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2011 Toyota Avalon Limited Review & Test Drive

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Toyota introduces a newly designed Avalon Limited sedan that teams its 268hp V6 engine with a six-speed automatic transmission for higher fuel economy, while evoking a time when travel was sophisticated, elegant and comfortable.  This new 2011 Avalon, the Toyota ‘flagship’ large sedan, combines a distinctive new exterior design and a restyled interior rich with premium touch points and practical new technologies making it an excellent choice for the smart consumer.

The 2011 Avalon is available in two grades, Avalon and Avalon Limited.  Both come well equipped with standard leather-trimmed seats and interior, eight-way power driver’s seat, back-up camera, dual zone automatic climate control with air filtration, electric moonroof, and 17X7in. alloy wheels wrapped with 215/55R17in. all-season Bridgestone radial tires.  The Avalon Limited, that I tested, adds cooled/heated front bucket seats, an eight-way power passenger seat with lumbar support, driver’s seat cushion extension, rain-sensing, variable-speed intermittent wipers/washers, and Push Button Start/Stop with Smart Key that automatically turns on the interior lights, and unlocks the front doors with your keyfob in your pocket or purse.  The Avalon grade can be optioned with a JBL Synthesis sound system and heated front seats.  The Toyota touch-screen color navigation system is optional for both grades.

The all-new Avalon was designed at the Toyota Calty Design Research Center in Newport Beach, California, projecting a new elegant and outgoing presence.  A wider, more substantial grille ties into the standard projector headlamps, HID lamps come standard on the Limited, and ‘light pipes’ are used to create a signature night-time appearance.  The front foglamps, now integrated into a trapezoidal front bumper are trimmed with chrome and provide a wider illumination.

From the side the 2011 Avalon features steeply raked A-pillars, flared fender wells, and is further enhanced by the additional use of a full-perimeter chrome strip surrounding the greenhouse, chrome pull-out door handles, and a full-length chrome strip just below the door sill.  The rocker panels and the glare-resistant power-remote/heated outside mirrors with integrated turn signals, are also redesigned.  The Limited adds new 17in. wheels with a ten-spoke design with a mirror finish. The flat trunk features a subtle lip spoiler at the end increasing downforce.

At the rear dual exhaust tailpipes are integrated into the cutaway trapezoid shape of the lower bumper for a modern image.  Reshaped taillights reduce turbulence at the rear helping to further reduce the car’s coefficient of drag.  The new taillights integrate stop, turn and side marker lighting functions in one combined lamp.  LED light pipes with dark aluminized sides and both clear and red lenses project the Avalon’s more modern appearance.  From any angle the all-new design gives the car a sleeker, flatter and wider style, even more elegant with additional chrome highlights.

The all-new 2011 Avalon also shows off a new contemporary style inside as well.  The new interior remains generously spacious and elegant, fitted with comfortable seating for up to five, with thoughtful integrated amenities.  Coordinated colors and rich new wood grain style and soft-touch materials convey the rich elegance of a large luxury sedan and shows Toyota’s ability to execute an excellent application of fit and finish.

A new instrument cluster incorporates visually attractive and easily readable vacuum fluorescent Optitron gauges that use graduated white illumination with white pointer needles.  These are set inside smoked lenses and deep chrome rings that add depth and a sense of luxury.  The metallic toned center stack holds all of the climate and audio controls neatly arranged in order using large, high-quality buttons and dials to set the dual-zone automatic climate control and premium JBL audio system.  The Avalon Limited’s elegant, manual tilt/telescoping, wood/leather wrapped steering wheel feels great in your hands and provides fingertip controls for Bluetooth hands-free phones, the audio system, climate control system and the vehicle information center.  Standard leather-trimmed front seats and seatbacks on the Avalon Limited are fitted with ventilation systems and an enlarged perforation area to help keep them cool.  Thicker stitching on the seats provides a stylish accent to the interior design.  For safety, active front headrests are also standard.  All controls, switches and levers are within easy reach for ease of use and fully illuminated for safe nighttime driving.

The rear seating area is configured to seat three passengers comfortably, with ample legroom, a flat floor, and reclining rear seats that are unique in the segment.  The rear headrests have also been reshaped and enlarged for better support, and a convenient flip-down center armrest provides storage and dual-cupholders when the middle seat is not in use.  A power rear sunshade, activated by a one-touch lever, filters direct sunlight coming through the rear window.  The sunshade, which helps to protect rear seat passengers from unwanted light and heat, automatically retracts when the driver selects reverse gear.  Also found in the rear seating area are map pockets behind each front seatback, air-vents located behind the center console.

Beyond the luxury of its spaciousness and obvious amenities, numerous details throughout the Avalon enhance the driving experience and passenger comfort.  You’ll notice that the dual-zone climate control system has nine airflow modes for more precise control of the interior environment, and a clean-air filter removes dust and pollen.  The vehicle doors use three stop positions instead of two for easier entry and exit; a lockable glove box has a pneumatic-door damper and inner box illumination.

The front console box features a sliding armrest that moves 4.7 inches front to rear to accommodate a wide range of driver positions; the elegantly stitched top is padded with a double density cushion material for softness.  Inside the console box, there is a 12-volt outlet in addition to the USB and auxiliary audio terminals.  Dual cupholders under a flip-up top provides even more storage, as does the storage area just below the front console storage box.  The Avalon even comes with a full-size spare tire on an alloy wheel, a rarity in any segment.

The 2011 Avalon presents the driver and passengers with a comprehensive array of user technology for enhanced function and connectivity.  New standard equipment includes Bluetooth hands-free phone and music streaming to the audio system from a compatible device, XM satellite radio, and both USB and 1/8 inch auxiliary connections for iPod and other audio devices.  Each of the three available audio systems can control iPods seamlessly using switches located on the steering wheel and display track information.

Toyota’s latest DVD navigation system has a newly adopted database and now has easier search and address input functionality.  The navigation system also offers new displays for road icons and points of interest, and keyboard screen arranged in the same way as a personal computer.  The Avalon grade’s standard nine-speaker system offers excellent sound quality, while the Limited grade features a standard 12-speaker, 660-watt JBL premium Synthesis audio system with enhanced two-coil sub-woofer.  The JBL system uses a 12-channel digital amplifier to deliver exceptional rich, full sound to all seats.

A re-view monitor function is standard in the rear-view mirror or with the available navigation system.  The rear-view mirror image includes on-screen back-up guides that help you to back into parking spaces or driveways.

More standard equipment in the Avalon Limited, not mentioned above, includes dual map lights, dual, lighted vanity mirrors, memory settings for the driver’s seat and side mirrors for two drivers, cruise-control, grab handles above each door, storage slots in each door, aluminum scuff plates at each door bottom, flip-down sunglass holder in the overhead console, all one-touch up/down windows, power door locks, gated, chrome/leather/wood stick shifter, thick cut-pile carpeting with front/rear floor mats, remote releases for the fuel filler door and trunk that also includes a light in the trunk with full carpeting.

I was totally impressed with the design of interior space, its standard comfort, luxury and amenities that brings that brings the new Avalon close to a full-blown luxury sedan, but how does it match up in power, performance and ease of driving?

Very well because under the hood is a 3.5 liter, DOHC, all-aluminum, 24-valve, V6 with VVT-i electronic valve control that ensures a broad powerband, while requiring less fuel and generating fewer emissions.  This potent engine generates 268hp at 6,200rpm and 248lb.ft. of torque at 4,800rpm.  That’s plenty of power to easily merge into fast-moving freeways, and quickly maneuver around slower traffic on crowded city streets.

For 2011, with the addition of a new, smooth-shifting six-speed automatic transmission with sequential shifting mode, the Avalon’s EPA ratings improve to 20mpg/city and 29mpg/highway, which is outstanding for the class and is better than some midsize six-cylinder models.  The 2011 certified as an Ultra Low Emission Vehicle (ULEV).

Handling this large sedan around city traffic, at speed on the freeways or when cornering is a easy with the fully independent MacPherson strut coil spring suspension with front and rear stabilizer bars that delivers a sophisticated blend of smooth ride quality and precise driving control in all situations.  The power-assisted rack & pinion steering combines with the front-wheel drive setup and optimized steering gear for an easy, natural handling feel.  It gives you quick response to your steering inputs with a great feel for the road.  You get an excellent smooth ride on poorly paved roads and the standard traction control and stability control systems keep you in control when driving over slick road surfaces or when cornering at high speeds.

Quickly and safely slowing the new Avalon down from speed are large, power-assisted steel disc brakes.  Up front are 11.7in. vented discs clamped with dual-piston calipers and 11.1in. solid discs clamped with single-piston calipers.  Standard ABS, EBD and BA help you stop quicker with more control.

Standard safety features include driver and front passenger airbags, driver and front passenger seat-mounted side airbags, front and rear side curtain airbags, driver’s knee airbag, side-impact door beams, front/rear crumple zones, direct tire pressure monitor, daytime running lights, 3-point safety belts for all seating positions with front seat load limiters/pretensioners, anti-theft system with engine immobilizer, and child seat anchors.

After one week behind the wheel of the all-new 2011 Toyota Avalon Limited I would have to say that I was impressed and that it achieves more than near-luxury in all areas that smart consumers are looking for when shopping for a full-size luxury sedan.  It does blur the line between near and full luxury in today’s modern sedans.



  • Price: Base $32,959 As-Tested $37,884
  • Wheelbase: 111 inches
  • Total length: 197.6 inches
  • Total width: 27.8 inches
  • Total height: 58.5 inches
  • Track: f/r-62.2/61.6 inches
  • Headroom: f/r-38.9/37.5 inches
  • Legroom: f/r-41.3/40.9 inches
  • EPA passenger volume: 106.9 cu.ft.
  • Cargo volume: 14.4 cu.ft.
  • Turning circle: 36.9 ft.
  • Fuel tank: 18.5 gallons
  • Curb weight: 3,616 lbs.
  • 0-60mph: 6.2 seconds
  • EPA mileage: 20mpg/city, 29mpg/highway

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