2011 Toyota Avalon review: What a Carmy wants to be

2011 Toyota Avalon

2011 Toyota Avalon

What does a Toyota Camry want to be when it grows up? A Toyota Avalon. The Avalon, Toyota’s full-size sedan, is larger than every measure than the Camry but it fills the same niche psychographically.

Indeed, it’s not always easy for the non-Toyota person to tell the two apart at first glance, especially without some frame of reference. The Toyota Avalon and Toyota Camry share a traditional three-box configuration and inoffensive design, along with the signature characteristics of the Toyota family.

That’s even with the update the Toyota Avalon received for 2011, mostly to the front fascia, grille and headlamps.  The grille has more gravitas, wider and with heavier bars, meant to make the Avalon look like the wider car it is. The headlight clusters are now adorned with LED light pipes for what Toyota calls “a signature night-time appearance.”

At the rear, the 2011 Toyota Avalon gets new taillights, squared off for improved aerodynamics and with a new arrangement of the lighting elements. It would take the owner of an earlier Avalon to know the difference however, except that the 2011 Avalon has added red LED light pipes to the taillamp cluster.

2011 Toyota Avalon front seats

The front seats of the 2011 Toyota Avalon are wide and plush. (Click to enlarge).

Engineering refinements to the Avalon’s standard 3.5-liter V-6 engine don’t change its 268 horsepower output but do increase the EPA fuel economy rating to 20 mpg city and 29 mpg highway (up from 19 and 28 mpg respectively). That’s quite good for a full-size sedan, better than some smaller, mid-size four-doors. It’s a smooth and quiet engine and with a respectable 3,572 curb weight, the Avalon takes the worry out of saying “merge.”

The Toyota Avalon’s large exterior measurements are reflected in the Avalon’s interior, also updated for 2011. The front seats are wide and flat, and three across will fit in back. Everything inside the Avalon is big, in fact, including the large dials on the simple instrument panel and the broad swaths of “rich new wood-grain style material” (also known as plastic wood). Three storage compartments–one at the bottom of the center stack, one in the console and another under the armrest–are big and the cupholders are large and well-spaced.

Leather seating is standard with eight-way power adjustments for the four-way power for the front passenger.  The back seat is more than the kids deserve with a 60:40 split manual recline and a power operated (by the driver) rear sun screen.

For 2011, Toyota dropped multi-level trims for the Avalon, offering it in either base Avalon ($33,355 incl. destination) or upscale Avalon Limited ($36,595 incl. destination). There’s little difference in the two, the Limited getting its own wheels, though the same size as the standard Avalon. The Limited gets a JBL sound system which is optional on the standard Avalon.  More Avalon Limited features include cooled seats, eight-way power passenger seat, driver’s seat cushion extension, rain-sensing wipers and smart key with keyless ignition.