2016 Toyota Avalon Limited Review: Feel of a Lexus, Price of a Toyota
The Toyota brand offers some of the bestselling cars in the US with the Camry and the Corolla, and as you can imagine being sales leaders makes those models the most commonly discussed by prospective new car buyers. Toyota has a strong hold on both the midsize and compact sedan segments, but for those folks who want a sedan with a little more interior space and a little more luxury feel than you can get with the Camry - there is the Toyota Avalon Limited.
The 2016 Toyota Avalon shares a chassis platform with the current Lexus ES and while the Avalon and ES have unique sheet metal and interior layouts – the biggest Toyota sedan offers a luxury feel that comes just short of rivaling the pricier Lexus. The Avalon also shares a drivetrain with the Lexus ES. So while there is unique chassis and suspension tuning between the two front-drive sedans, these two cars are very closely related.
However, the fully loaded 2016 Avalon Limited costs just a little more than the base Lexus ES and just a little more than the loaded 2016 Camry. In other words, the Avalon offers more interior space and more luxury than the Camry – with enough interior goodies to be reasonably compared to the Lexus ES – and it does so for just $41,285. That was the price as tested of my 2016 Avalon Limited test car and including destination, that is the standard price with every option mentioned below. The Avalon Limited only comes loaded, so while there are some minor features like door sill guards or a cargo net for the trunk, there are no additional packages with additional charges.
For comparison, the Camry XLE tops out in the $36k range while the Lexus ES starts around $38k and quickly jumps into the high $40k range when you begin adding features. The Avalon Limited falls between those two, but it does so while offering more space and luxury than you can get with the bestselling Camry.
If you didn’t know that both the Toyota Camry and Toyota Avalon existed right now, a look at the Avalon in passing might lead someone to believe that it was a Camry, as the two sedans wear a fairly similar look. Considering the popularity of the Camry and how well the Avalon wears the similar design cues, I have a hard time complaining about the similarities, as the relation is clear – but the Avalon has the essential uniqueness when the two are parked side by side.
Like the Camry, the Avalon has LED-trimmed projection headlights, but the Avalon assemblies have a more premium look – particularly in Limited trim. The Camry and Avalon have the same basic upper and low grille deisgn with driving lights flanking the lower grille, but the Avalon has a little more chrome in the upper opening, a larger chrome-trimmed lower opening and LED-trimmed driving lights.
Along the side, the Avalon is clearly larger than the Camry, with a longer roofline and more gently sloping rear glass, but the general body lines are similar between the two Toyota sedans. Adding to the luxurious feel of the Avalon are the 18 inch multispoke alloy wheels, which have a sporty, premium feel.
Finally, the back end of the Avalon differs the most from the Camry, with a bolder, more upright rear end of the car with bigger LED taillights, more chrome trim and a pair of chrome exhaust tips integrated into the lower rear fascia.
In passing, the Toyota Avalon might be mistaken for the Camry, but when you compare the Camry and Avalon side by side, the Avalon is clearly larger and geared more towards the luxury end of the sedan spectrum – and I like the look of this larger Toyota sedan.
The 2016 Toyota Avalon Limited has a very premium look from the outside, but the interior leaves no question that this is a luxury sedan. When you open the driver’s door, you are greeted by a spread of black leather with brown contrasting stitching on the seats, center console, steering wheel, door panels and dash.
The front bucket seats of the Avalon Limited are heated and cooled, with plush padding and deep back bolsters for better support under cornering, although the front seats are still plenty wide to accommodate more voluptuous people. There is plenty of leg, elbow, shoulder and head room for the folks seated up front, but more importantly, the heated back seats offer a ton of legroom. That is the biggest advantage over the Camry, as the back seat of the Avalon offers more leg room and head room than the Camry, so while the middle seat is still a tough sell for an adult passenger, two adults or three kids can fit comfortably in the back of the Avalon – all with enough room in the large trunk for a couple of golf bags, hockey bags or luggage for a weekend trip.
While the leather clad seats look great and feel great, they aren’t the crown jewel of the 2016 Toyota Avalon Limited interior, as that title belongs to the center console. Here you will find the large touchscreen for the Entune infotainment system and a smaller panel of touch-sensitive controls for the heating and air conditioning system.
The touchscreen in the Avalon offers controls of features like the navigation software, the sound system, the hands free phone system and vehicle settings, but through this screen, you can also access fuel economy information on the Eco screen, along with traffic and weather conditions in their own individual sections. Of course, as part of the Entune infotainment system, you can also access the AppSuite with a collection of other options that you can add to your configurable home screen.
The Entune touchscreen works well and it is very user-friendly, but I understand that not everyone loves touchscreens, so for those folks, the Toyota Avalon has a spread of traditional knobs and a few touch sensitive buttons located around the perimeter of the screen. Of course, you can also change the radio station or volume from the steering wheel controls, along with using the voice control button on the steering wheel to get navigation directions on the fly.
The Entune audio system broadcasts through an 11-speaker JBL sound system that pounds out the tunes nice and clear at impressively high volume levels, with great quality whether you are listening to the radio or a file from the auxiliary input source or your Bluetooth-connected smartphone. Oh, and best of all, there is a wireless charging pad that will keep your phone juiced up when you are streaming your music. I have had a handful of Toyota products with their wireless charging pad and I absolutely love it. I consider Toyota’s wireless charging setup to be one of the best-working systems on the market and I hope that in the near future, more automakers adopt similar technology.
Below the Entune touchscreen area is the HVAC control panel, which uses a collection of touch sensitive buttons – including a swipe control for the fan speed – to adjust every aspect of your climate control system shy of the seats, which are controlled via knobs on the shift console between the seats. While these aren’t traditional buttons, they work just the same and while the swipe fan control takes some getting used to, it is a neat feature once you get the hang of it.
Finally, the Avalon includes a collection of high tech goodies that add to the luxury feel of the vehicle, like the big power moonroof, push button start with keyless entry, a blind spot monitoring system, a power rear window sunshade and rain sensing wipers.
The 2016 Toyota Avalon Limited interior looks and feels like a luxury car, period. The plush leather seats are very comfortable in any temperature thanks to the heating and cooling feature, while the front seats and rear outboard seats offer plenty of space for four tall adults. Add into that spacious, leather clad cabin the premium Entune infotainment system and you have yourself a Toyota sedan with a Toyota price that feels more like a Lexus when you are seated inside.
The 2016 Toyota Avalon Limited is powered by the same 3.5L V6 as the Camry and the Lexus ES, which sends 268 horsepower to the front wheels via a 6-speed automatic transmission. The Avalon may technically have unique chassis and/or suspension tuning when compared to the Lexus ES, but the Avalon rides more like a Lexus than like a Camry.
When driving the 2016 Avalon Limited around the rough roads of Metro Detroit, the big Toyota sedan did a great job of keeping the harshness of the road and the various outside noises – outside. I don’t believe that it is as quite as quiet as the Lexus, but in terms of cars which are technically not luxury sedans, the Avalon is one of the best I’ve tested in terms of interior sound levels and smoothness on rough roads.
The trade-off for that excellent ride quality is that the Toyota Avalon wont corner like a Lexus performance model, but prospective buyers who are that concerned with driving dynamics should be shopping for the rear wheel drive Lexus GS. At the same time, the Avalon handles nicely in normal driving situations, so while I wouldn’t take the car road racing on the weekend, it performs comfortably when taking long, sweeping turns on the highway or tight turns on back roads.
In terms of acceleration, the Toyota Avalon is similarly peppy to the Lexus ES, but being bigger than the Camry, it feels a little slower than the Camry when it comes to all-out acceleration. It has no qualms rushing away from a stop light or cruising well beyond the posted speed limit on the highway, so at no point does it really feel underpowered and honestly – I expect that most people shopping for a front-drive large sedan will find the Avalon to be plenty quick.
Finally, the 3.5L V6 in the 2016 Toyota Avalon Limited comes with EPA fuel economy expectations of 21mpg in the city, 31mpg on the highway and 24mpg combined. In my time testing the Avalon, I made two long drives on the highway and while doing so, I was able to exceed that 31mpg expectation while cruising at the speed limit – hitting closer to 33mpg on my long drives. I believe that the strong highway numbers played a big part in my average figure of 22.8mpg over the course of 8 days, but for someone who lives in an area like mine, with few hills and very little highway traffic, beating the EPA numbers is very possible.
The Toyota Avalon packs plenty of power, it gets great fuel economy on the highway and it is smooth and comfortable in every normal driving situation. It isn’t as exciting to drive as the rear-drive Lexus sedans, but for someone who is focused on the luxurious interior, the solid fuel economy numbers and the low purchase price – the Avalon is a great daily driver.
The Final Word
If someone asked me to quickly describe the 2016 Toyota Avalon Limited, I would tell that person that the Avalon is a large sedan with the interior and drivetrain of a Lexus while being priced like a very high end Camry. Essentially Toyota has taken similar features to those available on the Lexus ES and put them in a sedan that costs far less – offering a very high level of luxury for a very low price.
Really, this is the perfect car for a longtime Camry owner who wants something with more interior space and a more well-appointed cabin, as the basic driving characteristics are similar to the Camry, although the Avalon offers the interior comforts and the rear seating space that you don’t get with the Camry.
In short, if you want a large sedan that has the legendary Toyota reliability, a spacious Lexus-like interior and a price well below that of a similarly equipped luxury sedan – the 2016 Avalon Limited is hard to beat.