- Quiet and upscale interior with roomy seating front and rear
- Large trunk
- Above-average fuel economy
- Ride quality might be too firm for traditional Avalon buyers
- Cumbersome setup process for Entune
For last year's complete redesign of the Avalon, Toyota maintained the qualities the Avalon has long been known for: a high level of comfort, plenty of room and a reputation for quality. At the same time, the automaker significantly improved the car's handling qualities, added higher-quality cabin materials and wrapped it all up in a truly stylish body. The result is a more complete and desirable car. Indeed, the 2014 Toyota Avalon is closer to being an entry-level luxury car than a mainstream full-size sedan.
Classifications aside, we're pretty sure you'll like the Toyota Avalon. Whether you're just commuting by yourself to work or taking a group of friends to lunch, the Avalon will impress with its low levels of noise and roomy front and rear seating. You'll likely be fond of the car's coddling features such as supportive seats, large armrests and optional premium features like adaptive cruise control and heated and ventilated seats. Effortless performance is furnished by Toyota's impressively smooth 3.5-liter V6 engine, which cranks out a respectable 268 horsepower while still earning a 25 mpg combined EPA fuel economy rating.
Picking an affordable, large sedan for 2014 isn't easy, considering the vastly improved 2014 Chevrolet Impala as well as the 2014 Chrysler 300. The 2014 Hyundai Azera and Kia Cadenza also deserve a good, long look. All of these are smart choices, and in some cases they're less expensive as well. But we have no problem saying the Avalon has more than enough merits to warrant a place in your garage.
WHAT'S NEW FOR 2014
For 2014, the Toyota Avalon sees no changes other than a minor shuffling of standard and optional features.
TRIMS & EQUIPMENT
The 2014 Toyota Avalon is a full-size sedan offered in four trim levels: XLE, XLE Premium, XLE Touring and Limited. The Avalon Hybrid is covered in a separate review.
The XLE comes standard with 17-inch alloy wheels, automatic headlights, heated mirrors, dual-zone automatic climate control, full power accessories, cruise control, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, leather upholstery, an eight-way power driver seat with power lumbar support, a four-way power front passenger seat and heated front seats. Electronic features include keyless ignition and entry, a rearview camera, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, a 6.1-inch central touchscreen display and an eight-speaker audio system with a CD player, an auxiliary audio jack and a USB/iPod interface.
The Avalon XLE Premium adds upgraded keyless ignition/entry (additional functionality for rear doors and trunk), a sunroof, an auto-dimming rearview mirror and a remote garage door opener.
The Touring has 18-inch wheels, foglights, paddle shifters, an eight-way power driver seat (with power lumbar), a four-way power front passenger seat, a navigation system, a nine-speaker audio system with satellite and HD radio and Toyota's Entune smartphone app integration system.
Going with the Avalon Limited gets you all of the above plus xenon headlights, auto-dimming side mirrors, rain-sensing wipers, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alerts, ambient cabin lighting, tri-zone automatic climate control, upgraded leather upholstery, ventilated front seats, heated rear seats, a rear power sunshade, a 7-inch touchscreen display, a hard-drive-based navigation system and an 11-speaker JBL premium sound system.
Some of the upper trims' features are available as options for the lower trims, while the Limited also offers the available Technology package which includes adaptive cruise control, automatic high-beam headlight control and a pre-collision system.
INTERIOR & SAFETY
The Avalon's interior is spacious and elegant, with high-quality materials throughout. The front seats are very comfortable and highly adjustable, with plenty of side bolstering and lumbar support for both the driver and the front passenger. As you'd expect for this class of car, the Avalon's rear seats are quite roomy.
The Avalon Touring and Limited come standard with Entune, a suite of smartphone-connected services that includes features like the Bing search engine, Pandora streaming radio, real-time traffic and sports and stock information. Getting started with Entune is a hassle, since you have to install an app on your phone and register for an account; plus, you always need an active data connection to use it. In addition, the car has to be parked to access many of the apps (many of which you probably already have installed on your smartphone). Finally, the touchscreen interface has straightforward menus, but it's sometimes unresponsive to user touch.
Storage compartments provide ample room for drinks and personal effects. The lower section of the center console provides a convenient "eBin" with power cords passing through a sliding panel for two cell phones and auxiliary and USB connections. A large center armrest provides more storage space and additional connectivity and charging for cell phones. The generous trunk offers 16 cubic feet of space, and its wide opening and low liftover height make it easy to load heavy bags.
Standard safety features for the Avalon include traction and stability control, antilock disc brakes, front- and rear-seat side airbags, side curtain airbags, front knee airbags and a rearview camera. The Limited comes with blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alerts (optional on the Touring). Also standard on the Limited is Toyota's Safety Connect service, which includes roadside assistance, stolen vehicle location and automatic collision notification. The Limited's optional Technology package includes a frontal collision warning system.
At the track, an Avalon XLE came to a stop from 60 mph in 127 feet, a few feet longer than the class average.
In government crash tests, the Avalon received a rating of five stars out of five for overall crash protection, with four stars for frontal-impact protection and five stars for side-impact protection. In testing by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the Avalon scored a rating of "Good" -- the highest possible -- in the moderate-overlap frontal-offset, side-impact and roof-strength crash tests. The Avalon's seat/head restraint design was also rated "Good" for whiplash protection in rear impacts.
PERFORMANCE & HANDLING
The 2014 Toyota Avalon comes with a 3.5-liter V6 engine that generates 268 hp and 248 pound-feet of torque. Power is sent to the front wheels through a six-speed automatic transmission.
At Edmunds.com's test track, an Avalon XLE sprinted to 60 mph in 6.4 seconds, one of the quicker times for this segment. EPA estimated fuel economy stands at 25 mpg combined (21 mpg city/31 mpg highway) for the XLE and XLE Premium. The Touring and Limited have a slightly lower 24 mpg combined estimate.
Your first thought when driving the 2014 Toyota Avalon might be one of mild surprise, as the big sedan feels more responsive and sure-footed than you'd expect. The steering feels reassuringly taut, while the brakes are nicely tuned to match the increased responsiveness of the drivetrain. Overall, the Avalon is just easy to drive. One thing to note, however, is that the latest car rides more firmly than Avalons of old. If you're expecting traditional Avalon softness, make sure you give this new car a thorough test-drive.
The V6 engine is smooth and powerful and should provide more than enough acceleration to please most drivers. Furthermore, that performance is delivered in a very quiet, unruffled manner, which adds to the Toyota's appeal as an effortless open highway cruiser. Overall, the Avalon provides an impressive blend of comfort, performance and efficiency.
With its combination of style, comfort, overall quality and high fuel economy, the 2014 Toyota Avalon is a smart choice for a full-size sedan.