Reviews

2014 Toyota Avalon Walk Around

The Avalon looks wide and aggressive, at least when compared to the previous generation that we'd gotten used to, from 2005 to 2112. There's a sense of kinetic energy that no other Toyota sedan has. It feels compact and tight, one inch lower than before, and with overhangs cut by 0.6 inch in front and 1.8 inches in rear. Still, there's 4.6 inches more total overhang on the Avalon than there is on the Ford Fusion.

The Avalon's face is really a face. It bears similarity to the Fusion, which itself came from Aston Martin, but it's not as good-looking because the big trapezoidal grille with chrome bars is lower, under the traditional graceful Toyota swept-back wing-like grille, now a mere moustache over a gaping mouth full of braces. The selfie is framed by lights, at the top corners there are wraparound projector headlamps, and at the bottom sharply swoopy foglamps.

The body is sculpted with character lines stretching through the hood and from the front wheelwells to the tips of the taillights. There are half-windows at the back of the sloping roof to give rear seat passengers a broader view of the world passing by so quietly and smoothly. Toyota succeeds in making form and function partners in the new Avalon.

Interior

With some sedans having a coupe roofline, function is lost. But Toyota's California designers used the 111-inch wheelbase to sculpt a curvaceous exterior while providing excellent room for heads, legs, hips and shoulders. The seats are firm, maybe too firm. Rear seat passengers have 39.2 inches of legroom, which is 0.9 inch more than the Fusion.

The Avalon is fairly lavishly outfitted, with hand-stitched leather and no cheap plastic like that drawing criticism in other models, namely the Camry. Unfortunately the wood trim looks too much like plastic. Elegant ambient lighting is standard on the Limited, for 2014.

The layout is almost cockpit-like. Things are in correct positions, including the large touchscreen used for the EnTune infotainment system with navigation, audio and Bluetooth. It also enables access to smartphone-based apps such as Pandora, Bing, iHeartRadio, and services like fuel pricing, stock reports, traffic and weather data.

Without navigation, the same screen is used for audio and other features such as the rearview camera. On this screen, the image is big and crisp. A second screen with capacitive touch operates the climate control system.

Cargo capacity is good: 16 cubic feet of trunk space, 14.4 cubic feet for Avalon Hybrid models. Folding down the back seats provides more cargo space and room for longer items.

Driving an Avalon Limited for three days in spring in the dark and damp Pacific Northwest, we quickly grew to love the automatic high beams, that come with the $1750 Technology Package. We can't recall one time where the eye went wrong, unlike other systems we've experienced. The package also includes Dynamic Radar Cruise Control (which we also relied on, worry-free), and Pre-Collision System (which we didn't test and hope we never do).

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