The press material for Toyota’s 2013 Avalon leads with ‘more emotional styling’. Of course, upping the emotional level in Avalon’s historically staid sheetmetal is roughly akin to supplying the late Spiro Agnew with a joke writer; in terms of funny, there was only one direction Nixon’s VP could go. Regardless, we’re heartened by Toyota turning the page on boring, oh-so-pedestrian design propositions. And while we know there may be the occasional miss (we’re reserving judgment on the just-announced Corolla, but a first glance suggests there’s a lot going on there…), from virtually any angle the newest Avalon appears to be a hit.
Designed in Toyota’s North American studio, the intent was to supply a more athletic expression. And in terms of the Avalon’s overall shape, Toyota clearly succeeded. There is a coupe-like fluidity evident in the Avalon that has been missing from Toyota-branded 4-door offerings, although some elements of ‘coupe’ are visible in the newest Lexus ES, and has been present in several iterations of the Lexus GS. In the Avalon the coupe-like initiative works beautifully, with a profile that runs almost continuously from above the Avalon’s prominent grille to the sedan’s almost Bangle-like (see BMW design over most of the last decade) buttocks.
Above the grille opening – make that OPENING – is what Toyota terms an industry-first Quadrabeam headlight cluster. Described as a ‘sleek and compact double-eye PES headlight design’, we were taken by the lights’ well-executed shape and integration – albeit distinct integration – with the Avalon’s front fascia.
The hood is flanked by two recesses, creating an almost power-bulge effect (no jokes, please…) in the hood’s center. What follows is an aggressively raked windshield balanced – in profile – by an aggressively raked backlight. Of course, with an aggressively angled windshield you inevitably get wider, more prominent A-pillars, but that issue is certainly not limited to today’s Avalon. As aerodynamics come into greater play you can anticipate seeing more of it (wide A-pillars) and less of surrounding pedestrians and traffic.
The Avalon’s overall height is lower by almost one inch, while overhangs are reduced both front (modestly) and rear (1.77 inches). The overall look is better balanced, but there’s no real attempt at disguising the Avalon’s front-wheel drive platform. And while appreciating the generous trunk space afforded by the rear overhang, we still wish the Toyota – and Chevrolet’s redesigned Impala – could tighten up a tad. Both should prove safe, however, in the not-quite-inevitable rear end collision…
Another visual disconnect is the gap between the body and tires. Despite a claimed tightening of same (one quarter of one inch, which makes you wonder why they bothered), the 225/45-18s fitted to our test Limited seemed to shrink within the wheel opening. Again, this issue isn’t unique to the Avalon, but those wanting an aggressive wheel/tire footprint should get themselves to a Chrysler dealer and try on the 300.
A better visual cue is the outside rearview mirrors. With enough separation between the mirror housings and the main body the mirrors take on an almost independent life. That separation, however, allows you to also enjoy them independently, something we haven’t previously done to any real extent with outside mirrors. (But then, we’re benefiting from new doctors and revised prescriptions.)
Despite its expressive contours, the Avalon cuts through the air with minimum disruption of same, achieving a low .28 coefficient of drag. And that, of course, helps efficiency. In 350 miles, with some 60% at relatively aggressive highway speeds, we enjoyed just over 25 miles per gallon, well within the suggested 21 City/31 Highway calculated by the EPA. That, in combination with a smooth, responsive V6 and reasonably crisp platform, takes the Avalon’s revised sheetmetal to an all-new level. Rather like Spiro Agnew resurfacing as Spyro Gyra.
Combine efficiency with a responsive drivetrain and solid platform, and you can’t help but wonder how good a Camry could be if its design team could abandon the box. Here’s hopin’…