The Toyota Avalon is a bit like the easily-overlooked, underachieving younger sibling with a weight problem. Wait. What? Okay, hear me out. First, understand that (i) I too was the easily-overlooked, underachieving younger sibling with a weight problem, and (ii) I’m awesome.
Well, the 2018 Toyota Avalon is pretty awesome too. Unfortunately, it’s easily overlooked due to its positioning within Toyota’s line, as well as where it stands in comparison to the upmarket Lexus line.
2018 Toyota Avalon vs Toyota
Sure, the Avalon has been a strong seller for Toyota over the course of nearly a quarter-of-a-century; but for every Avalon sold, Toyota is estimated to sell ten Camry’s. This is not a knock against the Avalon, its just a fact (and a testament to the enduring appeal of the elder Camry).
Despite being the elder statesman of the line, the Camry has placed consistently among best-selling sedans for the better part of three decades. Based on its continued success, it makes sense that Toyota is giving the Camry yet another (rather magnificent) makeover for the 2018 model year. Not only will the redesign allow Toyota to maximize the continued profitability of their top seller, it ensures that it will remain competitive against the Honda Accord which is receiving a similar facelift for 2018.
This results in the automative version of sibling rivalry, arguing that one of the Avalon’s key competitors might be the Camry itself. At the end of the day, this leaves the Avalon at the tail end of its fourth-generation, still enduring, but starving for a little long-overdue attention from its parents.
2018 Toyota Avalon vs Lexus
Sitting atop the line of Toyota sedan offerings, the Avalon also finds itself in a precarious spot in terms of pricing. With a starting MSRP of $33,500 for the (base) XLE trim, a Limited (or Hybrid variant) will run you upwards of $40,000.
Once you edge towards that point, you find yourself in Lexus price range. If given the choice, most customers would opt for the built-in cache of owning a new Lexus IS or ES sedan, over a Toyota of the same price. I know I would. Even if presented with the option of a less-equipped Lexus, I would certainly consider it over a fully-loaded Avalon.
2018 Toyota Avalon vs Itself
Now that we’ve gotten some data and light cynicism out of the way, it becomes easier to assess the Avalon strictly on its own merits. And truth be told, this is where it shines. Regardless of how deserving it is of a makeover, it has gone relatively unchanged since 2013 for a reason.
The 2018 Toyota Avalon will maintain its five trim levels (XLE, XLE Plus, XLE Premium, Touring and Limited) as well as its Hybrid variants of each. Even at the base level, the Avalon is well-equipped, conveying quality of construction in every seam and weld.
Under the hood, a 3.5-liter V6 engine is paired to a six-speed automatic transmission (regardless of trim level). Serving up an impressive 268 horsepower and 248 lb-ft of torque, the Avalon is rated for 26 mpg combined (30 highway, 21 city). As well-suited for short commutes as it is for long drives, the Avalon’s ride quality benefits from a well-tuned suspension, long wheelbase and overall length. Acceleration (0-60 mph in 6.4 seconds) leaving nothing to be desired, and nearly every aspect of its drivability is assured, confident and expect from a near-upscale sedan offering.
The classic design of the Avalon evokes the luxury styling of its Lexus cousins, with a wide stance, open front fascia and smooth, sculpted profile that is easy to like. And while some of those particular design notes may be changing among other 2018 models (favoring a more angular and ridged aesthetic) the look of the Avalon is far from dated.
The interior follows many of the same design cues, favoring a clean and uncluttered layout. Use of elongated, horizontal surfaces enhance the sense of space; which is noteworthy, considering that the Avalon is already spacious based on its 111-inch wheelbase and 195.3-inch overall length. With ample seating for five, this full-size sedan makes excellent use of every inch.
This includes its competitive 16 cubic feet of truck space, designed with ease for loading and unloading, as well as its in-cabin small-item storage. Designed with modern devices in mind, it is accommodating of phones and other devices (as well as charging cords).
In terms of available technology, the Avalon leaves little to spare even at the (base) XLE trim level. Bluetooth-enabled it’s infotainment system is build around a 7-inch touchscreen and eight-speaker audio system. In addition to rearview camera, the Avalon’s driver assistance features include Toyota’s Safety Sense package. With adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning and intervention, forward collision warning, automatic pre-collision braking and automatic high-beam control drive the Avalon provide ample assurance of safety.
Jump trims and you can explore enhanced audio (nine-speaker audio, or 11-speaker JBL premium sound system) as well as integrated navigation, wireless smartphone charging and app integration, heated seating and interior accents.
Bottom-line, the 2018 Toyota Avalon may not be enjoying a model year refresh, but it certainly enjoys the staying power served up by its current offerings.
Considering the popularity of Crossover / SUV and eco-friendly options, the Avalon’s status as a full-size sedan may appear somewhat unenviable. We could say the same (and have) about its positioning against among Toyota and Lexus offerings.
But in the shadow of those comparisons, the Avalon thrives. Should it continue to endure, it will only benefit from redesigns as long as Toyota remains focused on its cosmetics and technology. That said, based on some of the trends visible in Toyota and Lexus offerings, we look forward to seeing the next generation of the Avalon.
Sure, it may be the easily-overlooked, underachieving younger sibling now; but show it some love…because a lot can change in a year.