The Extra Mile: 2013 Avalon XLE Premium
Base Price: $33,195
Price As tested: $34,333
This week, we're in Toyota's all-new and completely redesigned 2013 Toyota Avalon, the marquee's top offering that sits at the doorstep of its luxury Lexus brand. Current owners already know that Avalon is not just an upgraded Camry, it's a distinct and significant Toyota statement that rides on a longer wheelbase than Camry and offers its' luxury in a more prudent form than upper-scale Lexus.
From front end to the rear quarters, Avalon's striking new design delivers a dramatic interior statement that Toyota designers say is "dedicated to rethinking how the driver and passengers can be moved - literally and figuratively." Consumers will appreciate rich, ambient lighting, heated leather front and rear seats, and cabin offerings centering on more technology and enhanced comfort.
As for return on investment, Avalon's price includes many of the same amenities of the Lexus entry level models, including the same platform mechanicals of the Lexus ES350. Considering the Lexus line starts at $36,100 while the 2013 Avalon starts at $30,990, there are four "grand" reasons potential buyers can ponder if thinking Avalon or Lexus. In addition to the price difference, both Avalon and Lexus ES350 are built on the same platform in Georgetown, Ky. As both have the exact same engine, transmission, suspension and wheelbase. Granted, the Lexus is dressed in "tuxedo" ware while Avalon receives a nice "three-piece suit," but hopefully this point is well taken by prospective, and more discreet, Avalon buyers.
Under the hood, Avalon's 3.5-liter V6 produces 268 horsepower and zero to 60 performances in the six second range. Power transfers through a front-drive six-speed automatic transmission to nice looking 17-inch alloy wheels on all-season tires.
Underneath, Avalon's tweaked suspension features a double MacPherson strut design, both in front and rear with offset coil springs and stabilizer bars. This "double MacPherson" setup results in a comfortable ride and excellent handling characteristics.
Our Avalon XLE had just about every feature available, as the only options included carpeted floor mats for $225, bumper appliqué for $69 and cargo net for $49. Other than that, whatever "extra" you might pay for in other cars comes standard with top line Avalons.
Avalon XLE's standard features include a power moon roof, safety backup camera, 6.1-inch Touch Screen control module and an impressive high-end eight-speaker stereo/CD system. Toyota's "Star Safety" system is also notable, as 10 air bags, electronic brakeforce, traction control and much more keep everyone inside as safe as possible.
How about the top line Avalon Limited? This one starts at $39,650 and includes literally everything imaginable except the Lexus nameplate.
I especially like XLE's quad-beam headlights and heated outside mirrors, both which assisted when several snowstorms hit our area during our test week. Toyota's front-drive traction abilities in snow are noteworthy as we drove over a hundred miles during snow with no problem whatsoever. Another plus is ease of passenger entry, as Avalon sits low to the ground allowing older seniors better entry and exit mobility.
Since Avalon's debut in 1995 and through its three previous "new model" generations, Toyota has been criticized for not being more aggressive with new generation designs. Prior to this year, I agreed with that statement as new Toyotas in all shapes looked similar to the models they replaced.
Today, things are changing for the better at Toyota design headquarters.
The 2013 Toyota Avalon truly is an all-new theme, taking a bold step forward by offering a more aerodynamic exterior, front grille treatment, three more highway MPG than last year's 3.5-V6, additional interior room, lighter curb weight and shorter overall length.
That, my friends, is what new cars are all about. 2013 Avalon is going to be a winner at the showroom, where finance incentives are awaiting.
Important numbers include a wheelbase of 111-inches, 5.5-inches of ground clearance, 3,461 lb. curb weight, 17 gallon fuel tank, 16 cu. ft. of cargo space and 21/31 EPA estimates.
Likes: New is really new, Toyota quality, quiet ride, price.
Dislikes: Not crazy about Touch Screen, but I'm learning.
(Greg Zyla is a syndicated auto columnist).