2013 Toyota Avalon: The frog becomes a prince


We’ve all heard the saying: you have to kiss a lot of frogs to find a prince. Well, Toyota has spent the past two decades kissing frogs, and finally has found its handsome prince in the all-new 2013 Toyota Avalon. Now we’re not saying those frogs didn’t have some nice qualities. They were dependable, reliable, comfortable, and practical, but certainly not princely in their visage. As a matter of fact, most princesses might describe them as homely. And while we all love those with good personalities, we also are attracted to a handsome face and a striking figure.

Toyota for years has heard the criticism, but whether the powers that be didn’t want to listen because sales were good, or didn’t understand American tastes well enough to know that design matters, its body styles marched on into monotony. Finally, perhaps after repeated begging from American-based Toyota employees, the company has seen the light, and is now placing much greater emphasis on both exterior and interior styling for its products. So much so that if you put the 2012 Avalon next to the 2013 Avalon, you wouldn’t know that it was the same nameplate.

Toyota is quick to point out, and rightly so, that the new fourth-generation Avalon is a clean-sheet-of-paper design by Toyota in North America for the North American market (although it will be exported to South America and the Middle East). The Avalon also will be built at Toyota’s plant in Georgetown, Kentucky.

Toyota’s flagship Avalon was a labor of love from its Calty design studio, and is everything the previous Avalon was not. It’s graceful and elegant, with a flowing roofline and strong front wheel arches that give it presence. Based on a stretched Camry platform, the new Avalon features shorter overhangs than the previous model, as well as almost an inch shorter overall height. This sleeker stance gives the Avalon the same impressive 0.28 Cd as the 2012 model.

Up front, the headlamps flare nicely off the upper intake, and feature a unique quadrabeam halogen square design that helps provide excellent light distribution. HID bulbs are standard on the top-end model.

A strong side character line delivers personality and enhances the sculpted look. Without question, though, the money shot is from the rear. The tapered taillamps provide a deliberate visual effect that draws your eye toward the center, and the integrated spoiler is deftly incorporated into the trunklid. Standard dual exhausts nicely finish the rear fascia.

There are four trim levels for the new Avalon: XLE, XLE Premium, XLE Touring, and Limited. Because this is Toyota’s flagship sedan, it isn’t really correct to call the XLE a base trim as it offers so many standard features, such as leather seats, standard Smart Key, power moonroof, LED brake and taillamps and chrome accents. The XLE Premium adds heated seats, moonroof, and heated sideview mirrors. The XLE Touring adds 18-inch wheels and tires, paddle shifters, premium leather steering wheel and stitching, foglamps and more. The Limited mode is the full-boat offering, with tech features like Blind Spot Monitor and Rear Cross Traffic Warning, HID headlamps with LED daytime running lights, rear-seat HVAC controls, auto high beams, and premium leather.

Inside the Avalon, you can tell the designers spent hours working on craftsmanship and ergonomics. We appreciate the effort that went into the hand-stitched materials on the dash and door panels, as well as Toyota’s usual top-notch fit and finishes. The driver-oriented pod is on a raised level from the dash, and although it’s nicely crafted, we like a more integrated, flowing dash area. That said, the capacitive HAVC controls (called Intellitouch) and touch screen were both easy to use and reach, although we would have liked a bit bigger screen.

The center console also features something called an eBin, a bi-level small storage area that allows you to keep you phones and other small electronic devices plugged in and easy to reach, with the cord nicely tucked away. While the Avalon features myriad new technologies, the eBin may be its only feature not offered by the competition. We’re glad Toyota is stepping up to new technology, but it continues to match what the others have, not be the trendsetter in the industry. Maybe that’s next on the list of things to do now that the design battle has been won.

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BJ, one of the first female automotive journalists in the country, has been testing and writing about automobiles for almost three decades. A former Road Test Editor for Motor Trend magazine. BJ now freelances for numerous automotive titles and websites. She is the Road Test Editor and co-host of “Driver’s Talk” Radio, a simultaneous vodcast/broadcast that is heard in over a dozen markets across the country as well as on the internet and Stitcher. BJ is a multiple winner of the prestigious IAMC awards, including the “Best of Radio,” and has served as a judge on numerous automotive competitions, including Concept Vehicle of the Year. A big racing fan, her love of automobiles started early, having been exposed to the field through her father, who owned an assortment of collector classics, such as a ’61 Austin-Healey 3000, a ’641⁄2 Mustang, and other vehicles. BJ, a native Southern Californian, is married to automotive photographer Scott Killeen, and is a two-year past president of the Motor Press Guild, the organization that represents almost 900 automotive journalists and industry representatives across the country. BJ and Scott (Team Killeen), are publishers of the BUILD BOOK, a serial publication that follows the build of one custom vehicle from start to finish.

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