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Don Adair: Toyota’s full-size Avalon wins hearts and minds

Toyota sought to make a statement with the reborn Avalon. Its flowing profile, bulging wheel wells and crisp character lines reflected the dynamism of a suspension tuned to deliver a vibrant, if not track-ready, drive and of its 268-horsepower V-6. (Toyota)

Can a car and its owner be soulmates?

I don’t mean that in the way some people name their cars. I mean it like the reader who called to tell me how much he loves his Toyota Avalon. 

This fellow’s love affair with his Avalon is deep and wide. For many years, he had been loyal to a certain full-size domestic sedan. He discovered Avalon only when his longtime favorite had been discontinued.

Now, he says about the Avalon, “Best car I’ve ever owned.” And at 80-plus, he’s owned a few.

In 2013, Toyota treated its flagship sedan to a clean-sheet makeover. Given my new friend’s age, it might seem ironic that the car that emerged was more dynamic, engaging and vigorous than its predecessor.

But my new friend still fires up his motorcycle when the weather turns nice, so it seems the Avalon tickled his living-large sweet spot.

Toyota sought to make a statement with the reborn Avalon ($34,184, including destination). Its flowing profile, bulging wheel wells and crisp character lines reflected the dynamism of a suspension tuned to deliver a vibrant, if not track-ready, drive and of its 268-horsepower V-6.

If its gaping grille was too strong a statement for some, it nonetheless signaled that a new Avalon had landed.

Avalon’s cabin picks up where its sheet metal leaves off. Its layered dash incorporates a contoured control panel housing a 7-inch color touchscreen display. An array of switches stand in for buttons and respond to the driver’s touch with a slight haptic bump.

A Portland road-trip confirmed my caller’s claim for the Avalon as a terrific road car. Large and supportive seats coddle their occupants. Automatic dual-zone climate control keeps everyone happily ventilated. At highway speeds, the cabin is whisper-quiet.

Old-school types may object to Avalon’s firm ride but the pay-off lies in minimal body lean in corners and in the absence of unwanted body motions. 

Buyers seeking a sportier feel can turn to the Touring trim ($35,585), with its sport-tuned suspension, 18-inch wheels and LED headlights and taillights. 

On our drive home, an icy wintery mix solidified into a crunchy slush that fouled our tester’s cruise-control sensors but couldn’t shake its planted big-car feel. It won’t be mistaken for an Audi or a Bimmer, but Avalon is a road warrior in its own right.

Every Avalon is nicely equipped, with standard gear that includes leather seats; heated front seats; dual-zone automatic climate control; an eight-way power-adjustable driver seat, with power lumbar; and a four-way power-adjustable front passenger seat.

Electronics include keyless ignition and entry, a rearview camera, Bluetooth connectivity, a 7-inch touchscreen with Toyota's Entune interface with voice controls, and an eight-speaker audio system. 

Toyota’s Safety Sense driver-assist suite becomes standard on Avalon this year. It includes adaptive cruise, lane-departure warning and intervention, forward-collision warning, automatic pre-collision braking and automatic high-beam headlights.

Whether it’s the flesh-and-blood variety or one made of metal and plastic, a soulmate should be celebrated. Here’s hoping fortune shines on you as it did my friend.

Contact Don at don@dadair.com, or visit www.dadair.com.

2017 Toyota Avalon Touring
Vehicle base price: $33,300
Trim level base price: $37,650
As tested: $39,134
Options included Blizzard Pearl paint, carpets and trunk mat.
EPA rating: 24 combined/21 city/30 highway
Regular unleaded gas specified

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