HOUSTON - We picked up a full- size, fully equipped 2007 Toyota Avalon here and drove it to New Orleans where we stayed for a week. During the trip, we were able to judge the Avalon's road manners, its urban handling capabilities and on long runs of an hour or more, we were also pampered by the Avalon's creature comforts.
We found our way to I- 10 East and from there it was pretty much a straight shot to Baton Rouge, where we took a right and headed south to the Crescent City some 90 miles away. On the run, we found the Avalon's 3.5- liter 268 horsepower V6 more than capable of powering Toyota's flagship on down the road.
It was mated to a five- speed automatic transmission and it had 248 pounds- feet of torque which fully kicked in at 4,700 RPM. The car had enough oomph to cruise at 80 mph with relative ease with Toyota's legendary quiet.
The suspension was a little soft for our taste but our test vehicle was the LTD which is the top of the line and geared for a more conservative driver who likes a smoother ride. Still, we found the car very comfortable. The seats provided plenty of lower back support, sight lines were clear and the steering wheel was pleasing to our grip.
Other Avalon models are the XL, the Touring, and the XLS.
Although the Avalon is a full- size sedan we found it deceptively light. Our test vehicle weighed in at almost 3,600 lbs which we think is relatively light for a full- size sedan. At speeds, that lack of weight and a softer suspension could be felt on the joints of bridges and some section joints of the Interstate. Other than that, we found the Avalon to be a very relaxing ride.
Our test vehicle was the LTD which meant it was packed with creature comforts, including a navigation system which we didn't use, satellite radio, which wasn't connected, dynamic cruise control which worked well, remote engine start which had not been connected by the dealer and a smart key that featured push button start.
We were particularly pleased with this feature because when on the road we had our small traveling bag, a PDA that we plugged in, bottles of water (it was really hot) and a bunch of other stuff that we had to put down or gather up every time we got in or out of our test car. To have the fob in our pocket and simply push the button to start and stop the engine was the first time that we really appreciated this feature.
The Avalon was pretty decent when it came to fuel mileage. It had an EPA rating of 22 mpg in the city and 31 mpg on the highway. We topped off the tank and arrived in New Orleans, 350 miles away, with enough fuel to travel for almost a week before we filled up again in preparation of our return here.
The only thing the car lacked was an auxiliary jack for an iPod or our portable satellite radio/iPod which we brought along to keep us focused during our morning walks on the West Bank. Once in the city, the Avalon was responsive in traffic, had enough short distance power to handle expressway traffic and it got up and over the Mississippi River Bridge several times a day with ease.
Our really finicky Aunt was in the Avalon almost every day and she was pleased with the car. When we told her the price was $38, 314, she didn't flinch and thought it in line for what she was riding in. That was really significant - in a good way.