2005 Toyota Avalon - East Valley Tribune: Business

2005 Toyota Avalon

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Posted: Thursday, January 1, 2004 12:00 am | Updated: 5:10 pm, Thu Oct 6, 2011.

When cars undergo a complete restyling, as Toyota's new Avalon has, the result can be a boon or a bane. Luckily, the designers at Toyota have done an admirable job with this third-generation flagship sedan, creating a stylish design that is subtle and aggressive at the same time.

When cars undergo a complete restyling, as Toyota's new Avalon has, the result can be a boon or a bane. Luckily, the designers at Toyota have done an admirable job with this third-generation flagship sedan, creating a stylish design that is subtle and aggressive at the same time.

A simple change of looks wasn’t the only metamorphosis for the fullsize sedan that debuted in 1995. Along with the cosmetic makeover comes a more elaborate and roomier interior, improved performance and increased safety.

Liberty Toyota, 5597 N. Academy Blvd., recently provided a test drive of the 2005 Avalon Limited edition, the most luxurious of the four new models. The first and lasting impression of this fancier and sportier car is one of understated elegance.

"It is a beautiful car with a lot of great features — even the rear seats recline," says Tadd Wells of Liberty’s sales and leasing department.

The styling and amenities are nicely integrated and well appointed. The seats, as Wells points out, are made for creature comfort. Not only are the plush leather seats adjustable for seemingly any body type, they are also heated and air conditioned.

Nice touches of chrome and brushed-metal finish complement the center console and dashboard. Many of the controls are concealed in gentle-touch opening panels that, when closed, make for a very streamlined interior.

Behind one of those console doors is a JBL Synthesis 12-speaker AM/FM with six-disc in-dash CD player that is easy to operate and has controls on the steering wheel for safer operation while driving. The sound is impressive for a factory audio system and makes traveling more enjoyable.

A welcome addition in the dashboard is the DVD navigation system. Controls are hidden and revealed with one touch and are easy to figure out with just a small amount of initial fumbling — much easier than many systems on the market.

The screen is made to be viewed in any light, and the system will literally talk you to your destination, as good, or better than, most human copilots. The navigation system also has a voice-recognition component that allows for safer operation. Points of interest (for example, Mexican restaurants) are already programmed.

On the road, the Avalon continues to impress, handling corners quite well for a larger, heavier car. That heft takes some horsepower to get moving, and fortunately, the new 280-horsepower V-6 engine — featuring Toyota’s Variable Valve Timing with intelligence (VVT-i) and a dual-stage intake manifold — is happy to oblige. It’s not considered a speed demon, but the race track would be the only place you would ever want or need more power.

More impressive than the horsepower is the gas mileage attained — 22 miles per gallon in town and 31 miles per gallon on the highway is a great accomplishment for a 3.5-liter, six-cylinder vehicle. And dual exhausts create a sportier look.

The power delivery is silky smooth, thanks in great part to the five-speed automatic overdrive transmission. Shifting is all but unnoticeable and reacts correctly and crisply to throttle inputs. It almost seems intuitive — as though it anticipates what you are going to do and is instantly ready.

Being an aficionado of manual transmissions, I tried the manual sequential shifter of the automatic, and while it works, the full automatic mode works so well it isn’t worth the trouble.

The Avalon is fitted with Toyota’s four-wheel disc brakes with an antilock braking system, as well as electronic brake force distribution, vehicle stability control, traction control and brake assist. All these systems may seem overwhelming on paper, but they operate invisibly while driving and do make a difference on the road, contributing to handling and control.

Most people are aware of the benefits of ABS in high-speed and low-traction situations. In addition to ABS, the Avalon’s electronic brake force distribution optimizes braking pressure at each wheel to help minimize body dive or sway during hard braking and cornering.

If the driver is aggressive enough or the conditions are slippery enough that a skid results, the vehicle stability control detects and helps correct loss of lateral traction during cornering, using individual wheel brakes. Brake assist determines if the driver is attempting emergency braking; if the driver has not stepped firmly enough on the brake pedal to activate the ABS, it will apply maximum braking pressure until the pedal is released.

There is also a welcome traction control that was tested on an icy parking lot, and like all of these high-tech systems, it works commendably. Most telling is how unnoticeable these systems are. I was never aware of the car behaving in any manner other than what was intended, even though I am sure many of the systems were at work.

Even the cruise control uses a laser to determine the distance to the vehicle in front and maintain (an adjustable) distance between the preceding vehicle. This level of technology at this price is an appreciated safety feature here in Colorado.

If the worst happens and those systems can’t prevent a crash, the Avalon is extremely well-equipped, with driver and passenger front airbags, front seat-mounted airbags, front and rear side curtain airbags, as well as a driver’s knee airbag as standard equipment on all models.

For more day-to-day functionality, there are hidden cup holders and cubby holes, as well as a spacious trunk. One interesting feature that is surprisingly convenient is the keyless Smart Key system. An on-board sensor recognizes the signal from the small, light key fob which allows the car to be started with a button on the dash. Even when the key fob comes in close proximity, say walking to the car in a dark parking lot, it will turn on the puddle lamps and interior light, and unlock the doors when they are touched. This increases the security level of the car and boosts ease of entry.

Toyota intends for the redesigned Avalon to attract younger buyers and a broader market segment. It appears to be an excellent car for the money, with the "understated elegance" theme being an accurate description of its intent and abilities.

Compared to similar class Acuras, Lexuses and BMWs that sell for $26,000 to $37,000, the Avalon delivers more car per dollar and would be a great choice if one were looking to upgrade from an older, slightly smaller four-door sedan.

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