First Drive | 2019 Toyota Avalon Touring

Automakers are killing large sedans left and right due to declining sales. As the market shifts towards crossovers and SUVs, American brands like Ford, Chevrolet and Chrysler – once known for their big iconic family sedans – are rumored to be killing off the Taurus, Impala and 300 nameplates respectively. Yada, yada, yada, nobody wants a sedan anymore.  

Toyota hasn’t given up the fight just yet. Feast your eyes on the all-new 2019 Toyota Avalon. It’s lower, wider, sportier and seeking a younger buyer – mind you, the median age of the previous-gen Avalon buyer is 64 (!) years old. And as far as I can tell, the 2019 Toyota Avalon Touring is a solid vehicle with a refined ride, loads of tech, and more aggressive driving dynamics and styling that might scare grandpa away.  

Exterior

EXTERIOR

The Toyota Avalon has never been the most exciting car to look at. Even Toyota themselves poked fun at the bland Avalons of the past during a presentation at the Del Mar, California press event. In its fifth iteration, it’s a completely different story.

Just look at that grille. In less sporty XLE and Limited guise (shown above), chrome accents and horizontal bars make the grille look even more mammoth. Things are much improved on the XSE and Touring models with a gloss black mesh grille. Either way, the new unified lower and upper grille design creates a polarizing look that’s hard to miss. The Avalon’s big mouth is also flanked by available, Audi-esque, all-LED headlights with sequential turn signals that excite the five-year-old in me.

Out back, things are decidedly sharp with a central reflector connecting the sculpted taillights and aggressive quad-exhaust tips on XSE and Touring models. Those trims also get some snazzy 19-inch, 10-spoke wheels to finish off the sporty look. Give or take the behemoth grille, the 2019 Avalon is an attractive looking package that may garner a second look.

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INTERIOR

Inside, the cabin is handsome and more subdued than the exterior. Front and center is a sweeping, partially “floating” center console with a standard nine-inch touchscreen up top. Soft-touch materials adorn the cabin, while real aluminum and/or wood accents class things up.

Nicely laid out and weighted controls elevate the sense of quality. Keeping that “younger buyer” in mind, designers also squared off one of the cup holders to cater to us youngins who don’t actually put drinks there anymore.

With dad or mom likely at the helm, more youthful occupants in a Toyota Avalon will likely spend most of their time in backseat – arguably the better place to be. There’s loads of head, leg and knee room with a comfortable seat cushion and two USB ports to keep mobile devices charged.

Behind the rear seat is a trunk bigger than the front grille. Unlike the last-gen Avalon, the Hybrid model has the same amount of trunk space as its gas-powered sibling. Thanks to clever repositioning of the battery pack, it now discreetly resides underneath the rear bench seat, not directly behind it like years past.

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TECHNOLOGY

Toyota is one of the last brands to implement Apple CarPlay – something even a $15K Chevrolet Spark comes standard with. Thankfully, the Avalon serves as the first Toyota vehicle to feature the tech as standard equipment on its large nine-inch touchscreen. Android Auto still remains noticeably absent due to “customer privacy” concerns, according to Mark DeJongh, Avalon’s Executive Program Manager.

The Avalon also makes use of the updated Entune 3.0 infotainment system. During my short drive, I found the system easy to use with crisp graphics, quick response times, and (praise the Lord) actual hard buttons and knobs surrounding the screen. An optional 1,200-watt, 14-speaker JBL stereo system also impresses with its crisp, bass-filled, vibration-free sound quality.

Beyond infotainment, the Avalon also comes packed with standard safety tech. Toyota Safety Sense P blesses all Avalons with standard lane departure alert with lane keeping assist, adaptive cruise control, and a pre-collision system with pedestrian detection. Features like blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, auto-braking rear cross traffic alert and a bird’s eye view camera are also available. 

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DRIVING IMPRESSIONS

What may steer away the older buyers the most from the 2019 Avalon is, well, the heavier steering. Throwing this big sedan into the curvy mountain roads of Del Mar, California netted a surprisingly quick turn in with a weighty steering feel to back it up. 

Adaptive Variable Dampers (standard on Touring models) adjust to different road conditions in as little as 20 milliseconds to ensure a composed ride on rough pavement or through the twisty bits. Even in the most aggressive Sport+ mode, the ride is never denture-rattling stiff.

Powering all non-hybrid Avalons is a 3.5-liter V6 sending 301 horsepower and 267 pound-feet of torque to the front wheels. The 8-speed automatic paired to the V6 delivers quick downshifts when asked, but otherwise operates quietly with smooth, almost imperceptible upshifts.  

While unwanted noises are kept to a minimum, XSE and Touring amp up engine noise with an intake sound generator that is noticeably louder in Sport S and Sport+ mode. Touring models also come standard with a sport-tuned exhaust that makes a subtly snarly note

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VERDICT

A base 2019 Toyota Avalon XLE will set you back about $35,500, while the Touring model I spent most of my time in starts at $42,200. Hybrid variants add a grand to each trim level, except the Touring model, which can’t be had as a hybrid.

At either price, you’re getting a well-rounded vehicle that delivers refined driving dynamics and a stack of standard infotainment and safety tech in a boldly styled package. I think it’s safe to say the Avalon may actually attract a younger buyer … under 64. 


Base Price: $35,500
Price as Tested (Touring): $42,000+ (est.)
EPA City/HWY: 22/32 mpg
Engine: 3.5L V6
Power: 301hp, 267lb-ft
Drivetrain: FWD