Back in the 1980s and even into the ‘90s, almost all Toyota vehicles were designed, engineered, and built in Japan and then shipped to America, with little or no input from the U.S.
But the Avalon helped change that. Toyota is now committed to American teamwork to produce exciting products for the U.S. market.
Avalon was designed for long-term Toyota customers who were getting a little older and wanted more room and comfort in their vehicle.
Today, Toyota has a strong domestic design and engineering presence in the United States, employing more than 20,000 people in Arizona, California, and Michigan.
Avalon was first launched in 1995, adding its presence and individual character to the Toyota stable.
While Lexus was launched to attract affluent buyers, and Scion for a younger demographics, Avalon was designed for long-term Toyota customers who were getting a little older and wanted more room and comfort in their vehicle.
And the strategy worked—Toyota sold 70,000 units that first year. Toyota already has 100,000 pre-orders for the 2013 Avalon, which goes on sale in December.
Avalon will be built at Toyota’s Kentucky plant using the same quality process used to make the Camry. The Kentucky plant has built more than 25 million vehicles since it opened 26 years ago, with a direct investment of nearly $24 billion and the creation of 365,000 jobs in the U.S.
A goal of the Avalon is to create “a feeling of exuberance.” I think that has been achieved, and I can tell you why. Toyota launched the 2013 Avalon in Phoenix, and I test-drove one for two days. I found the cabin spacious, comfortable, and really admired how all the features were laid out.
Specific elements of design include stitching on the dashboard, heated and ventilated seats, and a high-tech center stack featuring the futuristic feel of IntelliTouch, a touch-based user interface on a capacitive screen.
Front and rear headroom was in abundance, as was the leg- and knee-room for back seat passengers.
The interior was quite roomy and felt uncluttered. The Avalon has agile handling, improved stability while cornering, a responsive steering feel, paddle shifters, and a sport mode to quicken your pulse. It was indeed exuberant!
The Avalon Limited had a 3.5-liter, DOHC 24-valve dual VVT-i with 6-speed ECT-i automatic transmission putting power down through the front wheels. The Hybrid Limited had a 2.5-liter DOHC 16-valve dual VVT-i 4-cylinder engine with an E-CVT automatic transmission.
First year Avalon sales breakdown by model is expected to be 80 percent V-6 and about 20 percent Hybrid.
Models, Pricing, Safety
In terms of models and pricing, the XLE is the entry level vehicle, starting at $30,990. Moving up one notch, the XLE Premium will go for $33,195 while the XLE Touring with 18-inch alloy-wheels, paddle shifters, navigation, and Entune will be $35,500. The Limited model sits at the top of the V-6 model chain at $39,650, and the Hybrid Limited at $41,400.
The Hybrid models will get 40-mpg starting at the XLE Premium grade at $35,555. The regular V-6 will get 21 mpg/city and 31 mpg/hwy.
Avalon will also have the full suite of safety features, including the Star Safety System, a comprehensive set of 10 airbags, and a variable ratio brake pedal which varies pedal effort ratios to give the driver a better feel.
The 2013 Avalon will also be the first Toyota to get optional Blind Spot Monitor (BSM) and Rear Cross Traffic Alert (RCTA). And Toyota engineers believe that Avalon will be the candidate for the Five Star Safety rating and an IIHS Top Safety Pick.
A Smart Key system gets you inside, while providing light outside by the front doors. The tail lamps with LED light pipes enhance visibility of the brake lights and add grand style.
Up front, square double-eye Projector Ellipsoid System headlamps with HID look sharp and help you see into the distance. And of course, the voice-activated touchscreen DVD navigation system helps along the way.
Toyota aims to make Avalon a prime candidate for the livery and chauffeured transportation market. The Lincoln Town Car, which accounts for roughly 80 percent of the livery market, is being discontinued.
Toyota feels the Lincoln MKT, Cadillac XTS, and Chrysler 300 will be natural competitors, but Avalon’s package of quality, dependability, cabin elegance, and low fuel costs will enhance their niche in this market.
One of the interesting things I learned in doing a little Toyota consumer research was that African Americans ranked Avalon higher than other vehicles in that category.
Durhl Caussey writes a car column read around the world. He may be reached at this paper or firstname.lastname@example.org
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