Full 2009 Toyota Avalon Review
What's New for 2009
For 2009, the Toyota Avalon gets a few more standard safety features, as stability control and active (whiplash-reducing) headrests come on board. In other news, the Touring trim level is dropped and the audio systems are now satellite-radio-ready.
These days, the large sedan is often overshadowed in terms of popularity by an even bigger vehicle, the crossover sport-utility. But there's still something to be said for a vehicle that doesn't have to claim it has "carlike" handling and fuel economy. It's been a car since day one. So for those who realize that a spacious yet fuel-efficient sedan can make more sense than a bulky, thirsty SUV, something like a 2009 Toyota Avalon should work out nicely.
Although it rides on a stretched version of the previous-generation Camry platform, the Avalon is still quite a bit larger than even the current Camry. The Avalon's architecture allows a virtually flat rear floor, so three adults can sit back there in comfort. And being Toyota's flagship sedan, the Avalon offers premium cabin design and features. Opt for one of the elegantly finished upper trims fitted with niceties such as heated/cooled seats, and you'll think you somehow ended up inside a Lexus.
One thing you might notice lacking is a V8 option. No worries there, as the Avalon's potent V6 and responsive six-speed automatic make it one of the quickest big sedans in this price range. And these qualities, along with a quiet and composed ride, make the 2009 Toyota Avalon an excellent choice for a road trip.
In terms of competition, the Avalon is worlds better than the ancient Lincoln Town Car and Mercury Grand Marquis. The Toyota is also more refined than the spacious Ford Taurus/Mercury Sable twins and the high-value Hyundai Azera. It's a tougher call against the new Hyundai Genesis V6, which offers loads of space, luxury equipment and performance for a reasonable price. Also, if they're looking for sporty handling, buyers eager for back-road travel will probably find the Chrysler 300 or Pontiac G8 more to their liking.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
A large sedan, the 2009 Toyota Avalon is available in three trim levels: XL, XLS and Limited. The base Avalon XL starts you out with 16-inch alloy wheels, cloth upholstery, a power driver seat, a tilt/telescoping steering wheel, reclining rear seats, dual-zone automatic climate control and a nine-speaker stereo with an in-dash six-CD changer and an auxiliary audio jack. The luxury-themed Avalon XLS gains leather seating, wood-grain interior trim, a sunroof, a power front passenger seat, heated outside mirrors and auto-dimming rearview and driver-side mirrors. The top-of-the-line Limited adds keyless ignition/entry, rain-sensing wipers, perforated leather seats (with memory, heating and cooling), an upgraded 12-speaker JBL sound system, Bluetooth and a power rear sunshade.
Many of the upscale features on the XLS and Limited are also available as options on the XL. Other options, depending on trim level, include a navigation system, an upgraded power passenger seat and laser-based adaptive cruise control.
Powertrains and Performance
The front-wheel-drive 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.
The EPA's fuel mileage estimates for the Avalon stand at 19 mpg city/28 highway and 22 combined, making it one of the most fuel-efficient full-size sedans available.
Standard safety equipment on the 2009 Toyota Avalon includes antilock disc brakes, front-seat side airbags, side curtain airbags and a driver-side knee airbag. This year, stability and traction control and active front headrests are also standard.
In government crash tests, the Toyota Avalon earned a perfect five stars in all frontal- and side-impact categories. In Insurance Institute for Highway Safety testing, the Avalon earned the top score of "Good" for its protection of occupants in frontal-offset and side-impact crashes.
Interior Design and Special Features
Any Toyota Avalon feels upscale and inviting, thanks to its glowing Optitron gauges, attractive and ergonomic control layout and high-quality materials. Movable panels conceal the radio and navigation controls when they're not in use, and this gives the dash a sleek appearance.
The front seats are wide and accommodating, particularly in the Limited, which offers both ventilated seats and a seat-cushion length adjuster. The rear seats are quite comfortable as well. Legroom is abundant even by full-size sedan standards, and the rear seats boast a manually reclining back that allows those 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. One minor annoyance is the inability to fold the rear seats (the trade-off for the reclining feature). The trunk measures 14.4 cubic feet, smaller than what's available in other full-size sedans.
Not surprisingly, the 2009 Toyota Avalon is at its best on the open highway. The cabin remains quiet, the ultra-smooth V6 engine has plenty of passing power and the suspension swallows up road imperfections without drama. The Avalon is no athlete, but this full-size Toyota carries itself with reasonable composure on winding roads. The steering is too light to feel sporty, but it responds to driver input in a precise, fluid manner. Additionally, a tidy turning circle makes the Avalon feel unexpectedly nimble on tight city streets.