2006 Avalon: typical Toyota with some surprising extras
I was in Detroit when this new one rolled onto the stage for the first time. After seeing all the glamorous metal you get to see first hand at the North American International Auto Show (automotive heaven if you ask me), the Avalon didn't get much of a reception.
Perhaps it'll look better out in the open, and perhaps it'll be a cracking car to drive. That's why I decided to try one out for myself, and see if this car would impress or depress.
One thing you can be assured of is the fact this car will impress you on quality. I really believe Toyota makes some of the best built, and their engineering is second to none. I have never come across a Toyota that was badly put together or unreliable.
I have, however, come across Toyotas that have been better looking than this one. The Avalon is fine and it has a few styling ideas nicked from other cars of other makes, but while it looks luxurious, it's not exactly what I'd call pretty.
Thankfully, the interior is much better on the eyes. First of all, it is very spacious, front and back. It's almost like a short limo in the rear, so if your rear seat passengers are complaining, it won't be due to lack of space or comfort.
In the front, you have a wonderful dash that exudes luxury. I loved the way it looked, and everything was within easy reach. The buttons on the dash that were a bit far for the driver were repeated on the steering wheel. The only annoying bit in the front is the old-fashioned style cruise control switch. I don't know why all Toyota cars have the same switch, which looks like a cheap aftermarket job, but they all do. Toyota, with all your expertise, you can surely integrate some nice cruise control switches on the steering wheel.
While developing that, also work on an electronic traction control device; this car spun its front wheels in wet conditions very easily. Another item I found missing was automatic windshield wipers. I know that sort of gadget is not necessary, but if cheaper cars like the Mazda3 have them, this calibre of car should have it too. All you get are speed sensitive wipers, so at a stoplight they wipe slowly, and at any moving pace, they speed up. Clever, but not clever enough.
It did come with automatic headlights though, and the xenon lights on this car were better than just about any xenon lights I had ever come across. This made driving at night a very visible affair. Driving at night also meant you could enjoy the way the dash lights up. They really did a good job with this.
As is the case with the engine. The Avalon gets a 3.5 litre, V6, with variable valve timing, with an intelligence feature. So, as a result, not only do you get 268 hp and 248 lb/ft of torque, you also get incredible fuel economy, especially on the highway. This Avalon did much better than the Kia Amanti I had a few months ago, yet the Avalon is much more powerful.
So, overtaking is not an issue with this car, especially if you use the manual-selector mode on the five-speed auto-box. One note to make on the automatic transmission: the pattern is a Mercedes-Benz style gate to select your gear, but it is nowhere as smooth as you shift from “Park” to any other gear, and needs to be improved on.
The ride and handling could use some work too. It is neither as soft or comfortable as many luxury cars (in fact the afore mentioned Amanti is more comfortable), neither is it tight and responsive like a sports sedan (drive a Subaru Legacy GT and you'll know what I mean). It's a bit of an in-between in this department, and a compromise can never be the absolute best.
Now, we come down to the pricing. The base price is $39,900, and a loaded example is $46,825. The Touring edition I had is priced at $41,800, which is not bad for a car of this class.
Would I buy one?
Well Toyota, if I had the money I'd spend it on a Subaru Legacy GT. For the money, nothing else comes even close.