Sacramento, California – What’s the next-best thing to driving a quality Lexus sedan?
Try the Toyota Avalon Limited, a Lexus in virtually every way but its name. Remove the Toyota badging from the four-door Avalon, and you’d likely guess it was a Lexus, no matter if you were outside the car or sitting in the cockpit.
And here’s the bonus: the Avalon has been redesigned for 2011 and looks sharper and sleeker than ever. My week in the top-tier Avalon Limited was enjoyable on all levels – stylish, smooth transportation, prompting me to smile as I sat in the lap of luxury.
Be advised that getting an Avalon Limited means paying a price in Lexus territory – a base of $35,485. And with the options on my tester, including a navigation system and a rip-roaring audio system, the bottom line read a Lexus-like $38,188.
Even so, this package is worth the price.
A 3.5-liter V-6 engine puts out 268 horsepower, which is not enough to blow away sporty challengers on the roadways but plenty good enough to handle what every safe and sane driver regularly encounters. Even at full song, engine noise barely penetrates the interior cabin. Ditto exterior noise surrounding the car. Avalon driver and passengers can converse easily or enjoy the tunes of their choice without distractions.
The list of standard comfort/convenience features on the tester was impressively lengthy, including luxury touches like wood trim, leather surfaces, a rearview camera, a power moonroof with sliding sunshade and an eight-way power driver’s seat.
For some reason, I continue to struggle with Toyota’s audio/nav screen. I can’t seem to get the hang of locking in map and audio readouts. I’m probably just dashboard-challenged or owner’s manual ignorant, as I’m sure a typical 2011 Avalon buyer is going to figure these things out on the first day of ownership.
Everything else around the cockpit was ideal. Controls were in easy reach and easy to read. Passengers were impressed with the backseat quarters as well -- comfortable and climate-controlled to perfection, according to their testimony.
Heading farther back, the trunk is spacious and pops up on command.
Verdict: Avalon is better for 2011. Elegant, comfortable and easy on the eyes … just like its Lexus sedan siblings.