How much Lexus do you like in your Toyota? Redesigned for 2013, the Avalon is the largest and most expensive car in Toyota’s lineup. At first glance the body looks very similar to the Lexus ES 350 we reviewed two weeks ago. The ES and Avalon share the same basic structure, but the Avalon has always been built in Georgetown, Kentucky, while the ES is assembled in Japan.
Great ergonomics are hard to come by. Seating positions in the Avalon are optimal with easy access to most of the controls. Of the controls themselves, they are of a much better quality than Toyotas of the past.
Because this car is made for Americans, most buttons are in English as opposed to the hieroglyphs found in global models. The infotainment system uses flat panel buttons, as with many newer cars, but with a machined metal finish. Audio is by JBL with eleven speakers. The Avalon produces much more bass and a clearer sound compared to the eight speaker system of the ES.
Under the radio is the amazing eBin storage tray. It has a rubberized non-slip surface to hold your phone and can wirelessly charge Qi-enabled electronic devices. The rear seats are identical to those found in a Lexus, heated and comfy for two adults. A flat rear floor makes for ample legroom. Interior differences between the Avalon and ES are few, which makes them both great buys in the near-luxury car market.
Up front on the exterior, a prominent lower grille hides the radar-cruise control module and is flanked by low mounted fog light pods. A crease running slightly below the beltline is the major feature of the body panels. Small quarter windows behind the rear doors break up the chunky c-pillar and help increase rear visibility. Overall, the styling is unassuming and efficient, and the build quality is top notch. Body panel gaps are tight and doors are triple-sealed. Much like the interior, only minor styling cues and trim separates the ES from Avalon.
Under the hood,a silky smooth 3.5 liter V6 and six speed automatic powers the front wheels with 268 horsepower and 248 ft-lbs of torque. The transmission’s gear ratios are perfectly matched to the power band of the engine, so acceleration is great for a daily driver. With traction control off, first gear will spin easily, but wheel hop shows up to end the party. Sport mode holds each gear longer and shifts at a higher rpm, making the experience more enjoyable. Eco mode is just the opposite, shifting early to save fuel.
The Avalon Limited has an MSRP of $39,650. Available options are radar-cruise ($1,750), eBin center console ($200) and floor mats ($225). MSRP of the Lexus ES was $36,470, and it offered a few more available options. They are both great cars, but drive each of them back to back and compare the window stickers before making your decision.