Oh, that’s cold. And we’re not talking about the temperature when we were testing the 2014 Toyota Avalon Limited but the response of a retirement-eligible grandmother to Toyota’s flagship sedan. Putting her behind the wheel of the Avalon elicited this response, and we quote: “Lord this car is boring. And it wallows. I feel like I should be wearing pink pants and white orthopedic sneakers!”
Now granted, this isn’t your average sixty-something female driver. She owned a German compact sport sedan with a manual transmission and sport suspension. So she’s not in the target demographic for the Toyota Avalon.
But it also defines the market for the Toyota Avalon. Interested in a sports sedan? Shop elsewhere. Want a traditional roomy America-style sedan with adequate-to-strong acceleration from a 3.5-liter V-6.
But of course the handling isn’t razor sharp. The owner of an Avalon buys one for its comfy ride, and in the case of our top-of-the-line Limited, optioned up to $42,785, the bigger-than-you’d-expect Avalon delivers, not only with suspension that soaks up a winter’s worth of patches-will-be-necessary but also a ten-way adjustable driver’s seat with extendable thigh support and adjustable lumbar support. Seats are heated and cooled, and for the frosty morning, nothing says love like a heated steering wheel.
Befitting a full-size four-door sedan, the back seat is as mile-worthy as the front, with generous headroom and lots of leg room. Adults could spend a day there without complaint. Toyota boasts of the “coupe-like” roofline of the Avalon and how it contributes to a sporty long hood/short rear desk look. The rearward reach of the roofline however means the trunk lid can’t be very big, and as a result, getting suitcases and similarly large objects in and out of the trunk is a tussle. And woe betide an object that rolls to the front of the trunk. It may stay there a while. There’s a large cargo net at the rear edge of the trunk. Use it or lose it, or at least that rolly-polly item you’ve loaded.
The interior, as one would expect in this class of car, is loaded with soft touch surfaces; the door and center arm rests are particularly cushy. The center console has a two-level console top with a leather-like surface with dual cupholders. It’s a classy looking interior, worthy of a $40k automobile…until one gets to the nacelle over the instrument panel, which has molded-in faux stitching. Why, Toyota? We’ve seen this in the Corolla, where it’s not appropriate. It really doesn’t belong in the Avalon.
The engine and drivetrain are conventional for a non-sporting sedan with the engine set transversely along with a six-speed transmission. The output matches the task at hand, accelerating the Avalon into freeway traffic while minimizing Peterbilt-induced terror. An automotive oxymoron on our test Avalon Limited is paddle shifters. We’ll wager that most Avalon owners won’t use them, and odds are good that they won’t know what they are.
Perhaps more significant—except in that Peterbilt tango—to most Avalon owners is the fuel economy. The EPA test standards put the 2014 Toyota Avalon at 21/31 mpg city/highway, with a combined rating of 24 mpg. We recorded a 25.5 mpg for a week’s worth of driving, impressive for this size of car
The Toyota Avalon was all-new for the 2013 model year, and we reported a frist drive for the Avalon line as a whole, along with a first take on the Avalon Hybrid. In its second year, only a few items were fine tuned. For 2014, all Avalon models now come with a backup camera as standard equipment, uptraded on the Limited trip level with guidelines superimposed on the display to show approximate distances from objects in the camera’s field of view. Backup cameras will be mandated in 2018. Toyota’s getting a jump on the requirement. Two other changes include three-blink turn signals for “more convenient” lane changes, and ambient lighting added for the Limited trim level models.
The 2014 Toyota Avalon Limited is best described as “comfortable transportation,” a Camry for a bigger bank account, and everything you expect from a living room except a big screen TV. Enjoy the passing scenery. Your seat—chose one—is comfortable enough. Just watch the wardrobe.