The Toyota Avalon is a uniquely American project, using ex-GM engineers to lengthen the Camry, upgrade its interior, and improve its ride. All Avalons are made in the United States (Kentucky), even those exported to other parts of the world. The Avalon was the first Toyota to be classified as a domestic car within the United States; its name comes “from an island of mythical and mystical legend.”
As with past versions, the 2019-2020 Toyota Avalon is based closely on the Camry; it shares the powertrain and basic platform and architecture, but has different suspension tuning and interior design to match specific goals. This fifth generation was based on the Toyota New Global Architecture (TNGA), for a dramatic improvement in handling without sacrificing ride; and a new-for-2020 Toyota Avalon TRD takes full advantage of the new platform and architecture (see further down for the TRD). The TRD model starts where the XSE left off.
The 2019-20 wheelbase is two inches longer than the 2018s; it is a full inch lower and around a full inch wider. Aerodynamic drag has dropped to cD = 0.27, for better mileage and less noise.
2019-20 Toyota Avalon powertrain
There are two powertrains. The primary one is a 24-valve, dual overhead cam 3.5-liter V6 engine with the D-4S fuel injection system, which combines direct injection with supplemental port fuel injectors. It uses VVT-iW (Variable Valve Timing-intelligent Wide) variable valve timing for the intake, with VVT-i on the exhaust; it can switch to the Atkinson cycle, reducing pumping losses and raising gas mileage. Power output is a hefty 301 horsepower (at 6,600 rpm), with 267 pound-feet of torque (at 4,700 rpm), roughly even with the top Chrysler V6 in the Dodge Challenger sports car. Fuel economy is, with the XLE, rated at 22 city, 32 highway (it’s 31 highway in the XSE, Limited, Touring, and TRD).
Gas mileage is quite good thanks to the new eight-speed automatic, with closely spaced mid-range ratios to help with passing performance; this replaces the old six-speed at last. The torque converter locks up over a wider range than in the past car. Control logic matches engine torque on downshifts for smoother transitions; paddle shifters are standard on TRD, optional for XSE and Touring. When downshifting, the transmission automatically “rev-matches” for smoother shifts. One impressive feature of this eight-speed: it has an even wider range than the expensive ZF eight-speed used by BMW, Maserati, Chrysler, and others.
More impressive is the 2020 Avalon Hybrid, rated 43 city, 44 highway with the XLE (43 city, 44 highway for other grades). The big jump in fuel economy over the previous Avalon Hybrid comes from the Toyota Hybrid System II, which uses a new 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine with an electric motor; two motors are used for battery charging. The four-cylinder includes dual (intake and exhaust) variable valve timing, D-4S direct injection with port injection, laser-clad valve seats, a 14:1 compression ratio, multi-hole direct injectors, variable cooling, cooled EGR, and a variable oil pump. The gasoline engine produces 176 horsepower and 163 pound-feet of torque; the electric motor boosts the total to 215 horsepower. The Hybrid XSE has a system that mimics a six-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters or a console-mounted shift lever.
The nickel-metal hydride (Ni-MH) battery pack is installed beneath the rear seat, rather than in the original Avalon Hybrid’s trunk, allowing for a larger battery and lower center of gravity; the power computer is lighter and smaller, too, so it can be placed directly over the transaxle, lowering the center of mass. The Avalon Hybrid now has four different driving modes: Normal, Economy, EV, and Sport. The Sport mode increases power. The Auto Glide Control (AGC), when activated, limits the loss of vehicle speed through engine braking, acting more like a neutral gear to allow longer coasting. AGC can only be activated in the ECO drive mode.
Lighting the way: LED headlights
The standard headlights on Limited and Touring are LED projectors, rated Good by the IIHS; they come close to the ideal, but have some glare for other drivers. These models have some high-beam assist, with adaptive cornering and dynamic auxiliary turn signals (with sequentially lit diodes).
The XLE and XSE, oddly, had a poor rating from IIHS; they are also LED reflectors, but showed clearly less range, falling far short of desired illumination. Optional LED Vision Tech headlamps on XLE and XSE use a cluster of three reflectors for Daytime Running Lights (DRL) and low- and high-beam functions, and might do better.
The daytime running lights and parking lights have intricate patterning made by a laser-ablated, metallized inner lens; the tail lights and turn signals on Limited and Touring have this as well.
Inside the Avalon
Thinner pillars and a broad windshield create a wide, open feeling. Shoulder room is 57.1 inches, leg room is 40.3 inches (40.4 in the hybrid), and headroom is 37.5 inches (37.1 for the hybrid). Soft-touch materials abound and the rear passengers have their own air vents, (optional) seat warmers, and USB charging ports.
The grades mostly have the same materials. The XLE has engineered wood trim, while Limited has real wood. The TRD, Touring, and XSE have aluminum pieces. A mix of perforated SofTex and Ultrasuede wraps seating in Touring and XSE; the XLE’s Softex-trimmed seats use vertical stitching, and Limited has perforation and two-color stitches with a quilt pattern.
The Limited’s leather is available in Cognac, beige, or gray; XSE and Touring are gray or black; and XLE has gray, beige, or black. TRD is black with red accents.
Below the center panel, passengers have a slide-open eBin containing a 12-volt plug and the standard wireless Qi mobile device charger (optional for XLE). A trio of USB power ports are in the center console. A part cup-holder, part phone cradle is atop the front console. The steering wheel can be wrapped in a two-tone leather-surface when outfitted in Cognac or Gray interior colors.
The 7-inch Multi-Information Display (MID) shows vehicle information, turn-by-turn navigation, and settings. Hybrid models get another indicator as well, to show power status. The tachometer/hybrid powertrain meter and speedometer on XSE, Limited, and Touring are surrounded by 3D Glow Rings. A chrome ring borders the entire meter cluster on all grades.
Limited and Touring’s standard ten-inch Head-Up Display (HUD) projects important information, such as vehicle and engine speeds, turn-by-turn directions, audio settings, and drive mode, onto the lower portion of the windshield.
Avalon XLE, XSE, and TRD have a standard eight-speaker system with third-party applications, using a 9-inch capacitive touchscreen. Apple CarPlay is standard. Toyota Premium Audio with JBL, standard in Limited and Touring and optional for others, has a 14-speaker sound system. Both systems can be equipped with embedded Dynamic Navigation.
Connected Services include Safety Connect and Service Connect with a 3-year trial period, and Remote Connect with a 6-month trial. Wi-Fi Connect Powered by Verizon trial with up to 2GB within 6 months is subscription-free.
Avalon has Toyota’s first integration of smartwatch or Amazon Alexa-enabled device connectivity, as part of Toyota Remote Connect. The latter allows drivers to lock/unlock the car’s doors, start the engine, or check fuel level, all from the convenience of an Apple Watch, other compatible smartwatch, or Amazon Alexa-enabled device. It’s voice controllable and compatible with select Android or Apple devices.
For the top-of-line Toyota Premium Audio with JBL, engineers benchmarked the best audio systems two vehicle classes up from Avalon. The result was a 14-speaker, 1200-watt, precisely-tuned 7.1-channel surround sound system with a 12-channel Class D HID12 amp, four one-inch JBL horn tweeters, a ten-inch dual-voice subwoofer, six-inch speakers int he rear doors, 8x9s in the front doors, five 3-inch wide-dispersion midrange speakers, Clari-Fi technology to compensate for digitization, recreation of 7.1 channel sound from any source, and sealed inner doors for better bass.
The Avalon’s multi-link rear suspension, long used by sporty large cars, helps performance and allows for a wider rear track and lower center of gravity. The XSE and Touring have a sport-tuned suspension; the Touring has an adaptive variable suspension (AVS), an electronically controlled damping system usually seen on luxury brands which helps agility and control without sacrificing one for the other. The setup reduces Avalon’s posture fluctuations under hard or sudden directional changes, limits body movements, and yet absorbs road undulations for a comfortable, flat ride. Levels of damping force have a maximum of 650 steps. Changes in solenoid force on each shock absorber that restrict fluid flow and, thus, damping, occur in an incredible 20 milliseconds.
Drivers can adjust Avalon’s ride feel with the push of a button: Normal mode prioritizes comfort, while Sport+ emphasizes tauter handling without diminishing Avalon’s renowned ride suppleness. Sport+ also amplifies Avalon’s liveliness by quickening throttle response, increasing feedback in the Electronic Power Steering (EPS) and enhancing engine sound in the cabin.
Active silence, or active noise
The Intake Sound Generator (ISG), grade-specific exhaust baffle tuning, Active Noise Control (ANC), and Engine Sound Enhancement (ESE) all play with the sound of the car. The XLE, XSE, and Limited grades have Economy, Normal, and Sport drive modes; TRD and Touring add replace Sport with Sport+ and add Custom.
Sport+ provides natural sounds through an exhaust system with sport-modified baffles, an Intake Sound Generator (ISG), Active Noise Control (ANC), and Engine Sound Enhancement (ESE). ISG amplifies the engine’s intake sound; the exhaust with baffle tuning changes the sound character at start-up, idle, and acceleration. ANC and ESE work to cancel exterior noise while enhancing engine sound via the JBL audio system’s in-cabin speakers. At wide-open-throttle acceleration, more engine grunt is heard throughout the rev range.
The noises can be switched off to appreciate the extra noise seals where the front fenders meet the front doors and where the doors merge at the B-Pillar. More sound absorption material is found in the engine bay, within the carpet pad, under the floor, and in the wheel well liners. The exterior rearview mirrors not only reduce drag, but also wind noise.
2020 Toyota Avalon TRD and other models
Overall, there are five grades of Avalon: XLE, XSE (sport), Limited, Touring, and TRD. All but TRD and Touring are available as hybrids, and every one of them has a large number of safety features including ten airbags, electronic brake-force distribution, dynamic cruise, pre-collision system with pedestrian detection, and active lane departure alerts. Blind spot monitors andrear cross path alerts with braking are optional, along with a 360° view using cameras on the front, side, and rear.
The XLE and Limited have a dark gray front grille with a chrome border, silver LED headlight bezels, body-color rearview mirror housings, and wheels from 17 to 19 inches, with chrome badges and dual exhaust tips. The XSE and Touring have a piano-black mesh grille, machine-finish and gloss-black wheels, with black exterior details. The XSE, Touring, and TRD use a grade-specific lower diffuser with quad tailpipes. Colors are Opulent Amber, Harbor Gray Metallic Celestial Silver Metallic, Midnight Black Metallic, Parisian Night Pearl, Wind Chill Pearl, and Ruby Flare Pearl.
In 2020, Toyota created its first two TRD sedans, the Camry and Avalon. They both have track-tuned chassis and a good amount of standard content. The TRD model has optional available aluminum and Yamaha wood cabin accents, with an Adaptive Variable Suspension (AVS) taken from the Touring trim. All Avalons use an eight-speed automatic, but the TRD includes a sport mode, paddle shifters, and, for the engine, a tuned cat-back dual exhaust.
The TRD is not just an Avalon with sporty looks; it has thicker underbody braces for torsional rigidity, and lowering springs that drop the car by 0.6 inches. Stiffer springs and stabilizer bars increase roll stiffness by 44% in the front and 67% in the rear; special shocks were chosen, too. 19 x 8.5-inch matte-black alloy wheels reduce unsprung mass by 18 pounds over the XSE’s 19-inch wheels. Front brakes have 12.9-inch diameter rotors and dual-piston calipers, rather than the 12.0-inch rotors and single piston calipers on the Avalon XSE. A body kit has a front splitter, side aero skirts, trunk lid spoiler, and rear diffuser for high-speed vehicle stability.
Colors colors are Supersonic Red (exclusive to TRD), Wind Chill Pearl, Celestial Silver Metallic and Midnight Black Metallic. Inside, owners get black SofTex-trimmed heated front seats with Ultrasuede inserts and red accents; red-stitched TRD embroidered headrests; a leather-wrapped steering wheel with red stitching; red seatbelts; and other TRD touches.
The details and specifications
The fifth-generation Avalon is a collaborative development by Toyota’s U.S.-based design, engineering, and manufacturing entities at Calty Design Research Inc. (Calty) in Ann Arbor, Michigan; Toyota Motor North America Research and Development (TMNA R&D) in Saline, Michigan; and Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Kentucky, Inc. (TMMK) in Georgetown, Kentucky.
V6: 11.8:1 compression, unleaded gasoline, ULEV II certified; see text for other info
Eight-speed automatic: First gear 5.519, second 3.184, eighth 0.673, reverse 4.220 (compare with Chrysler 300
(ZF 8-speed, as used by Chrysler 300, ranges from 4.71 first to 0.67 eighth).
Differential (axle): 2.561:1
Front suspension: MacPherson struts with stabilizer bar (Active Variable on Touring).
Front stabilizer bars: 24.2 mm XLE, 25.4mm Limited, 27 XSE/Touring
Rear stabilizer bars: 25 mm XLE, 25.4 Limited, 27 XSE/Touring
Steering: electric rack and pinion. Turning diameter 37.7 XLE, 38.6 XSE, 38.7 Limited/Touring
Electric parking brake. Fuel: 14.5 gallons XLE V6, 15.8 gallons other V6.
Legroom: 42.1 front, 40.3 rear, total 82.4
|Front brakes||10.98” ventilated||12” ventilated*|
|Rear brakes||11.26 solid rear||11.06” solid*|
|Wheels||15x6JJ (Steel, XL; Alloy, XLS)||17 - 19 inch|
|Tires||205/65R15 all-season radial||215/55R17
|Front track:||61||62.6 - 63.0|
|Min. ground clearance:||5.1||5.3 inches*|
|Curb weight||3,417 - 3,439||3,560 - 3,704***|
|EPA interior volume|
|EPA cargo volume||16.09 cubic ft|
|Passenger volume||102.9 cubic ft**|
* Except TRD *** Except XLE without moonroof: 104.3 cubic feet
*** 3,560 XLE, 3,660 Limited, 3,638 XSE, 3,704 Touring (2019 figures)
Hybrid is heavier
Older Toyota Avalons, first generation onwards
We liked the straight-line acceleration of the first-generation Avalon, while finding the cornering ability to be far below the similarly-sized Eagle Vision and Dodge Intrepid; and while we found the interior to be surprisingly and gratifyingly quiet, the dashboard, which appeared to have been taken straight from an early-1980s Chevrolet, seemed out of place.
Indeed, the Avalon didn’t take off when first introduced; it looked like a long, wide Camry, which was what it was, and the plain interior didn’t help. It was comfortable but sloppy in handling.
Completely redesigned for model-year 2000, the 2001-2006 Toyota Avalon, styled in California, took hints from the Crown Victoria around the grille, from Lincoln in the rear, and from Buick in the dashboard, dropping all visual cues linking it to the Camry. Its 3.0-liter V6 engine had intelligent variable valve timing, with ratings of 210 horsepower at 5,800 rpm and 220 pound-feet of torque at 4,400 rpm and 21 mpg city, 29 mpg highway. The engine used an active mount to reduce vibration, and was hooked up to a four-speed electronically controlled automatic transmission.
The cruise control was on the steering wheel, and there was a large trip computer section in the middle of the car (optional on the lower trim line). The interior layout was completely different from the Camry. The car was an inch wider, the front seat was moved up an inch, the roof moved up an inch, and the rear seat went back and up by an inch. At the same time, the instrument panel moved up four inches. The overall effect was American-style space.
The center console included the odometer and trip meter, clock, and thermometer. The XLS added a compass, trip computer, and calendar. Dual climate control was new to the 2000 Avalon, with vents for rear passengers on XLS models with bucket seats and an optional dust and pollen filter was optional. The sound system went up to 120 watts, with a standard CD and cassette player.
The Avalon's handling was not bad, but not exceptional, either. The ride was good, with little road noise. The front suspension stuck with MacPherson struts, an anti-vibration subframe, and gas-filled shock absorbers. The rear was a dual-link setup with a subframe and gas-filled shocks. Both front and rear had 0.67-inch anti-sway bars. The body was stiffened as well.
Second-generation Toyota Avalon safety features included skid control and traction control; skid and traction control used the brakes to reduce tire slippage. The optional Brake Assist detected emergency braking and added line pressure.
Other safety touches were enlarging the rear-view mirror and engineering the body to absorb energy, with energy absorbing material in the roof rails, front pillars, and center pillars.
Changes to the body helped reduce wind noise; injection molded rocker-trim and a foam underbody coating prevented “stone pecking” noise.
Comfort and convenience features include:
- Illuminated entry system
- One-touch auto-down/auto-up driver's window with jam protection
- Standard universal remote garage door opener (XLS only)
- Available one-touch power tilt/slide moonroof with jam protection
- Dual double sun visors with extensions
- Front and rear cupholders
- 12V power in the center console (AC optional)
- Power door locks with auto-lock function
The standard audio system includes a 3-in-1 combination of CD, cassette and AM/FM receiver with 120 watts of power. The premium grade audio was developed in conjunction with JBL and includes exceptional high and low frequency extension and clarity. This is achieved by adopting a separate five-channel, 250-watt amplifier. The system includes 3-in-1 functions with an available integrated six-CD changer on XLS models.
A locking pass-through door behind the fold-down rear seat armrest allows long items like skis to be easily transported inside the vehicle.
2001 Toyota Avalon specifications
The 3-liter engine was a four-cam design with 24 valves; both the block and heads were aluminum.
|Bore x stroke (in):||3.44 x 3.27|
|Displacement (cc):||2995 cc|
|HP (SAE net):||210 HP @ 5800 RPM (in 2007: 268)|
|Torque:||220 lb-ft @ 4400 RPM|
|Fuel/ignition||Distributorless; multiple-point EFI|
|Fuel:||Unleaded, 91 octane; 21/29 mpg|
Brakes and such
|Front brakes||10.98” ventilated disc|
|Rear brakes||11.26 solid rear|
|Wheels||15x6JJ (Steel, XL; Alloy, XLS)|
|Tires||205/65R15 all-season radial|
|Min. ground clearance:||5.1|
|Curb weight||3,417 - 3,439|
|TRANSMISSION AND SUCH|
|Front wheel drive|
|Gas mileage (EPA)||21/29|
|Max trailer weight||2,000|
|Turning circle||37.6 feet|
|Engine oil (qts):||5|
|Fuel tank (gal):||18.5|
|0-60 acceleration||8.4 seconds|
|Shoulder Room (f/r):||58.4/58.1|
|EPA volume (cu. ft):||121.5|
|Cargo volume (cu.ft):||15.9|
|Price||$26,000 - $30,760|