First drive: 2013 Toyota Avalon in the UAE
The Toyota Avalon never really did well in the UAE. Conservative design, woolly handling and a price-tag that slowly crept up to Lexus-like levels, it was never destined to do well here. I never though much of it either, until I sat in the back seat of a 2008 model when hanging with my chauffeur buddy. With its cushy voluminous interior, it suddenly dawned on me that it’s a darn good comfort cruiser, and would’ve done well were it not for its sky-high price tag. But now there’s an all-new model for 2013, and apparently it’s going after “younger” drivers. What exactly do younger drivers want?
We don’t really know, because most of them ogle at Bugatti Veyrons while trundling around in Toyota Camrys. Anyway, we were flown to Abu Dhabi on a sea-plane, treated to a 5-star dinner, kept overnight at Jumeirah-Etihad Towers hotel and handed iPad Minis as press kits, so you can be completely sure we were in a positive mindset before we started on the journey back to Dubai.
The 2013 Toyota Avalon is undeniably a good-looking car, that too for the first time in its boring existence. In its transformation from conservative to sporty, it’s actually lost a little “elegance” in the process, but no one’s complaining. The Avalon now has the distinction of sharing its platform with the capable new Lexus ES, and that’s a good thing.
The platform is also a stretched version of the Camry one, and that translates to excellent space inside. Well, excellent in all but one area — rear headroom. The sloping roofline at the back really cuts it close to the scalp of taller passengers, something we noticed in the Lexus ES as well.
The interior materials are top-notch for the most part, with soft-touch trim and stitched leatherette on the dash-top and upper doors. There’s lots of chrome and wood as well. And aside from the touchscreen, there’s capacitive-touch buttons for the a/c and other dash buttons, which are thankfully easier to use than the ones in new Cadillacs. And that’s just in our mid-range model. The top-spec models get further features, like selectable drive modes and adaptive cruise control.
The 3.5-litre V6 engine gets only a minor update, now making 273 hp, and mated to a 6-speed automatic with manual-shift capability. The powertrain is more than adequate for overtaking at highway speeds, though don’t expect to win any drag races.
The handling seems to be good, although we didn’t really push it. On moderate-speed turns, there’s no body roll or odd rebounds. The steering lets you feel the texture of the road, but it is on the light side. The brakes don’t do much until you really press on the mushy pedal.
The ride is good enough, about as smooth as a Toyota Camry if not the previous Avalon, with only the occasional road imperfection coming through the meaty tyres on those 17-inch alloys. There is no floatiness like the old model, doing speeds of 170 kph with total stability. But we feel the cabin could’ve been a little bit more quiet at 120 kph for a near-luxury car, though interior noise levels are no more than in its Camry sibling. Maybe it was just windy?
The 2013 Avalon is a very nice car in most aspects, although it will have tough competition from within its own ranks, nestled in price between the Toyota Aurion and the Lexus ES. There’s nothing compelling enough in it that’ll make you run out and buy one; but if you are a Toyota man and love your Camry, this would be a nice upgrade once you start making more money.