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Need a full-size sedan with plenty of room, power, luxury and refinement? The superbly refined 2006 Toyota Avalon is about as good as it gets this side of $40,000.
Carefully constructed cabin worthy of the Lexus name, powerful and fuel-efficient V6 engine, serene ride quality, huge rear seat, numerous upscale amenities.
Refined nature leaves little room for personality, rear seats do not fold.
Available Avalon Models
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For the 2006 Toyota Avalon, the availability of stability control has been expanded to include the XL and Touring trim levels. Keyless startup is now standard, rather than optional, on the Limited.
It would seem buyers of full-size sedans generally aren't interested in character. Most big four-doors are dull pieces of machinery to look at and a snooze to drive. The beauty in such a vehicle lies in what it can do for the customer -- provide lots of space for people and things with no compromise in ride or occupant comfort. Such a sedan should look upscale, but not gaudy, providing just enough glitz and luxury to let others know you have achieved a degree of success in life. Finally, such a vehicle must also be reliable and able to handle years of commuting without so much as a whimper.
Since its introduction in 1995, the Toyota Avalon has fit this description: bland as egg whites, but solid, roomy and dependable. Thanks to a full redesign for 2005, you can't really call the Avalon boring. It may not be as exciting as a Chrysler 300, but this time around, Toyota's engineers and designers have given the 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 in the U.S., Toyota is calling the new Avalon its "most American" car yet. And as you would expect "more American" means it's bigger, roomier and more powerful. Rear passengers even benefit from a flat floor and seats that recline up to 10 degrees. The overall feel is much more upscale than that of your average Toyota car. In the past, the Avalon was so similar to the Camry the price difference was hard to justify. That's no longer the case with the 2006 Toyota Avalon, which offers more room, more power and more luxury than any Camry owner could imagine. If you're shopping for a full-size sedan, you owe it to yourself to try an Avalon. If relaxation and refinement are high on your list, Toyota's big sedan won't disappoint.
A large sedan, the Toyota Avalon, is available in four trim levels: XL, Touring, XLS and Limited. Although it's the base version, the XL still offers such amenities as electroluminescent gauges, a cabin air filter, a nine-speaker stereo, automatic climate control, a tilt/telescoping wheel, a power seat and 16-inch alloy wheels. The Touring model is noticeably sportier with a firmer suspension, unique 17-inch wheels, leather seats and aluminum interior trim. The XLS and Limited are more upscale; the XLS adds a power moonroof and a six-disc CD changer. The Limited includes such items as rain-sensing wipers, perforated leather seats with memory, heating and cooling, wood grain trim, a power rear sunshade, a keyless startup system and a 12-speaker, 360-watt JBL stereo. Options include a navigation system and laser-based adaptive cruise control.
The front-wheel-drive Toyota Avalon is powered by a 3.5-liter V6. With an output of 268 horsepower and 248 pound-feet of torque, it makes the Avalon as powerful as an Infiniti G35 sport sedan and indeed Toyota's full-size sedan needs just 6.9 seconds to reach 60 mph. A five-speed automatic transmission handles the shifting duties. In spite of its big power, the Avalon earns an impressive EPA rating of 22 mpg city, 31 mpg highway.
Side airbags for front-seat passengers are standard, along with side curtain airbags for front and rear passengers and a driver-side knee airbag. Traction and stability control systems, along with a BrakeAssist system that detects emergency braking and applies maximum pressure to reduce stopping distances, are optional. All Toyota Avalon models have four-wheel antilock disc brakes. In IIHS testing, the Avalon earned a top score of "Good" for its protection of occupants in frontal and side-impact crashes.
The XLS and Limited models are modern and luxurious (with gorgeous faux maple trim in the Limited), while the sporty Touring model is intentionally austere with black leather seats and a three-spoke steering wheel. 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 front seats are wide and accommodating. The rear seats are more comfortable than in the previous Avalon, thanks to limo levels of legroom and a manually reclining back cushion. A 6-footer can sit in back with more than enough knee and headroom, and with a near flat floor, getting three across on carpool day is no problem.
As full-size sedans go, the 2006 Toyota Avalon is rewarding to drive. Not surprisingly, it really shines on the open highway. The cabin remains quiet, the V6 engine has plenty of passing power and the suspension, even with the firmer underpinnings of the Touring package, never feels harsh. The Avalon is no athlete, but this Toyota car carries itself with a great deal of composure on winding roads. Additionally, a tidy turning radius makes it feel unexpectedly nimble on tight city streets.
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