- Seats five adults in comfort
- Good visibility
- Comfortable ride
- Strong and efficient engine
- Reclining rear seats
- A bit expensive for its class
- Elevated road noise
- Front seats lack support
- Refined nature leaves little room for flair or personality
For decades, full-size cars were as much a part of the American landscape as drive-in theaters. But just like this icon of the American landscape, only a handful of full-size models remain. Within this group, the 2012 Toyota Avalon continues to be a well-known and respectable choice.
Debuting back in 2005, the current-generation, Camry-based Avalon is one of Toyota's oldest models, even if it underwent a significant design overhaul last year. But there's still a lot to like here, including a spacious cabin, excellent visibility and a refined ride. Also maintaining big sedan tradition is the Avalon's massive backseat, which boasts standard reclining seatbacks, abundant headroom and an available power rear sunshade.
Unlike in years past, however, the Avalon now faces more competent competitors, such as the stylish Buick LaCrosse, the impressively revamped Chrysler 300, the tech-oriented Ford Taurus and the upscale Hyundai Genesis. Compared to these models, the Avalon can come off as less refined and a bit boring due to its conservative styling and overall driving demeanor.
Perhaps most importantly, the Avalon's base price when new starts anywhere from about $3,000-$7,000 above the base versions of its chief rivals. But overall the 2012 Toyota Avalon is still worth consideration given its success in fulfilling the core aspects that most full-size sedan shoppers will be looking for.
WHAT'S NEW FOR 2012
For 2012, the Toyota Avalon is unchanged.
TRIMS & EQUIPMENT
The 2012 Toyota Avalon is a full-size sedan available in base and Limited trim levels.
Standard equipment on the base Avalon includes 17-inch alloy wheels, foglights, auto-dimming driver and rearview mirrors, heated mirrors, a sunroof, automatic headlights, cruise control, dual-zone automatic climate control, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, an eight-way power driver seat, a reclining rear seat, leather upholstery, a rearview camera (mounted in the rearview mirror), Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity and a nine-speaker sound system with a six-CD changer, satellite radio, an auxiliary audio jack and a USB/iPod interface.
The Limited adds xenon headlights, automatic wipers, keyless ignition/entry, additional power driver seat adjustment, a power passenger seat, heated and ventilated front seats, driver memory functions, a power rear sunshade and a 12-speaker sound system.
A few of the Limited's features, such as the upgraded sound system and heated seats, are available on the base Avalon, while a voice-activated touchscreen navigation system with real-time traffic is optional for both trims.
INTERIOR & SAFETY
The Toyota Avalon's interior feels upscale and inviting thanks to its glowing gauges, attractive and ergonomic control layout and high-quality materials. Standard wood and metallic accents further the luxury ambience, making the Avalon impressively similar to its upscale cousins from Lexus. That said, the Avalon's competitors have a similar interior ambience.
The front seats are wide and accommodating, and the Avalon Limited offers them heated, ventilated and with a seat cushion length adjuster. The rear seats are very comfortable as well. Legroom is abundant even by full-size sedan standards, and the seatbacks recline, which allows passengers to stretch out on long trips. A 6-footer can sit in back with more than enough knee- and headroom. And with a nearly flat floor, getting three into the backseat on carpool day is no problem, which is a noticeable advantage compared to some of the Avalon's rear-drive competitors.
One minor annoyance is the inability to fold the rear seats down -- the trade-off for the reclining feature. The trunk measures 14.4 cubic feet, which is smaller than what's available in other full-size sedans.
Standard safety equipment on the 2012 Toyota Avalon includes antilock disc brakes, stability and traction control, active front head restraints, front-seat side airbags, side curtain airbags and a driver-side knee airbag. During Edmunds brake testing, the Avalon came to a stop from 60 mph in 129 feet, a slightly longer-than-average distance for this class.
In Insurance Institute for Highway Safety testing, the Avalon earned the top score of "Good" for its protection of occupants in frontal-offset, side-impact and roof-strength tests.
PERFORMANCE & HANDLING
The front-wheel-drive 2012 Toyota Avalon is motivated by a 3.5-liter V6 rated at 268 horsepower and 248 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed automatic transmission is standard.
In Edmunds performance testing, an Avalon Limited accelerated to 60 mph in 6.8 seconds, a reasonably quick time for a large sedan. The EPA's fuel mileage estimates for the Avalon stand at 19 mpg city/28 mpg highway and 23 mpg combined, making it one of the more fuel-efficient full-size sedans available.
Not surprisingly, the 2012 Toyota Avalon is at its best on the open highway. The ultra-smooth V6 engine has plenty of passing power and the suspension swallows up road imperfections without drama. The Avalon is no athlete, though, so those interested in a slightly more involved driving experience should consider the Buick LaCrosse or Chrysler 300. And although it's reasonably quiet as cars go, the Avalon does generate more road noise at highway speeds than most other full-size sedans.
The 2012 Toyota Avalon is a solid choice for a full-size sedan, but some newer and less expensive competitors might be more appealing.