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Annette Would Approve

The 2013 Toyota Avalon

If Frankie (the original Avalon) would have gotten such a dramatic makeover, Annette (the original Funicello) would have been on him like white on rice. Oh, wait a minute, she already was. Anyway, the new 2013 Toyota Avalon is a huge improvement over previous models, mostly in the all-important looks department, but it’s also been refined in the interior and suspension departments.

Powered by a 3.5-liter V-6 engine mated to a six-speed, electronically controlled automatic transmission, the Avalon is no slouch in the acceleration department. Will it win many stoplight drag races? Probably not, but will many Avalon drivers care? I doubt it. (That V-6 isn’t the only available engine, as the Avalon also offers a hybrid model, equipped with the same four-cylinder engine and electric motor found in the Camry hybrid.) The Avalon buyer is most likely more interested in being comfortable and arriving in style. I know, looks are subjective, but Toyota went out of their way to give the new Avalon a look with, in their words, more athletic expression. Phrases such as “chiseled shoulder line,” “a greater sense of performance and agility,” and “athletic exterior dimensions” are scattered throughout the official press release. I often poke fun at some of these descriptive phrases, but this time out I must say that they fill the bill. And kudos to Toyota designers for not falling into the “longer, lower, wider” trap which seems to prevail in most automotive makeovers. The new Avalon is actually a bit shorter overall, with a bit of decrease also seen in the wheelbase; and while the roofline is lower and the track wider, the roof itself is a bit narrower and seems to fit better with the overall look.

The interior of the the Sizzling Crimson Mica Limited test car (which in the sunlight looks almost black), was itself black—a lot of black as it turns out. Very tastefully done, but color-wise also very boring if you ask me. (Though the ambient-lighted cupholders in the center console were a pleasant surprise.) There’s a bit of wood along the bottom of the nicely designed dash, but it could use a bit more. The seats however, I had no complaints with. Especially the heated feature, seeing that I chose one of the coldest days in years for my test drive at Fucillo Toyota on Grand Island. I’d have been happy even if sales guy Mitch Inman had tossed me in the back seat, as those are also heated in the new Avalon Limited. I did manage to climb back there eventually to check for room, and there was plenty, even with the sunroof grabbing some of the available ceiling space. If the trunk had been heated I could easily have fit back there, also, as it was quite…large. Hah! You thought I was going to say “huge” there, didn’t you.

The Avalon’s road behavior is not that of some softly-sprung luxo barge, nor is it that of some German sport sedan. Sometimes somewhere right in the middle is just right, and that’s where I’d peg the Avalon. And, as does any new car these days worth its salt, the Avalon has three driving modes: Eco (which prioritizes fuel economy), Normal, and Sport (which makes adjustments to both steering and throttle response).

Pricing for the 2013 Avalon XLE starts at $31,785. The Limited test car had a $40,445 price tag—which includes the premium perforated leather-trimmed heated and ventilated seats, premium headlamp system, a power rear window shade, acoustic noise-reducing windshield and side windows, rain-sensing wipers, back-up camera, HDD nav system, JBL speakers for the HD radio, and much more.

I think the biggest compliment I could pay the new Avalon is that when I first saw one, I thought it was a $47,000 Lexus. Nicely played, Toyota.

Read more of Jim Corbran's You Auto Know every other week in Artvoice, and more frequently on Artvoice Daily.

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