By David Colman
Hypes: 0.28 CD and Short Overhangs Yield a Looker
Gripes: Why All the Interior Chrome Trim?
Did you ever notice how automotive reviewers feel compelled to trash a company’s previous offering – one they universally loved just a few years back – whenever they’re given a new version of the same model to drive? This frequently occurs because manufacturers themselves denigrate their prior offering in order to cast a fairer light on its replacement. In most new model debuts, the comparison is odious. But the completely redesigned and repurposed 2013 Toyota Avalon is one of those rare cases that validates the rejection/adulation syndrome.
Until now, the Avalon has registered little more than a cipher in Toyota’s otherwise hot selling product line. Derived from the forgettable Cressida back in 1995, the Avalon came across as a luxurious sedan designed to satisfy customers who thought they had pulled into a Buick dealership. Even though it underwent makeovers in 2000 and 2005, the Avalon remained a stodgy looking car for folks who didn’t relish taking much of a chance on their automotive purchase. To be sure, Avalon was quiet, refined, and well put together in the best Toyota tradition. But when it came to serving up sizzle, Avalon was more tepid than a wet briquette.
Avalon’s wandering in the wilderness is officially over. Toyota management snatched design of the 4th generation model away from the minions in Japan and turned the new car over to the American styling whizzes employed at the Toyota Technical Center in Woodridge, California known as CALTY. They have come up with a startlingly handsome sedan that bears no resemblance to its predecessors. Yes, it still has 4 doors, seating for 5, and a full 16 cubic foot trunk. But the sheet metal that now clothes the Avalon is devastatingly effective at communicating the total reboot of this model line. The motivating idea is to appeal to a younger buyer who will cross shop the Avalon against products from BMW, Audi and yes, even Buick.
Against them all, the Avalon fares well. Its frontal view connotes snarl. From the side, its ellipse is slick, with the cabin glass tumbling home in one unbroken line from roof to rocker panel. CALTY definitely outdid themselves with the shape of the new Avalon. Because the externals are so compelling, the interior is somewhat of a letdown, harkening back to the detail-oriented fussiness of previous versions. Instead of a sleek overall design along the lines of a BMW 3 or Audi A4, the Avalon cockpit presents a lumpy pastiche, with too much chrome outlining every pod edge, instrument binnacle and door rest. Although the chrome used is “smoked” to lessen brightness, matte aluminum would have improved the overall ambiance immensely. At one point, I was actually blinded by dazzling reflections off the bezel of the instrument cluster.