2011 Avalon New Car Test Drive
The full-size 2011 Toyota Avalon might be Toyota's best sedan. We think it's as good as more expensive Lexus models, and better than the less-roomy Lexus ES350.
Toyota calls the 2011 Avalon redesigned, but its V6 engine, 6-speed automatic transmission and other mechanical components are carryover. We'd call it mildly re-styled and updated inside for 2011.
The 2011 Avalon improves on already impressive fuel economy ratings by 1 mpg. Also, the 2011 Toyota Avalon line-up is reduced to two models: Loaded, and really loaded. In reality, the Avalon gets just a tad better at what it already did really well. We'd described it as refuge from a hectic world.
The Avalon may not be exciting by any familiar automotive definition, but it can thrill on a daily basis with its smoothness, overall easy operation and sound, uncomplicated functionality. There's no dishonesty in this car, because it doesn't pretend to be anything it isn't.
Avalon's serenity flows from many things, including its underlying design, vibration-mitigating features and good build quality. Whatever the reasons, the Avalon is more tranquil than many sedans that cost a lot more. Empty-nesters will appreciate it for its comfort and flexibility, and families for its space, low operating cost and extensive list of standard equipment.
The base 2011 Avalon comes with just about everything any driver really needs, and then some, including leather seating, dual-zone automatic climate control, and a good stereo with Bluetooth, XM satellite radio and a CD changer. The Avalon Limited adds luxury class ventilated front seats, a power-operated rear window sunshade and mega-watt JBL surround audio.
Its styling may not be flashy, but Avalon's interior is first rate, It's finished with pleasing materials, equipped with ergonomically functional controls and filled with storage nooks. The front seats are roomy and comfortable, the back seat downright spacious. The Avalon rides as comfortably as any car made, almost impervious to the worst roads we travel.
It also delivers good acceleration and mileage for such a roomy car. Its automatic transmission is quick shifting and decisive. It's pleasant to drive for just about any purpose, but it's never sloppy, and it won't fail you if you happen to be in a hurry. The standard array of safety equipment surpasses that required by federal law, including a knee-protection airbag for the driver, and Avalon performs well in government and insurance-industry crash tests.
Bottom line, the Toyota Avalon is easy to like and even easier to enjoy. A test drive might leave you wondering why anyone seeking a smooth, quiet, roomy sedan would pay more than it takes to buy an Avalon.
The 2011 Toyota Avalon lineup has been streamlined, with just two thoroughly equipped models. Both come with a 268-horsepower, 3.5-liter V6 and 6-speed automatic transmission.
The Avalon ($32,595) comes standard with leather upholstery, a full complement of power accessories and features such as full-power front seats, dual-zone climate control with cabin air filter, audio and climate controls on the steering wheel, a power moonroof, auto-dimming rearview mirror with compass and Homelink universal transceiver, fog lights and 17-inch alloy wheels. The audio system has nine speakers, a six-CD changer, XM satellite radio receiver, a USB connector and Bluetooth wireless connectivity. Options include heated front seats ($440), memory seats with heating and cooling ($1,020), and premium, 660-watt JBL Synthesis audio ($900) with 12 speakers. The Navigation System with JBL Audio ($2,350) uses a 4CD changer and includes a rearview camera. Dealer installed options include remote start.
Avalon Limited ($35,835) adds a proximity key with pushbutton start, HID headlamps, a wood-and-leather-trimmed shift knob and steering wheel, rain-sensing windshield wipers and a power sunshade for the rear glass. Options for the Limited are limited to a touch-screen navigation system with voice control ($1,450) and rearview camera; and special paint colors ($220).
Safety features on all Avalons include front-impact airbags, a driver's knee airbag, seat-mounted side-impact airbags for front passengers, side-curtain head-protection airbags for outboard passengers front and rear and active front seat headrests, which are intended to cradle the head more effectively in a rear impact and limit whiplash injuries. Active safety features include Vehicle Stability Control (VSC), anti-lock brakes (ABS) with electronic brake-force distribution (EBD) and Brake Assist, and a tire pressure monitor. The optional rearview camera included with the navigation system can help the driver spot a child or pedestrian when backing up and we recommend getting it.
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