Expert review written by the Kelley Blue Book vehicle review editorial team.
You'll Like The 2011 Toyota Avalon If...
Partisans of neo-classic auto design whose driving desires lean heavily towards safe and serene cruising in a spacious, near-luxury environment will find plenty to like about this latest version of the Toyota Avalon.
You May Not Like The 2011 Toyota Avalon If...
Those seeking a big sedan with more expressive appearance, one that offers a high-performance engine option or one that just plain caters to a younger mindset will probably feel more at home in a Buick LaCrosse, Chrysler 300, Ford Taurus or Hyundai Genesis.
A subtle but welcome rethink of the basic formula melds the XL/XLS trims into a single standard Avalon model, which like the remaining Limited, nets a tasteful facelift, better-focused packaging and even more practical amenities to complement its amazingly accommodating passenger compartment.
Quiet and well-isolated, the cabin of the 2011 Toyota Avalon also enjoys a healthy helping of enlightened "newness." Key gains include a revamped dash design that boasts even-more-legible Optitron electroluminescent gauges and a reconfigured center stack that accommodates the fitment of Toyota’s latest voice-activated touch-screen DVD-based navigation package with its 7.0-inch LCD screen. The de facto merging of last-year’s XL/XLS models also brought standard leather trim to the new base Avalon and nets the Limited even more elegantly upholstered perches that now provide both heating and cooling capabilities as well as even richer-looking wood-grain accent trim.
The Avalon and Avalon Limited share understated but effective nose and tail revamps that impart a fresher and more crisply defined character to the otherwise carryover main bodywork. Highlighting this transformation process are a restyled grille and fascias, new halogen/HID headlamps and bolder LED-infused taillamps plus an extra helping of chrome trim on the door sills, decklid and mirrors. The lineup simplification now sees 17-inch alloy wheels fitted across the entire slimmed-down board. However, the primo Limited variant gets new 10-spoke mirror-finish rims, which, like the standard Avalon, are wrapped in 215/55 all-season tires.
True to its heritage, the 2011 Toyota Avalon remains at its best in unabashed cruise mode. Compliance definitely trumps precision control in this spacious sedan, although few Avalon buyers are likely to take much issue with the relative balance that’s been struck between the two. Steering response and brake pedal feel also exhibit that same kind of family four-door character. So too the front buckets which, while offering comfort and adjustability to go the distance, are decidedly light on lateral support when the venues do get twisty. As for the Avalon’s aft quarters with a standard 60/40-spllt reclining rear seatback and superb leg/head room, they’re simply the best in class. While a relatively low center tunnel makes three-across at least a short-term possibility, the two outboard spots are clearly the locations of choice. One caveat: Because the seatbacks don’t fold flat and trunk capacity is a mere 14.7 cubic-feet, the Avalon’s cargo-toting skills are relatively modest.
The 2011 Toyota Avalon carries a Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) that starts at just over $33,000 for a standard model and opens near $36,000 for an Avalon Limited. Adding the navigation system can push the bottom line of a Limited version closer to $38,000. All of those Avalon numbers are somewhat-to-significantly beyond comparably equipped versions of its prime rivals from Buick, Chrysler, Ford and Hyundai. However, while it remains short on visceral excitement, the revamped 2011 Avalon in either trim continues to boast exemplary resale value compared to those competitors. As in the past, expect the standard model to hold a slight edge over the Limited variant in the long-term residuals department.
The base Avalon boasts an impressive features roster that includes a full array of power assists, dual-zone climate control, leather upholstery, wood-grain trim, power moonroof, nine-speaker premium audio system with XM Satellite Radio, Bluetooth connectivity, USB/Aux/iPod inputs, a rear-view monitor, power front seats, class-exclusive reclining rear seatbacks, seven airbags and Toyota’s comprehensive Five Star Safety System with new brake override circuitry. The Avalon Limited adds a 12-speaker/660-watt JBL Premium Synthesis audio system, full climate controlled front seats, enhanced perforated-leather and wood-grain trims, four-door Smart Key with Push Button Start, a power rear sunshade, full HID headlamps and more.
The extras list for either version of the 2011 Toyota Avalon is a short one. Key enhancements for the standard Avalon include the same 660-watt JBL premium audio system that comes in the Limited – with or without a DVD-based navigation system that trims the disc count in the CD changer from six to four. Also on offer are heated front seats, alone or as part of a package that includes a driver seat/power mirror memory system and an eight-way power passenger seat. Save for a dealer-installed remote engine starter that also can be fitted to the base Avalon, the Limited limits its options to the aforementioned DVD-based navigation system.
Optional DVD-based Navigation systemThe 2011 update brings a new-generation DVD-based navigation voice-activated system that features a larger, LCD touch screen with improved graphics, more intuitive controls and an overall higher degree of user-friendliness. Reclining rear seatbacksIncluding on both Avalon models, the 60/40 split seatback offers five positions of manually-adjustable recline that adds even more long-distance appeal to the Avalon’s exceptionally accommodating aft quarters.
Under the Hood
The Avalon’s sole engine/transmission combo – Toyota’s 3.5-liter V6 and a six-speed automatic transmission – delivers an impressive combination of swiftness, smoothness and now even better economy. Although the engine’s 268 horsepower and 248 pound-feet of torque are hardly the stuff of legend, it features efficiency-boosting VVT-i (Variable Valve Timing with intelligence) on both the intake and exhaust side. Coupled with a responsive multi-mode six-speed automatic transmission, it helps this roughly 3,600-lb sedan impressively sprint from 0-60 mph in less than seven seconds. Although Toyota says it made no mechanical or electronic changes underhood for 2011, the latest EPA test regimen awarded the new Avalon 20 mpg in the city and 29 mpg on the highway compared to the 19/28 mpg numbers it carried 2010. 3.5-liter V6268 horsepower @ 6200 rpm248 lb.-ft. of torque @ 4700 rpmEPA city/highway fuel economy: 20/29
The flagship of Toyota’s sedan fleet has been treated to a modest makeover for 2011 intended to put a bit more contemporary spin on its admittedly boomer-and-beyond primary appeal. In addition to a simplification of available trim levels, this well-calculated fine-tuning process nets the 2011 Toyota Avalon exterior and interior tweaks that couple a touch of much-needed visual spark with more functional interior luxury – and even yield a slight bump in fuel economy for good measure. Collectively, these enhancements help raise the 2011 Avalon’s profile and desirability index as it battles with other full-size four-door rivals to grab a greater share of the mature market.