First Drive: 2019 Toyota Avalon
Four-door sedans may not be what we most often talk about here on Driving Line, but the reality is that many of us have one in our garage. When we’re not modifying our fun cars, it’s cars like the 2019 Toyota Avalon that will be the ones that get driven the most. As the Avalon launches its 5th generation, a model that was re-built from the ground up, we thought it was worth a closer look.
We know what a lot of you are thinking, “That doesn’t look like a Toyota?” And you’d be right. The bland, driving-microwave image that some have come to associate with Toyota isn’t true to the company’s roots. Pushing the pendulum back towards dynamism, the 2019 Avalon is the second Toyota being released on the Toyota New Global Architecture (TNGA) platform—following last year’s Camry. The TNGA platform touts a lower center of gravity, slimmer A-pillars, better visibility and sculpted surfaces.
Seeing it in person, the designer’s aim of “Technical Beauty” rings true. It looks and feels like a premium sedan, from the exterior to the interior. By the time we buckled into the driver’s seat and adjusted the mirrors, we sensed that this wasn’t our great-aunt’s Toyota.
The interior has been as redesigned as the exterior, with soft-touch materials, a sweeping front console with touchscreen controls and first-ever standard Apple CarPlay interface. Other first-evers for the Avalon are its LED lights and Amazon Alexa-enabled technology. In the Touring edition we drove, the 8-way adjustable heated and ventilated seats were covered in perforated SofTex and Ultrasuede for ultimate comfort.
While sports car clearly isn’t where these car goals are, the new V6 3.5L engine supports the premium sport feel that the looks of this redesigned sedan imbue. Adding 33hp from the previous generation, the 2019 Toyota Avalon hits 301 total horsepower. Combined with a Direct Shift 8-speed Electronically Controlled Automatic Transmission that is meant to combine smooth acceleration with a direct acceleration feel, the pilot can either drive casually or on the sportier side. Perhaps we throttled into this test with low expectations, but the athleticism of the Avalon for a sedan of this type was quite impressive.
The Touring version comes with four driving modes—ECO, NORMAL, SPORT S and SPORT S+. Each mode changes throttle response, steering, suspension and engine sound characteristics. While this difference wasn’t night-and-day to us while testing, it does provide a pivot in the car’s handling characteristics and is another opportunity to strike the right balance between performance and fuel economy. Speaking of which, the V6 comes in at 22/32 mpg (city/hwy)—with a Hybrid variant offering 43/44 mpg, albeit with a more limited 215hp.
What we did find oddly exciting was the car’s brake hold feature which engages once the car has come to a complete stop, enabling the driver to remove their foot from the brake. Testing this on significant inclines and declines, the feature held fast and was seamless in usage—avoiding all the stop-and-go feeling that we’ve felt in other cars with similar features.
Throughout all the details in the new Avalon, clear thought has been put into making a car that is both highly functional as well as enjoyable. Standard features adding both luxury and safety are in abundance, with an estimated $1,700 increase in base model additions with just $250 separating ’18 and ’19 MSRPs. Pricing begins at $35,500 for gas versions with the Touring model we tested coming in at $42,200. Hybrid versions have come down in cost compared to last year’s model, with HV pricing starting at $36,500.