The new look borrows a bit from the current-generation Toyota Camry, but makes the elements its own. The upper grille has been minimized, while the lower grille has been expanded into a huge chrome-barred maw. Toyota tells us that this gives the Avalon a sporty look and makes the vehicle appear visually lower.
Toyota wanted to give the Avalon a slick, coupelike roofline, but also wanted to preserve as much rear headroom as possible. The result is a D-pillar that stretches nearly to the lip of the trunk lid and, from this angle and to my eye, reminds me of the Audi A7's sport silhouette.
From this angle, you can really see the contrast between the upper and lower grille openings. I asked Toyota if it was using any sort of active-shutter technology to smooth airflow on this Hybrid XLE model and was informed that it wasn't.
Avalon models at the Limited trim level feature these new HID headlamps with square projectors and LED daytime running lights. The reason for the square projectors? They just look cooler. There's also an optional Auto High Beam system that senses other vehicles on the road and dims the high-beam lights to avoid dazzling other drivers.
The Avalon Hybrid's 2.5-liter engine outputs 156 horsepower and 156 pound-feet of torque on its own, but it also gets a bit of help from a pair of electric motor/generators that can supply 200 pound-feet of torque on their own and a battery pack to power them. Total system output is rated at an even 200 horsepower.
Behind a pair of plastic covers, you'll find the NiMH battery pack that powers the Hybrid Synergy Drive system -- a 244.8-volt bank of cells that adds 150 pounds of mass to the Avalon -- as well as the standard 12-volt accessory battery, which has been relocated to the trunk to make room in the engine bay. The Hybrid battery pack eliminates the rear-seat pass-through for long items and eats up a few cubic feet of cargo space.
All Avalon models are front-wheel drive and use a version of the Toyota Camry's MacPherson front/dual-link rear suspension, but with tuning that is unique to the Avalon. The 2013 Avalon is still a smooth ride with light steering, but there's a bit more stability when cornering and better initial turn in. Toyota will tell you that this new Avalon has been optimized for "sporty driving" but on wet country roads with deer around every few corners, I was reluctant to test the limits of our preproduction example.
Taking a moment to get back to styling, the rear of the Avalon is, in my opinion, the most dramatic departure from anything that we've seen from Toyota up to this point. However, look closely and you may even see hints of Lexus' "spindle" design cue in the negative space between those new horizontal taillights.
This was probably my favorite angle to shoot the Avalon from. The strong character line that abruptly cuts off the flared taillights before swooping down and around the rear bumper is a nice touch that I'm glad to see make the transition from concept to production.
Viewed by itself, the Avalon is a much better-looking car than in previous generations, which have always struck me as a bit dopey-looking. The new model meshes well with the rest of Toyota's lineup as well. In a beauty contest with the Hyundai Azera, the VW CC, and so on, the decision is a bit tougher.
The non-hybrid Avalon also shares its 3.5-liter V-6 engine with the Camry. Power is rated at 268 horsepower and torque is measured at 248 pound-feet. The Avalon has reasonable get-up-and-go in its normal drive mode, but Eco and Sport modes on the Touring and Limited models augment performance or economy.
Instrumentation consists of a dual gauge setup with a small, full-color LCD in the middle. That LCD makes use of graphics (such as an open door) to relay data to the driver much more quickly and concisely than text.
The Limited model's cabin tech package is powered by Toyota's Entune with Premium Navigation system, which is able to make use of your smartphone's data connection and a selection of apps to add entertainment and destination data. Bing, for example, can be used to search for destinations for navigation.
The Avalon makes use of capacitive buttons for some of its non-touch-screen controls. I'm not really a fan of capacitive buttons, but I liked these. There's also a capacitive slider near the climate controls for fan speed. Blissfully, the volume and tuning knobs are still physical controls and feature a nice spun-metal texture.
The Entune apps are the centerpiece of the Toyota tech dashboard. Here you can draw on Bing, Pandora, iHeartRadio, MovieTickets.com, and OpenTable to augment your drive with external data. All of the interfaces have been optimized for use behind the wheel with minimal distraction, but I'd recommend you pull over anyway before digging too deeply into your local showtimes.
The standard audio system features 8 speakers and sounds okay, but there are better options available for this ride. An 11-speaker JBL Synthesis system kicks things up a few notches with the addition of a subwoofer and an external amplifier. Our preproduction model suffered from a bit of door-panel rattling when the bass on this system was cranked up, but that may be sorted out in the final version that reaches dealerships.
A rearview camera is standard on all but the base XLE trim level. Touring models also have the option to add blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alerts. Top-tier Limited models get the option of all of that and adaptive cruise control with a precollision warning system.
The Avalon is available with two- or three-zone climate controls. That last option will be useful as Toyota hopes to gobble up some of the fleet market left in the wake of the Lincoln Town Car's discontinuation with a special Avalon Livery model.
The standard display audio system available on the entry-point XLE model features a smaller screen and no Entune apps. It does, however, still feature AM/FM radio, CD playback, USB and auxiliary audio inputs, and Bluetooth hands-free speakerphone. Look closely and you'll also see that the color climate controls have been swapped for a monochrome unit.
The standard 2013 Toyota Avalon V-6 starts at $30,990 for the entry-point XLE model and tops out at $39,650 for the Limited model before options. Toyota expects to sell more V-6s than Hybrids, but points out that there's only a $1,750 price difference between the two power train options at the Touring and Limited trim levels.