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2013 Toyota Avalon

 

While some things never change, others do; case in point, the 2013 Toyota Avalon. Once designed specifically to be the “old folk’s” Toyota, the all-new 2013 Avalon has been infused with an athleticism previously considered way too risqué for Toyota’s flagship. Its look is sexy, its equipment is decidedly high-tech, and it goes with vigor previously unknown to sedans wearing its nameplate.

Introduced in 1994 as a 1995 model, the Avalon was built in the United States, specifically for American drivers. That first Avalon offered a bench seat, enabling the driver and two passengers to occupy the front seat. Further, it offered a column shifter, the first in a Toyota model sold in North America since 1982. In other words, high performance and sex appeal were way down the list of priorities for that car.

Over the years values change too; 60 is the new 40 and Toyota’s product planners have come to realize drivers ”of a certain age” are looking for more excitement and dynamic feedback from their cars. Meanwhile, thirty is still thirty and getting younger buyers into the fold is always a worthy goal. Thus, the 2013 Avalon is a near 180-degree departure from that original model.

Just look at it, crisply styled yet fluidly curvaceous; this Avalon stands out where previous cars wearing the name of the town on California’s Catalina island blended into the woodwork. Elegance and sportiness can reside together and the new Avalon is rolling proof of that fact. The four-door coupe profile that’s all the rage now is worn well here. We love the look of the car, except for the front end. That over-sized grille treatment is popping up on so many cars these days, and robs every design incorporating it of sleekness. Other than that face though, the new Avalon is one handsome piece.

The interior reflects this new sensibility as well. The touch sensitive controls on the dash are très moderne and telegraph the wealth of tech hiding behind its façade. Wisely, the interior designer stuck with rotary knobs for the volume and tuning functions of the audio system. Naturally Avalon is capable of interfacing with your smartphone via Toyota’s Entune system so apps like MovieTickets.com, Pandora Radio, OpenTable, iHeartRadio, and Bing are optimized for in-car usage. And yes, the SiriusXM Satellite Radio connection delivers weather, traffic, stocks, and sports scores.

The bench seat from ’94 is long gone, as is the column shifter, but the comfort remains, even while the current seats are more supportive and handsome. Toyota’s representatives make much of the craftsmanship that went into sewing the elements of the interior together and it shows. Inside the 2013 Avalon is a very pleasant place to be.

Two powerplants are offered; the conventional gasoline fired 3.5-liter V6 generates 268 horsepower and 248 ft-lbs. of torque. Three drive modes; a six speed transmission and front-wheel drive complete the basic setup. The drive modes are Sport, Normal, and Eco, and are calibrated to adjust throttle response and transmission shifting characteristics to provide performance when its wanted, economy when its needed, or a blend of the two when it doesn’t matter at all. Combined fuel economy with this powertrain is 25 mpg.

The other propulsion system offered is of course a gasoline/electric hybrid set up. The same one found in the current Camry Hybrid, a 2.5-liter inline four-cylinder engine is paired with an electric motor and the same six-speed automatic transmission for a total system output of 200 horsepower. In addition to the three drive modes the V6 system gets, the hybrid configuration also gets an EV mode. This enables the Avalon to run purely on electricity at speeds of up to 20 miles per hour.

Going down the street, Avalon delivers a comfortable, well-damped ride, with good reflexes when changes of direction are requested. Its steering feels direct, acceleration with both engines is good and braking is strong, albeit somewhat devoid of feel in the hybrid version of the car. Handling on twisty roads is actually entertaining, and there’s even an XLE Touring model with 18-inch wheels, paddle shifters, and throttle blips on downshifts. This, most assuredly, is NOT your old-school Avalon.

We’re talking the top Toyota model here, so you know the Avalon can be had with near-Lexus levels of kit. In fact, the top of the line Avalon Limited flaunts HID headlamps, LED daytime-running lamps, rain-sensing windshield wipers, three-zone climate controls, a seven-inch premium Entune setup, four heated seats and cooed front seats too.

Pricing for the 2013 Toyota Avalon starts at $30,990. Avalon Hybrid starts at $35,555.