Soothing road manners
Impressive standard features
Distracting front grille on sport trims
Tries too hard to be sporty
Middling fuel economy
2019 Toyota Avalon Touring
All-new, the fifth-generation Avalon is now based on the brand's new Toyota New Global Architecture (TNGA) platform, which has enabled a number of tweaks. The 2019 iteration is longer, lower, wider, and more powerful than the outgoing model. It also permitted designers to extend the rear cabin back by 7 inches, while body height, cowl height, and rear deck height are lower by 1.0, 1.2, and 0.8 inches, respectively. The latest in stamping methods also facilitate more sculpted body panels.
The fourth-generation Avalon, introduced in 2012, was the first to break from the nameplate's staid past, and the latest iteration continues that arc. For 2019, the Avalon receives fresh sheetmetal all-around. Up front, the headlights are narrower, and flank a more massive single grille that replaces the narrow upper grille and larger lower grille of the outgoing model. The chiseled look continues along the flanks, punctuated by prominent upper and lower character lines, and sharp creases around the wheel wells. In back, a narrow light bar connects the upper edges of the taillights, with Touring models like our tester featuring a narrow deck lid spoiler and an aggressive, sculpted lower fascia replete with two pair of chrome-tipped exhaust finishers.
From our point of view, the only misstep is up front, where the Avalon tries too hard at sportiness on XSE and Touring models. In particular, when the exterior is finished in a lighter color like our tester's Wind Chill Pearl (white), the mammoth, dark mesh grille overpowers the delicate, narrow LED headlamp enclosures – being both too wide and too low for our tastes.
The interior is handsome, where contrasting colors highlight a mix of upscale materials, and all lines lead to the Android Auto and Apple CarPlay-compatible, 9-inch, pedestal-mounted, infotainment touchscreen that dominates the middle of the dash. Toyota has also gone to great lengths to give occupants a feeling of roominess with a lower beltline and cowl, a concave shape to the passenger-side dash, and nearly 103 cu ft of passenger space.
The all-day comfortable front seats – wrapped in either synthetic leather or synthetic suede on XLE, XSE, and Touring trims, and quilted leather on Limited models - are nicely bolstered, with power adjustments standard even on the base model. Dash, door and center console surfaces are soft touch, with real stitching, with either wood or aluminum trim adorning all but the XLE.
The rear seating area is equally comfortable, offering air vents, a pair of USB ports, and available heated seats, where three adults can stretch out and enjoy the 40 inches of legroom. The trunk is also spacious, with 16 cu ft of cargo volume and rear seats that flip and fold forward for added versatility. Overall, the interior is closer to that of a Lexus rather than a typical Toyota.
We only have a couple of nits to pick. For one, the intake sound composer on our Touring model didn't make it any faster, just louder. Secondly, the wireless phone charging pad is located in a covered storage area in front of the shifter, making it difficult and distracting to retrieve while driving.
Under the hood
The gasoline-only version of the 2019 Avalon is powered by a 3.5-liter V6 that gets a boost in horsepower from 268 to 301 for even stronger acceleration and more confidant highway passing. It's matched to a silky smooth 8-speed automatic.
Fuel economy is above average for the class, with an EPA-estimated 22 miles per gallon city, 31 mpg highway, and 25 combined. We narrowly missed the mark with a vehicle-measured 21.9 miles per gallon in spirited suburban driving.
On the road
Like its predecessors, the latest Avalon is in its element on the highway. Sliding in, adjusting the seat, climate, and entertainment settings, and hitting the on-ramp are the precursors to miles and miles of comfortable, relaxed, interstate cruising. Adding to the bliss is a retuned electric power steering rack that's comfortably heavy and – surprise – even mildly engaging. Touring models like ours are equipped with a Toyota-first adaptive variable suspension that adjusts damping and shock stiffness for a predictably smooth ride in Normal mode, while, in Sport+, offering a stiffer ride, dramatically heavier steering, quicker throttle response, and gear changes further up the rev band.
At highway speeds, road noise is kept to a minimum through the use of acoustic windshield and front side window glass and liberal use of sound-deadening materials. Straight-line stability is impressive with no need to constantly make steering corrections, while on-center feel is also excellent and the weight builds nicely as the Avalon moves through the curves.
But at the same time, despite the attempt at performance, this sedan's strong suit remains that of a sedate highway cruiser. The piped-in intake sounds, standard on the Touring trim, are hardly satisfying, while its sport-tuned exhaust baffles howl but don't scream.
2019 Toyota Avalon prices
Pricing for 2019 Toyota Avalon gasoline-only models begins with the $36,875 XLE, with a wide range of standard equipment that includes the usual power bits plus - windows (all auto up-down), locks, mirrors and front seats – plus alloy wheels, heated outside mirrors, LED headlights and tail lights, dual-zone automatic climate control, faux leather seats that are heated up front, leather-trimmed steering wheel and shift knob, keyless push-button start, and a 9-inch infotainment touchscreen with satellite radio, Toyota Connected Services, and Verizon Wi-Fi with Siri Eyes Free and Apple CarPlay capability.
Toyota's advanced Safety Sense system is also standard, and includes pre-collision warning with pedestrian detection, automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning with steering assist, automatic headlights with high beam assist, and adaptive cruise control.
Top trim Avalon Touring models like our tester have a base price of $42,200, and adds an adaptive variable suspension, larger 19-inch alloy wheels, a mesh sport grille, black deck lid spoiler, sport tuned exhaust, quad exhaust tips, blind spot warning outside mirrors, moonroof, aluminum interior trim, ambient interior lighting, 10-inch color head up display, leather seats (heated and cooled with driver's memory function in front, heated in back), power heated tilt & telescopic steering wheel with memory, and a JBL audio system with navigation.
Our Avalon was also equipped with the $1,150 Advanced Safety Package (front and rear sonar parking sensors, 360-degree Bird's Eye View Camera, and rear cross-traffic alert with automatic braking), $395 Wind Chill Pearl white paint, and the $248 Carpet Mat Package (carpet floor mats, carpet trunk mat), which brought its manufacturer suggested retail price, including a $920 delivery, processing, and handling fee, to $44,913 – barely $1,000 shy of the most you could spend on a fully-accessorized example.
The Bottom Line
If you're looking for either sporty handling and performance or outstanding fuel economy in an upscale family sedan, you'll probably find that the latest gasoline-only Avalon is still not your cup of tea (the hybrid version, on the other hand, scores an EPA-estimated 43 miles per gallon in the city, 44 on the highway, and 44 combined).
If, on the other hand, your tastes require a comfortable, smooth-riding vehicle wrapped in a sleek design that, while devoid of the badge and the corresponding dealer experience, is every bit as luxurious as practically any Lexus, we believe that your ship, indeed, has come in.