Toyota Avalon: 2019 Motor Trend Car of the Year Contender

WE LIKE Premium and spacious interior

WE DON’T LIKE Touring trim’s ride, that grille

“Sporty Avalon” is no longer an oxymoron. In pursuit of younger customers, Toyota has engineered a livelier full-size sedan. Is the automaker onto something? Whether many full-size sedan customers desire a sportier Avalon is something we wrestled with as we bumped along in a Touring V-6 model.

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The Touring is nothing like Grandma’s 10-year-old base Avalon; it offers surprisingly agile handling, and the revised Darth Vader mask grille is identifiable well across the parking lot—and not in a good way. One editor called the Avalon Touring’s front end “unspeakably ugly,” but with the Camry XSE so dramatically designed, perhaps Toyota was inspired to go just as far with its top sedan.

“Toyota could have easily phoned this in and kept building pseudo-Buicks,” Christian Seabaugh said. “But instead you can tell it really tried. Say what you will about its styling, but it looks and feels special.”

Inside, the dramatically rising center stack and premium soft-touch surfaces make a positive impression, though the door handle feels flimsy. Alisa Priddle liked the black interior with industrial-looking trim but was unsure if this is what Avalon’s (traditionally older) audience wants. Also, on a flagship sedan that for years has stood for comfort, there’s too much interior noise.

“Where is the Avalon of the past that has a smooth, quite ride, is very quiet, and has a good amount of power? So confusing,” Ed Loh said. More than one editor complained about spongy brakes.

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