Preview: 2019 Toyota Avalon

DETROIT – Toyota’s building an all-new 2019 Avalon, and you can be forgiven if your first reaction is, “They were still making the old one?”

The new cabin looks nothing like the old one, with the previous busy centre stack replaced with a floating central screen that rises up from the console.

The company certainly is, and it’s a shame that the Avalon has mostly lurked in the shadows, since it’s always been a decent and very comfortable driver that sits at the top of Toyota’s car model range. It’s completely redesigned for 2019, including a new platform, new V6 engine, and new features such as standard Apple CarPlay. It goes on sale in late spring 2018, with pricing announced closer to launch.

Like the new Camry, the Avalon now rides on Toyota’s global K Sedan platform, with a multi-link rear suspension. In Canada, two trim levels will be offered: the sportier new XSE, and more luxurious Limited. Both use the new 3.5L V6 engine with eight-speed automatic, which replaces the previous six-speed. In the larger US market, the Avalon will also be offered in Touring level, as well as with a four-cylinder hybrid system, which won’t be sold in Canada.

Horsepower and torque specs haven’t yet been supplied for the engine, but Toyota says the new 3.5L V6 uses direct injection and two variable valve timing technologies, one on the intake and one on exhaust, for optimum torque over a wide range and to minimize pumping losses. The result should be more power than the outgoing V6, which is rated at 268 horsepower and 248 lb-ft of torque, but with improved fuel efficiency over the current city/highway combination of 9.7 L/100 km.

The Avalon’s wide new grille bears some resemblance to Lexus’ spindle-style one, and the new model sports much sharper body lines than the outgoing one. The new Avalon is wider and lower, and with a longer wheelbase, but the front and rear overhangs are shorter. Much of the extra space goes to the rear of the cabin, which now provides extra room for those sitting in the back seats.

The new cabin looks nothing like the old one, with the previous busy centre stack replaced with a floating central screen that rises up from the console and seems to rest against the dash panels. Yamaha, which apparently makes a lot more than just pianos and motorcycles, supplies the wood and aluminum trim components.

Toyota says the Avalon will carry the company’s most advanced lighting system, should customers order the available LED Vision Tech headlamps. On the XSE they use a cluster of light reflectors for the daytime running lights, while the Limited’s available lights use thin modules for the low and high beams, along with adaptive LED cornering lamps that improve visibility when the wheels are turned, and dynamic front and rear turn signals that flash sequentially when activated.

In addition to available features, the Limited is differentiated by a dark grey front grille, body-colour mirror housing, wood trim, quilted upholstery with two-colour stitches and unique 18-inch wheels, while the XSE has a gloss black grille, black rear spoiler, quad tailpipes with rear diffuser, aluminum trim, perforated Ultrasuede upholstery, and 19-inch gloss black wheels.

While the outgoing Avalon wasn’t very tech-heavy, the new model includes standard Qi wireless charging, five USB ports, Apple CarPlay, Entune 3.0 App Suite Connect, nine-inch capacitive touchscreen, and available 1,200-watt, 14-speaker JBL audio system. The Limited also adds a standard 10-inch head-up display. Safety technologies include full-speed adaptive cruise control, lane departure with steering assist, pre-collision system with pedestrian detection, and rear cross-traffic alert with emergency braking.

Still, we’re a little behind the American market, where buyers will also get a Wi-Fi subscription and the integration of Amazon Alexa and smartwatch connectivity. This allows home-to-car and car-to-home integration, such as operating the locks or starting the Avalon from a smartwatch or enabled device.

Toyota also plays up to a younger audience here in Canada with wheel-mounted paddle shifters on the XSE, as well as a Sport driving mode, and an intake sound generator that broadcasts enhanced engine sound into the cabin through the stereo speakers.

First Toyota vehicle to support Apple CarPlay. 1/16/2018 7:00:00 AM