Test Drive: 2017 Toyota Avalon Touring
The 2017 Toyota Avalon is proof that Japanese manufacturers not only build cars in America, they build American cars.
Assembled at Toyota's factory in Georgetown, Kentucky, the Avalon is full size car in the tradition of those built by Detroit's Big Three. It is large, quiet and comfortable, with ample room for five adults and plenty of cargo space in the trunk. The 3.5-liter V6 in the Touring edition we tested as powerful as most V8s found in big American cars in the past, while the leather-lined interior approached levels orignally found only on Cadillacs and Lincolns.
Because of that, the Avalon competes directly against the current generation of affordable large American cars, including the Chevy Impala, Chrysler 300, Dodge Charger and Ford Taurus. It also deserves to be considered along with such large foreign cars as the Kia Cadenza and Nissan Maxima. In fact, the Avalon might even tempt some buyers away from some products offered by Toyota's own luxury brand, Lexus, considering it costs thousands less when comparably equipped.
The Avalon's styling is fairly restrained, with only the oversized grill clashing with the clean exterior lines that emphasize its length. The interior is a little more creative, with a large display screen centered in an asymetrical dash that extends partly into the passenger's side of the cabin. The effect is modern wthout being gimmicky, although the controls are a mix of conventional knobs and flush buttons.
But the biggest impression on the inside is roominess, both in the front and very generous back seat areas. The Avalon is clearly designed to carry multiple people in comfort, and up to three adults can fit in the back seat, at least for a reasonable distance.
In the tradition of large American cars, there are five trim levels for the 2017 Toyota Avalon: XLE, XLE Plus, XLE Premium, Touring and Limited. They range from $33,300 to $37,700, with each offering more comfort, convenience, infotainment and safety features. But even the base XLE version is well equipped.
There is also a hybrid version offered in three trims that is EPA rated at up to 40 miles per gallon.
Very few changes have been made in the recently released 2018 version, which show that Toyota correctly believes it is still competitive with other affordable large family cars on the market. One worth noting is that the Safety Sense package, previously available as optional on the Limited top trim level, is now standard on all Avalons. It includes adaptive cruise control, automatic pre-collision braking and automatic high-beam headlight control, forward collision warning, and a lane departure warning and intervention system.
Since Toyota built its reputation on small cars and trucks, many shoppers might be surprised to learn they make a large affordable family car. But if you're in the market for one, the Avalon should definately be near the top of your shopping list.
Base price: $33,330
Price as tested: $37,650
Style: Full size sedan
Engine: 3.5-liter V6 (268 hp)
Transmission: 6-speed automatic with Eco, Sport and manual shift modes
EPA fuel economy: 21/30 mpg
Length: 195.3 inches
Weight: 3,500-3,700 pounds
Final assembly point: Georgetown, Kentucky