By Scott Corlett
The folks at Toyota offer something for everyone: The young and hip have the Scions, soccer moms and dads have the Siennas and Camrys, and graying boomers have the Avalon, Toyota’s flagship sedan. The third-generation Avalon is the first Toyota engineered, styled, and built right here in the USA. Uh-oh, you say, there goes Toyota’s sparkling record of delivering quality-perfect vehicles. Not so fast, my friend—the Avalon proves once and for all that the quality gap between American and Japanese cars results not from American engineering, design, or manufacture, but from … oh, never mind, that’s just too long a story for this piece.
During the last days of winter, we spent a week in the 2006 Avalon Touring Sedan. This big sedan appeals (quite rightly so) to the driver who regards his car more as an appliance that facilitates his journey from point A to point B than as a machine that thrills. Longer than a Ford Explorer, the Avalon offers nearly as much front-seat legroom and four inches more of rear-seat legroom than the SUV. The Avalon easily accommodates five, full-sized guys or gals on rides around town; if you are heading much beyond the city limits, best stick to four riders or whomever is sandwiched on the rear bench is apt to get crabby.
We threw our gym bag in the trunk (it looked very, very lonely), jumped in the Avalon, and cranked the optional 360-watt, twelve-speaker JBL stereo. That system, we think, is a tad bit overkill for the target demographic’s Barry Manilow CDs. A center-dash LCD display—with bright, blue screen and white, stick-figure graphical representations—provided information about key systems, such as the stereo and dual-zone, automatic climate control. We pulled out of our driveway and the Avalon glided along the hilly streets of San Francisco en route to our gym in the Castro—the handling and braking were perfectly adequate, if not exactly awe-inspiring.
The steep streets proved no challenge to the Avalon’s 3.5-liter 268-horsepower 24-valve V-6 engine. This is the most powerful V-6 ever offered in Toyota’s US lineup and we expect to see it in many future Toyota and Lexus vehicles. According to Toyota’s engineers, the V-6 mated to the five-speed automatic transmission can shoot the Avalon from zero to 60 mph in a mere 6.6 seconds—leave it to the executives at Toyota to put out a sedan that you can smoke off the line with “Mandy” blasting from the pipes.
Before the Chrysler 300 and Ford Five Hundred came along, the Avalon easily competed with the likes of the bygone Buick LeSabre and the Ford Crown Vic and its Mercury twin, the Grand Marquis. Both the Chrysler and the new Ford are more fun on the twisty bits; but for a base price of $27-grand, you cannot beat the reliability of the American-made 2006 Toyota Avalon. We finished our workout and climbed back onto the optional heated seats, which were dialed high to sooth our tight, aching muscles. As the Avalon left the gym’s lot, a hottie looked our way—he probably just heard our muffled, atonal, “Her name was Lola …”
Toyota is a gay-friendly company.
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