On The Shore On The shore — 04 May 2013
Avalon: Toyota’s magic carpet ride

It’s early for ladies’ night at YOLO on Las Olas, and there’s already a pair of Porsches out front. The valet reluctantly agrees to park my borrowed Toyota Avalon next to them. “But you have to move it soon,” he warns.

The Avalon’s color is called “cypress pearl,” and it’s a fairly stunning hunter green that picks up the late afternoon light. The car is curvy, with bulges by the back wheels that look like muscled shoulders. A stylish crease runs across the doors like pleated tuxedo pants. The back end is Aston Martin rounded, and the front has a grille that glows with chrome accents.

“The inside is amazing,” the valet concedes. “It’s just like driving a Lexus.”

He’s right. Nearly every surface is covered in a leather-like material with attractive stitching and three matching colors.

But then there’s this: As the Avalon sat there – a redesigned and brand new car – the YOLO crowd passed casually by. Nobody stopped to peek inside. Not a one noticed the metallic paint shining in the sun. This is a car that won’t attract the attention of your neighbors. Your boss won’t wonder if he’s paying you too much.

For those who don’t care about impressing on ladies’ night, they will get a spectacular car. This is a car so well engineered that, decades from now, you will spot an Avalon and wonder if it’s the one you bought and sold years ago.

It became evident that the Toyota factory in Kentucky put together a brilliant car from my first zip onto the highway. The Avalon’s 268 horsepower engine is a potent force. It doesn’t work hard speeding onto I-95. And it will get 25 mpg doing it (40 in the hybrid), impressive for a large sedan.

At a cruise, the Avalon shines. The engine is noiseless at 80 mph, the electronic tachometer sitting as if the car were at idle. The cabin is spacious, with a good two inches on either side of my leg. The seats, as adjustable as a Craftmatic bed, are so big they’re reminiscent of the benches in the Buicks my grandparents used to drive.

That Buick comparison is an important one, because it’s clear Toyota was going for that market with its flagship sedan. It’s true that the Avalon drifts along, bouncing gently, like a magic carpet gliding on a soft breeze. Take the Avalon over speed bumps and railroad tracks and all you feel is a gentle up, a gentle down.

Back in my driveway during a weekend test drive, though, it sat out front without fanfare, without a single neighbor coming by to ask about it. Same thing at Publix and Home Depot.

Then I put it up front at a beach parking lot Sunday morning, and suddenly the Avalon seemed like a beauty queen. Tourists asked questions. A guy in a limo-length Lexus LS asked how much it cost. He was blown away to learn the bargain price of $33,195 – he could have bought three Avalons instead.

Next came a friendly Canadian with a French accent. He was eyeing the Avalon from a block away. He had just driven the wife down from Montreal in a Camry.

“Is that the new Avalon?” he asked. “It is very nice.” He peeked inside at the interior, tan and black and brown, matching like a runway model. “I could be very comfortable in this.”

And he’s right. He might just find the Avalon is a near-perfect car, as long as he doesn’t care about impressing the neighbors.

— Eric Barton


Toyota Avalon: For local dealers, see buyatoyota.com

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