First Glance: Meet the baseline
The newly-redesigned 2005 Toyota Avalon is one of the most difficult cars to review because its just so darn perfect. I drive car after car, week after week, looking for the bad, the good, and the great. In order to judge these things, one has to have a baseline.
Ladies and gentleman, meet the baseline.
The 2005 Avalon is about as good as it gets in terms of space, refinement, power, quality, and safety. It's not particularly exciting, but then it's not designed to be. The Avalon is a big, quiet, comfortable cruiser along the lines of the Chevrolet Impala, Ford Five Hundred, and Buick LeSabrenot particularly sporty, somewhat luxurious, reasonably priced. If this is the class you're shopping in, buy the Avalon. It's the most refined and best built of the bunch.
Umm...thats pretty much it.
I'll go into more detail in the following sections of this Test Drive, but if you'd like to stop reading now, be my guest. I won't take any offense whatsoever. If you're getting hungry, this might be a good time to go for a sandwich.
I'd go with you, but I have to sit here and write the rest of this article.Continued below...
In the Driver's Seat: How did Lexus let Toyota build this car?
OK, good. Thanks for sticking around.
Imagine yourself in a comfortable leather easy chair in a quiet, sedate bubble of tranquility. Imagine some soft music and perhaps a cool breeze blowing on your face. Now imagine this whole vision traveling at 70 miles per hour on the freeway, and that's the Avalon. Frankly, I don't know how Lexus, Toyota's luxury division, ever allowed the Avalon to be built under the Toyota brand, what with its Lexus-like levels of refinement, taste, and interior decor.
The entry-level XL model has cloth seats, power everything, climate control, antilock brakes and airbags all around. A flip-down cover conceals the stereo controls, which are flanked by buttons for the climate control system. Move up through the leather-lined Touring and the wood-trimmed XLS and you'll find yourself in the $34,080 Avalon Limited, quite the bargain considering its Lexus-like features: JBL stereo, rain-sensing wipers, Smart Key push-button starting (the key stays in your pocket), and an acoustic noise-reducing windshield. Having driven the XLS, which is silent as a church at freeway speed, I can't see how a windshield could reduce the noise any further. But if anyone can do it, Toyota can.
On the Road: Let's talk numbers
I think I've pretty much summed up the Avalon's driving experience, so let me hit you with some numbers. The engine is a 3.5 liter V6 that turns out a very impressive 280 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque. That kind of power is enough to make merging on the freeway or passing on a two-laner a non-issue. A 5-speed automatic is standard fare, and Toyota (well, actually the EPA) claims 22 miles per gallon in the city and 31 on the road -- a very good showing for a big car with almost 300 horses on tap. Despite not having the aforementioned noise-reducing windsheld, I found the Avalon to be quieter at 70 MPH than a Mercedes E-class I recently drove.
I have a remarkable ability to get lost (just this morning I turned into the wrong street, thinking it was the one on which I live), so I was thankful that my Avalon had the optional navigation system. Toyota's system is one of the best, though it usually employs a touch-screen. The Avalons uses a joystick-and-button approach. Normally such setups earn my contempt, but the Avalons works reasonably well; still, Id rather have a touch screen. The controls are mounted atop a nifty hinged panel which, like the Avalons other controls, can be closed up and concealed in the dash.
Journey's End: Class leader
Well, what do you know -- we made it to the end of the review, you and I! I suppose I could cheat and simply cut and paste First Glance into this section, but I'll do my best and apply all my writing skills to repeat in different words what you already know.
Toyota did a great job with the redesign of the 2005 Avalon; the new model gets slightly more modern styling and a beautiful interior -- possibly the best I've seen in a non-luxury-brand Japanese car. Safe, too, with airbags all around.
So why four stars instead of five? Couple o' reasons.
First, the trunk is too small -- at 14.4 cubic feet it offers about 15% less cargo room than the mid-size Camry. The wood trim on the doors didn't quite line up with the wood trim on the dash, which I found really annoying (I'm obsessive-compulsive). And being one who enjoys driving, the Avalon was a little dull for my tastes.
Still, when you consider size, power, and the array of optional gadgets, plus the fact that it's built to last for eons, the Avalon is an outstanding bargain for its price. If you want a big, comfortable luxury car but don't feel the need to impress the world with a fancy brand-name slapped on the trunk, the 2005 Toyota Avalon is the car to buy.