Owners tend to rave about the roominess, comfort, luxury, and quality imparted by the Avalon driving experience.
The last complete generation of the Avalon luxury sedan hit the Canadian market in 2012 as a totally reconceived take on Toyota’s premium mid-size sedan. With a big focus on improved styling, added feature content, and the inclusion of the latest technologies and safety equipment, this generation of Avalon makes a compelling upgrade to older models for shoppers looking for an upgrade.
Born of a wholly North American design effort, this generation of Avalon featured a stiffer body structure, an all-new suspension, a new steering system, a drive mode selector, and more. A modernized cabin and revised suite of safety systems helped round out the package.
Various trim grades and options packages were available, depending on the year, to help shoppers fine-tune the Avalon to their specific needs and budget.
Taking a place above the Camry in the model lineup, Avalon is a generously sized, roomy, very comfortable, and nicely equipped premium offering for shoppers after a luxury sedan experience at an attainable price.
Look for premium audio systems, climate-controlled leather seating, push-button start, automatic lights, a rear-window sunshade, radar cruise control, automatic climate control, wood-grain trim, keyless entry, Bluetooth, and plenty more.
All models ran Toyota’s proven 3.5-litre V6 engine, with about 270 horsepower. A six-speed automatic transmission with available paddle shifting was standard on all models. All Avalon models are front-wheel drive.
What Owners Like
Owners tend to rave about the roominess, comfort, luxury, and quality imparted by the Avalon driving experience. Long-haul comfort, acceleration, and bang-for-the-buck are also highly rated. The up-level stereo is said to deliver a noteworthy listening experience, too.
What Owners Dislike
Some owners wish for more straightforward infotainment controls, and a more precise feel to the Avalon’s steering and handling. A sometimes-clumsy and sluggish transmission was also noted by some owners.
Pro Tip: Check the Styling
Look for the update. From model-year 2016, an update saw Avalon fitted with revised and updated styling, redesigned headlamps, and additional feature content. This update was fairly mild as a whole, but went a long way towards giving this generation of Avalon its most striking and modern appearance.
The Test Drive
Battery and Charging
Some owners have reported a shorter-than-expected life from the Avalon’s factory battery, and if you’re looking at an older model from this generation, budget to replace the battery if it doesn’t pass a battery and charging system check with flying colours. Running a fresh and healthy battery is vital to help fend off an array of electronics-related problems in modern cars, so to protect yourself from potential headaches, replace your used Avalon’s battery at the first sign of trouble. If you note any niggling or random issues with on-board electronics, start with a check of the vehicle’s battery.
Transmission and Shifting
This generation of Avalon seems to be relatively trouble-free in the transmission department, and possible issues reported of earlier versions of the Toyota six-speed automatic seem to have been resolved by the time this Avalon rolled around. Still, a small handful of owners have reported clumsy or hard shifting, as well as other unwelcomed sensations from the transmission, on occasion. In most cases, a simple “reset” of the transmission computer brain (by a dealer technician, not by disconnecting and reconnecting the battery) is the fix.
As many owners note, sticking strictly to all transmission servicing as outlined in the owner’s manual is also key for a long and trouble-free life from this component. If you live in Canada, follow the “severe” service schedule for transmission servicing. Here’s some more reading.
Finally, confirm that the vehicle’s past owners haven’t skipped or stretched any transmission-related maintenance intervals (or any other maintenance intervals, for that matter), as this can lead to issues. Finally, note that problems that arise because of owner failure to properly maintain, service, and inspect the vehicle aren’t covered by warranty.
All of the Electronics
In general, Japanese electronics give shoppers little to worry about as the vehicle ages, though shoppers are still advised to run all on-board electronics through their paces, several times, during their test drive. Extensively work any and everything within the Avalon that runs on electricity – confirming satisfactory operation from the navigation system, Bluetooth, all lighting, all advanced safety features, the power windows, locks and seat adjustments, and more. If any of these high-end features isn’t working properly, you’ll want to know before you buy.
Some owners have reported an unpleasant smell coming their way from the climate control system when engaged. Common across many makes and models, this smell (which resembles mould, or a smelly gym bag) is typically caused when certain operational conditions allow moisture and mould to build up within the climate control system venting.
If the Avalon you’re considering pumps smelly air into the cabin when the climate control is activated, be sure to read this discussion. A few owners mention the problem, and one owner responds with a clever DIY fix that avoids a potential $150-plus cleaning service at the dealer to eliminate the smell. Note that a fresh and clean cabin air filter can go a long way to ensuring your Avalon’s climate control system performs properly, and without unwanted odours.
Check the Trunk
Spend a moment opening and examining the Avalon’s trunk, for two reasons.
First, with the trunk lid open, you can check the lower, inner edge of the trunk lip, for signs of sneaky rust that likes to start forming in this area. If you see any, be sure to treat or repair it before it spreads.
Second, you’ll want to examine all trunk carpeting, and (importantly) the area around and beneath the spare tire, for signs of unwanted smells, mould, or pooled water. Though rare, some owners have reported unpleasant smells from the trunk, possibly caused when a small water leak (perhaps caused by a bad weather seal) allows water to pool beneath the spare tire, where it reacts with a sound-deadening treatment beneath the spare tire. This problem is rare, but worth checking for.
If you see any signs of current or previous water pooling in the trunk, be sure to have it assessed by a professional. Common causes of water leaks into a trunk include worn or mis-fit weather seals between the trunk lid and body, as well as damaged or compromised rubber washers at the location where the taillamps bolt to the vehicle body.
You can look up if any recalls apply to your vehicle by entering the VIN on the Toyota website.
Avalon looks to be a solid buy in a used luxurious sedan, with most problems reported being fairly minor in nature, and easy to diagnose and address. As it goes with any used vehicle, confirming proper maintenance is key, and from the basis of a satisfactory pre-purchase inspection (PPI), checks for all possible issues listed above, and confirmation that all servicing is up to date, this one can be bought with confidence.
IIHS: Top Safety Pick (2013)
NHTSA: 5/5 Stars