Toyota delivers a slimmer Avalon
Slimming down is good. Just ask Al Roker. And a session at the gym has done wonders for Toyota’s full-bodied, five-passenger Avalon. Gone are the pudgy, rather bloated, over-chromed lines of the previous Avalon. Now, for 2013, the Camry-based Avalon is slimmer and sleeker than Maria Sharapova in Spandex. Nose to tail, this new model is just over 2 inches shorter and half an inch narrower. It’s also shed 100 pounds in weight. All that takes it down from a full-size vehicle to a midsize. Richard Simmons would approve. But Toyota hasn’t just slimmed-down the Avalon’s size. It’s also trimmed the sticker. Now, for 2013 the base XLE model drops $2,205 in price — to $31,750 — yet gets more features. Can’t argue with that.See it in the metal and it appears much sleeker and sexier, even though that air-gulping lower grille looks a lot a second-generation Chrysler Sebring’s. Of course, sexy styling has its consequences. That sloping rear screen means the rear seats had to be pushed forward a tad, reducing rear-seat legroom by 1.7 inches. Though there is still more than enough room to spare. While the new exterior styling looks terrific, wait till you see the interior makeover. With leather standard on every model, and a real upgrade in the look and feel of other materials, the cabin looks sleek, elegant and close to Lexus in quality. As before, power comes from Toyota’s hushed 3.5-liter, 268-horse V-6 coupled to a smooth-shifting six-speed auto that gets a “sport” mode, which quickens the transmission shifts and firms up the steering. Driving this new Avalon, vs. the old one, is like night and day. On the road it feels nimble and athletic, responsive and alive. So much so that I’m surprised Toyota didn’t replace the Avalon badge. Amazing what a few sessions at the gym can do.