The age of the sedan has ended and SUVs now walk the Earth in greater and greater numbers. This trend hasn't seemed to faze Toyota, however. The automaker redesigned its mid-size Camry for model year 2018 and followed up with another full redesign for its flagship, the 2019 Avalon.
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Updates for the 2019 Avalon, which debuted at the 2018 North American International Auto Show in Detroit, run deep; it's immediately recognizable from the previous model thanks to drastic exterior restyling and under the skin a lot has changed as well. There's a new wheelbase, new suspension options and (thankfully) updated technology.
The previous Avalon had a weird face, with a thin front grille that had a giant air intake below it. It made the sedan look vaguely like a largemouth bass. Toyota rectified this by combining the two into one large grille and front air intake, and there are two distinct grille treatments. The more luxurious XLE and Limited have a dark gray front grille with a chrome border, while the sportier XSE and Touring have a mesh, piano-black front grille. The XSE and Touring also add features like a rear trunk spoiler, quad exhaust pipes and distinct rear air diffusers for each trim level — more aggressive styling cues that one wouldn't normally associate with a staid vehicle such as the Avalon.
Inside, the materials quality of the XSE reminded me of the Camry, which isn't a bad thing — the Camry has good materials. The Limited model has even better seat materials, with an available cognac-colored leather upholstery that wouldn't feel out of place in a luxury car. However, I do think that the Avalon's interior is a big improvement over the Camry's busy dashboard and center console. The 2019 Avalon has a clean, minimalistic design that sits atop two support beams that make the center appear to float out in front of the dashboard. The 9-inch screen is flanked by physical button controls for various functions (which we like over capacitive buttons) and Toyota has enhanced the system's functionality by adding Apple CarPlay and Amazon Alexa integration into the system. Toyota has been behind the curve on smartphone connectivity for a few years now and this helps the automaker catch up, although Android users may disagree.
The lengthened wheelbase also seems to pay dividends in the backseat, which is quite large and comfortable. Toyota calls the Avalon a mid-size sedan, but it feels more full size to me. It's a truly expansive space; I even sat behind a 6-foot, 3-inch colleague of mine and there was plenty of legroom for both of us. It's one of the few backseats (especially in this class) that I'd be happy to sit in for a longer trip.
By sprucing up the 2019 Avalon inside and out, Toyota is hoping to add some excitement to the sedan (and the class). But for us to get truly excited, the driving experience will have to match the other changes, which have set the bar pretty high.
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