake, touch the Start button and the car hums to life. No fumbling with keys.

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