Brian Moody, Road Test Editor
Dear Boring, please release the Toyota Avalon from your icy death grip.
Hey, it worked. Maybe I should start writing to Santa, too — Denon home audio system and a new backyard patio, please.
Thanks to a full redesign, for the first time, you can't really call the 2005 Toyota Avalon boring. It may not be as interesting as a Chrysler 300 or as exciting as a BMW 5 Series, but this time around, Toyota's engineers and designers have given the 2005 Avalon a little more style, extra horsepower and varying trims that add distinct flavors to the formerly "vanilla only" sedan.
Because it was engineered from its top to its tires by engineers in the U.S., Toyota is calling the 2005 Toyota Avalon its "most American" car yet. And as you would expect "more American" means it's bigger, roomier and more powerful.
The Toyota Avalon remains front-wheel drive, but it's powered by an all-new all-aluminum 3.5-liter V6 with variable valve timing. With an output of 280 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque, it makes the Avalon as powerful as an Infiniti G35 sport sedan. This is not a slow car. Under all types of driving conditions we found reserves of smooth power, and the engine works perfectly with its new five-speed automatic transmission.
Toyota has nixed the irritating "gear hunting" that plagued the transmissions in previous Avalons. The new unit shifts smoothly and no longer hunts up and down incessantly on long grades, desperately looking for just the right amount of power. It's an improvement that makes the Avalon more deserving of its flagship status.
Four trim levels are available: XL, Touring, XLS and Limited. Although it's the base version, the XL still offers such amenities as a cabin air filter, a nine-speaker stereo, remote keyless entry, steering wheel-mounted audio, climate and cruise controls, a tilt/telescoping wheel, power front seats and 16-inch wheels.
The Touring model is noticeably sportier with a firmer suspension, unique 17-inch wheels, leather seats and some aluminum trim to get the point across. It handles well but falls short of being a true sport sedan.
The XLS and Limited are more upscale, the Limited even includes such items as rain-sensing wipers, memory seats, wood trim, power rear sunshade, a smart key system that works similar to the push-button start-and-go feature on the Toyota Prius and a very impressive 12-speaker, 360-watt JBL stereo with a six-disc changer. It's one of the best systems we've ever heard and it's worth ordering on the Avalon XLS.
Inside, Toyota's designers jazzed things up a bit. The Avalon Touring model is intentionally starker-looking with black leather seats and a sport steering wheel, while the Limited and XLS look modern and luxurious. The instrument cluster is highlighted by glowing "optitron" gauges surrounded by chrome rings, and movable panels that conceal the radio and navigation controls give the dash a sleek look. The feel is much more upscale than your average Toyota.
The front seats are wide and accommodating. The perforated leather on the XLS and Limited is a little softer than the hides in the Touring, but the Touring's leather holds the driver in his seat better during hard corning. The rear seats are also more comfortable than before, and there's plenty of legroom, a six-footer can sit in the back without the front seat coming close to his knees.
Yet, the rear seat is not the best seat in the house. This Toyota Avalon is rewarding to drive. Not surprisingly, it really shines on the open highway. The cabin remains quiet, the engine has plenty of passing power and the suspension, even with the firmer underpinnings of the Touring package, never feels harsh.
In the past, the Avalon was so similar to the Toyota Camry the price difference was hard to justify. That's no longer the case with the 2005 Toyota Avalon. It does everything well, and finally delivers on the promise of a flagship Toyota.
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