Like its Cressida ancestor, Toyota's Avalon has long focused on easy living comfort and value over sex appeal. Conservative sheetmetal, a cushy ride, space to spread out and general ease-of-use have historically made the brand's largest sedan popular among the elderly. But the new 2013 Avalon brings with it markedly more expressive styling that suggests Toyota is no longer content to cater to the end-of-life demographic. This shift away from a more traditional value set to edgier design and content is one the entire large non-premium sedan segment seems to be embracing – witness the newly upscale 2014 Chevrolet Impala, as well as the sculpted flanks of the 2012 Hyundai Azera and Ford Taurus.
The 2013 model's noticeably svelter sheetmetal, with its bolder front end and flowing greenhouse announce Toyota's intent, but it's features like a Sport mode and paddle shifters that really telegraph the Avalon's newfound vigor and more aspirational mission. And Toyota officials tell Autoblog that the already-shown V6 and hybrid models are just the beginning – a stand-alone sport model is also under serious consideration.
According to Randy Stephens, the model's chief engineer, a trio of Avalon concepts is headed to SEMA this October, with two of them having been completed internally – unusual for Toyota. The pair of concepts conceived in-house will have a performance bent, with at least one featuring an off-the-shelf supercharger from the company's TRD parts bin in Australia (the same forced-induction setup used in the Lotus Evora S). The house-built Avalons are said to not be as outrageously styled as most SEMA vehicles tend to be, in large measure because Toyota plans to weigh public opinion with an eye toward a production run.
A trio of Avalon concepts is headed to SEMA this October, with two of them having been completed internally – unusual for Toyota.
When asked if a sportier production Avalon model would be similar to the current Camry model's SE trim, Stephens quickly and decisively said, "No. It has to be more real." By "more real," Stephens means that a hotter Avalon would have to actually offer augmented performance. A production supercharged model? Highly unlikely. A performance tune of the Avalon's 2GR-FE 3.5-liter V6 (268 horsepower, 248 pound-feet of torque) is more plausible, along with a reworked suspension and appropriate visuals. With the 2013 model's switch to electric power steering, it would also be easy to remap the wheel's turn-in and weight.
The Georgetown, Kentucky-built Avalon hits dealers this fall in both standard and hybrid flavors. If given the green light, a performance will probably take another couple of years.