• First Drive 2019 Toyota Avalon

First Drive: 2019 Toyota Avalon

Flagship still big on value

Jim Robinson By: Jim Robinson August 27, 2018


    • What’s Best: All the amenities of a high-end luxury sedan without the premium price.
    • What’s Worst: Lack of all-wheel-drive might deter some prospective buyers.
    • What’s Interesting: Toyota claims best-in-class ride and handling, with which I heartily agree after driving through Montreal’s chaotic construction.

SHERBROOKE, QC: Quick – What’s Toyota Canada’s flagship vehicle?

If you guessed the three-row Sequoia SUV, you’d be wrong.

The full-size Avalon sedan is Toyota’s range topper in Canada. But like many sedans, it’s increasingly being overshadowed by the SUV/CUV revolution.

And that’s a pity; because when you look at all the Avalon offers, it’s got everything you want in a full-size luxury sedan, but without the premium luxury price tag.

Formally a one-trim level offering, Toyota for 2019 gives consumers a choice of the fully equipped Limited (starting at $47,790) or the new for this year XSE (starting at $42,790).

The Limited has all the premium bells and whistles, including LED headlights and rear combination lamps and unique 18-inch alloy wheels.

The interior is fitted out in real wood and features ambient lighting. Seating is done in semi-aniline leather, with ventilated seats up front and heated seats for all occupants. Driver amenities include a seat memory system, 10-inch head-up display, Entune Audio Premium with embedded navigation, Bird’s Eye View Monitor and Rear Cross Traffic Brake Assist.

First Drive 2019 Toyota Avalon

The XSE is more sporting oriented with unique blacked-out grille, rear spoiler, 19-inch alloy wheels, quad tip exhaust system, paddle shifters and sport-tuned suspension. Other included features are a sound generator with active noise cancellation, Entune Audio Plus with Scout GPS Link, aluminum trim, ultra-suede and synthetic leather seats and rear cross traffic alert safety system.

Both the Premium and XSE include a 14-speaker JBL Audio system with ClariFi Technology, nine-inch display, integrated Sirius XM satellite radio and Apple CarPlay.

Standard on both models are dual-zone automatic climate control, four USB charging ports, heated front seats, window jam protection, leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio, Bluetooth, voice recognition and multi information display controls, integrated garage door opener, the Toyota Smart Key System with Push Button Start and the Qi wireless charging system for smart phones.

Avalon is one of the first cars to be built on the Toyota New Global Architecture (TNGA) platform resulting in what Toyota claims as the best-in-class handling.

I can vouch for that, having to drive back from Sherbrooke, QC, where the Canadian press introduction was held, through the horror which is the reconstruction of the Champlain Bridge and infrastructure leading into and out of Montreal.

Driving back on the new XSE model I was about 20 km south of the start of construction when the centre stack touchscreen lit up, letting me know there was traffic congestion ahead.

As a halo model to draw more buyers to the TLX brand, the A-Spec makes perfect sense.

It asked if I wanted to take an alternative routing, which I gladly accepted and in the course of the next excruciating 20 km, the re-routing prompt came up five times and I responded.

Clearing the bridge, the navi system helped me thread through downtown Montreal’s one-way streets and then another 10 km along a feeder lane that was the detour because the main Highway 20 West to the airport was closed.

Folks, I never could have made it to the airport on my own. Thank you, Toyota, for keeping me sane.

For the powertrain, Toyota opted for a 3.5-litre Atkinson Cycle direct injection normally aspirated V6 engine producing 301 hp and 267 lb/ft of torque driving the front wheels through an eight-speed Direct Shift automatic transmission.

The Atkinson Cycle V6 was chosen for its more frugal fuel consumption and this type of engine is a best match for adaption to a hybrid, assuming that is in the offing.

To further make the most of its fuel efficiency, the automatic gives the driver a choice of three modes – Normal, Eco and Sport.

First Drive 2019 Toyota Avalon

During the traffic chaos, I went with the Sport setting to make the most of quick lane changes and making sharp turns in downtown Montreal.

As the flagship model, Avalon incorporates the latest technology starting with the leading-edge Toyota Safety Sense P system that includes: Pre-Collision System with Pedestrian Detection function, featuring forward collision warning and automatic emergency braking; Lane Departure Alert with Steering Assist function; Automatic High Beams and full speed Dynamic Radar Cruise Control.

Other standard safety features include the six active technologies of the Toyota Star Safety System, 10 airbags, a backup camera, direct tire pressure monitoring system, blind spot monitor and an anti-theft system.

One of the down sides of full-size SUVs is they tend to be body-on-frame, so the greater weight translates into either a choppy or floaty ride the faster you go.

A full-size sedan like the Avalon is unit body, which is lighter thus better in the ride and handling department, which is aided by an inherent lower centre of gravity.

The other thing the Avalon has going for it is Toyota build quality and reliability.

You know these guys don’t cut corners when it comes to assembly and you know it’s going to last a long time.

First Drive 2019 Toyota Avalon

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2019 Toyota Avalon

BODY STYLE: Four-door, full-size-sedan
DRIVE METHOD: Front-wheel-drive, eight-speed electronic automatic transmission
ENGINE: 3.5-litre, direct injection, normally aspirated V6 (301 hp, 267 lb/ft)
FUEL ECONOMY: 10.9/7.6/9.4L/100 km city/highway/combined
CARGO: 455 litres
PRICE: XSE, $42,790; Limited, $47,790
WEB SITE: Toyota.ca

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