The 2012 Toyota Avalon is Toyota's take on what a large American sedan should be. Based on Camry mechanicals including the V6 engine, the Avalon is roomy, comfortable and eschews any pretense of performance. Instead, it rests its head on Toyota's stellar reputation for reliability.
You'll Like The 2012 Toyota Avalon If...
Looking for a big, soft-riding cruiser with loads of creature comforts, room for five and a massive trunk? Look no further than the 2012 Toyota Avalon sedan.
You May Not Like The 2012 Toyota Avalon If...
While the 2012 Toyota Avalon is big on comfort and quality, it's not really a looker. Those who seek a more stylish and sophisticated design may be happier with the Hyundai Genesis, Buick LaCrosse, Ford Taurus or Chrysler 300.
Fresh from a mild makeover last year, there are no major changes to the 2012 Toyota Avalon sedan.
To list the 2012 Toyota Avalon's interior attributes would take up more space than this review allows. Suffice to say a well-isolated cabin is at the top of the list, as is the lovely soft-touch padding on just about every surface. An Optitron electroluminescent gauge cluster is entertaining as well as easy on the eyes, and a reconfigured center stack plays home to the available DVD-navigation with its 7-inch LCD screen. With leather seating standard, even the least expensive Avalon sedan feels like a 5-star luxury car, and by opting for the available heated and cooled seats, some may feel they've gotten a Lexus at a Toyota price, and they just might be right.
Last year's mild makeover brought a slightly more modern feel to the Toyota Avalon's nose and taillights, but the rest of the car remains ultra conservative and slightly dated. The 2012 Toyota Avalon sedan features bulging halogen/HID headlights and LED-infused taillights with plenty of chrome touches all over the car signaling its near-luxury intent. Both the base and Limited cars ride on 17-inch wheels and tires, but the Limited gets a handsome set of 10-spoke mirror-finish rims befitting its higher pecking order status.
As one might expect, the 2012 Toyota Avalon is in its element when cruising broad expanses of smooth, straight highway. A compliant ride takes precedent over quick reflexes, but most Avalon buyers will likely find the car more than exceeds their performance expectations. Steering response and brake feel are strong, but again they do not promote the same type of driving excitement one gets from driving a Chrysler 300C or Ford Taurus SHO. The 2012 Toyota Avalon sedan's front seats are soft and wide without much in the way of lateral support. In back, the Avalon sedan delivers head and legroom in spades, and features a class-exclusive reclining rear seatback. While a relatively low center tunnel makes 3-across seating 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 2012 Toyota Avalon sedan carries a Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) that starts around $34,000 for a standard model and opens near $37,000 for an Avalon Limited. Adding the navigation system plus a few dealer-installed items can push the bottom line of a Limited version closer to $40,000. 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 2012 Toyota Avalon sedan 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 2012 Toyota Avalon sedan boasts an impressive features roster that includes a full array of power assists, dual-zone climate control, leather upholstery, wood-grain trim, power moonroof, 9-speaker premium audio system with XM Satellite Radio, Bluetooth connectivity, USB/Aux/iPod inputs, a rearview 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, 4-door Smart Key with Push Button Start, a power rear sunshade, full HID headlights and more. All 2012 Toyota Avalon sedans include electronic traction and stability control, front side-impact and full-length side-curtain airbags, as well as a driver's knee airbag.
The extras list for either version of the 2012 Toyota Avalon sedan 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 8-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 system
The 2012 Toyota Avalon sedan brings a new-generation DVD-based navigation voice-activated system that features a larger than normal LCD touch screen with improved graphics, more intuitive controls and an overall higher degree of user-friendliness.
Reclining rear seatbacks
Included on both 2012 Toyota Avalon sedan 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 2012 Toyota Avalon sedan's sole engine/transmission combo – Toyota's 3.5-liter V6 and a 6-speed automatic transmission – delivers an impressive combination of swiftness, smoothness and 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 6-speed automatic transmission, it helps this roughly 3,600-pound sedan impressively sprint from 0-60 mph in less than seven seconds.
268 horsepower @ 6,200 rpm
248 lb-ft of torque @ 4,700 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 20/29
The 2012 Toyota Avalon sedan is more than just the company's flagship car, it's a testament to Toyota's ability to adapt its product to the uniquely American market. There are still a lot of people out there who like cars, not SUVs or CUVs or pickups, but cars. And, within that population there are many who like their cars big, plush and carefree. With the exception of the carefree part, this used to be the sole domain of the American automobile industry, with names like Buick Electra and Mercury Grand Marquis leading the way. Today, there are only a few large near-luxury sedans offered, making the Avalon's job all the easier. With appointments approaching a Lexus level of refinement and comfort, the 2012 Toyota Avalon 4-door sedan can easily handle competition from such heavyweights as the Buick LaCrosse and Chrysler 300. However, Hyundai's Genesis might be able to cause the big Toyota some heartburn, with features equaling and in some cases exceeding the Avalon's at a very competitive price.