Right after SUVs and trucks, the next segment of vehicles suffering from low sales is the large sedan. This is especially true since the “crossover” vehicle has plucked buyers from all segments by those looking to have the driving characteristics of a car and the interior capacity of a small SUV. Nevertheless, nothing drives and handles like a car better than, well, a car. For 2009, Toyota’s largest, and most expensive sedan, the Avalon, gets further refinements.
The Avalon is based on a stretched version of the previous-generation Camry platform. The result of this expansion is that the rear floor is flat and the rear seats comfortably accommodate 3 adults. For those wondering whether their frequent need to seat 5 prohibits buying a car, the Avalon should easily satisfy that need. As the flagship Toyota sedan, the Avalon offers the highest level of appointments and features available and with an impressive display of the companies considerable strength in build quality and materials. For 2009, the Toyota Avalon gets a few more standard safety features, as stability control and active (whiplash-reducing) headrests and satellite ready audio systems. The Avalon is available in three trim levels: XL, XLS and Limited. The base Avalon XL comes with 16-inch alloy wheels, cloth upholstery, a power driver seat, a tilt/telescoping steering wheel, reclining rear seats, dual-zone automatic climate control and a nine-speaker stereo with an in-dash six-CD changer and an auxiliary audio jack. The middle-slotted XLS adds leather seating, wood-grain interior trim, a sunroof, a power front passenger seat, heated outside mirrors and auto-dimming rearview and driver-side mirrors. The top-of-the-line Limited adds keyless ignition/entry, rain-sensing wipers, perforated leather seats (with memory, heating and cooling), an upgraded 12-speaker JBL sound system, Bluetooth and a power rear sunshade. Many of the upscale features on the XLS and Limited are also available as options on the XL. Other options, depending on trim level, include a navigation system, an upgraded power passenger seat and laser-based adaptive cruise control.
In terms of power, the quiet and smooth riding front-wheel-drive Avalon does not come with a V8, but instead utilizes a strong 3.5 lier 268 horsepower V6 enginemated to a six-speed automatic that most critics feel is the best, and quickest, big sedans in this price range. The EPA’s fuel mileage estimates for the Avalon are 19 mpg city/28 highway and 22 combined. Standard safety equipment on the 2009 Toyota Avalon includes antilock disc brakes, front-seat side airbags, side curtain airbags and a driver-side knee airbag. This year, stability and traction control and active front headrests are also standard.
In government crash tests, the Toyota Avalon earned a perfect five stars in all frontal- and side-impact categories. In Insurance Institute for Highway Safety testing, the Avalon earned the top score of “Good” for its protection of occupants in frontal-offset and side-impact crashes. This accompanies the across-the-board top scores by many agencies that monitor reliability and ownership costs.
Toyota would not ever market the Avalon as a cheaper Lexus at the risk of poaching buyers from its luxury brand, but that is what the Avalon is. With a starting price at just over $27,000, buyers would have to shell out several thousand dollars more to buy a similarly equipped Lexus. For those that want the refinement and can do without the badging and price tag, the Avalon may be a perfect fit.